OK, this morning I have hit a blank wall. No really great thoughts so I have been brainstorming for the last two hours trying to decide what to discuss this morning. I have looked at ideas on endurance versus weight training, body weight exercises, more squat positions than you could even dream of, and some flow movements from Adam Steer. But, it just didn't feel right.

  So this morning I want to focus on a couple of options on the plank core exercise. Join me below to look at a couple of videos and then you can have your voices heard.

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  What is a Plank Exercise?

  There are several different ways to perform a plank exercise. The simplest is to move to the floor face down and position your elbows and forearms onto the floor. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Your hands are close together in front of you but not clasped together. Palms face each other and thumbs are up.

  Tighten your core muscles, glutes, quads, and shoulders. Start with the knees on the floor. Make your body into a hard straight line from the knees to your head. Keep your head inline with your spine. Look at a spot on the floor about 2-3 feet in front of your hands. Don't raise your head upwards nor allow the neck to drop.

  Based upon your fitness level, you might start with a 15 second hold for a couple of sessions and then move up in time as you develop more strength and confidence. Before moving to the more advanced positions, I would recommend that you develop the strength to stay in the knee down plank position for at least one minute. Why? Because the correct form and technique is so much easier to perfect in this position. If you move too quickly to the full pushup position plank to quickly, there is more of a tendency to extend your back and butt skyward at first and then allow the back and butt to sag (placing strain on the lower back) once you begin to tire. Build the strength of your core over a period of 2-4 weeks and reach the goal of one minute before removing the knees from the floor. If you currently hold the knee down plank for more than one minute with excellent form, you are already at a fitness level to raise the knees and begin to increase your time and strength of core in the next step.

 Now let's look at a video to see what questions you may have.


  Notice the option of moving to one knee down position. I don't recommend it unless you can already stay in the knees down position for one minute or longer. Most people who raise a knee off the floor allow the body to shift slightly to the opposite side. The key is to keep the back flat across all planes. Don't allow one side to tilt downward until you have gained more strength.

Fast Forward for a Month or More

  Now it's time to try a side plank. This time you have one elbow down but again under the shoulder. The video below recommends that the top foot be advanced in front of the bottom foot. I think it depends on your balance. I like to stack my feet to further challenge the quads and hams to assist in the plank.

  You will also notice that the model in this video recommends challenging the body further by dropping and raising the hips. Again, this needs to be done in a straight line. Don't allow the body to shift forward or backwards...only straight up and down. Now the video.

  Other variations....

  Alright, this is getting boring to you and you are ready to move on. What's next? the best move is to move off the forearms and move to a upright pushup position with arms fully extended. Again, there is even more of a need to tighten the core here because gravity wants to pull you downward quicker. Don't allow it. Keep you lower back tight.

  Just as with the plank on your forearms, you can move to a side plank with the arms extended. This is a popular yoga move. I like to move my off arm from pointing upward to alowing it to scoop under the core and reach as far back behind me as possible. Sometimes I allow my hips to sag as I scoop under my body and then drive my hips backwards as I move the arm back to the skyward positions. Again, the hips need to drop and rise in a straight line and not move far in the front to back plane.

  OK, one final video from a yoga model. It takes lots of work to correctly perform the movements from a upright plank to a upright dog and then push back to a downward dog. It is amazing how hard the heart has to work if you stay for long in the downward dog position. I really like this exercise.


  I'm running late so I will stop here. I didn't even cover other options like using a Bosu ball or a swiss ball to do planks. Even tougher is to place your feet on the swiss ball and do an extended arm declining plank. It really challenges your balance and core.

  So my final question

Originally posted to NC Dem on Mon Apr 26, 2010 at 07:33 AM PDT.

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