Tag Archives: strength

Proper Plank – New Tips

I originally posted this blog called ‘Proper Plank’ one year ago. I’m always learning new tips on better ways to do things and I found a more effective way to do this amazing core exercise. This one trick will totally engage your core like never before. Face it, if you can hold plank for more than a minute, or two or three,  you really should be challenging yourself in new ways to make it harder and get the most out of it. Below is my original post, and my new tips appear at the end in bold (Points 6 and 7).

I’ve recently seen plank challenges all over social media. Plank is my favorite total body, core strengthening exercise. It’s challenging for everyone, from beginner to the super fit, especially with advanced variations.

front_elbow_plank

To the beginner, plank may look like merely balancing on your forearms and your feet for as long as you can, but it’s so much more than that. It’s pretty difficult to tell everything that’s going on by looking at a picture. You can get so much more benefit out of the exercise by having proper body position, alignment and by engaging the proper muscles in your body.

Here I’m reviewing forearm plank position.

1) Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and your weight should be on your elbow area, not on your forearms or wrists caused by a forward lean. Your hands can be in whatever position that is comfortable. I see many people grasp their hands in the middle, which is a little easier. I like to go the more challenging route and point my forearms straight ahead with palms facing up. Try both ways and you’ll feel the difference. Making fists, like the picture above, it also an option.

2) Your spine should be elongated and in a straight line from your head to your feet.

3) To keep your spine in alignment you have to contract your core muscles and your glutes. This will ensure your spine doesn’t sag in the middle. If you’re sagging, your’e not engaging.

4) Instead of just balancing on the balls of your feet, drive your heels back. This will also help keep you in alignment and engage your quads.

5) Your feet can be together or hip width apart. Again, it’s what’s comfortable for you.

6) Once your quads and glutes are totally engaged, create a tension between your elbows and your feet by driving your elbows back towards your feet (without moving them) and your toes forward towards your elbows (without moving them either). If you create this tension correctly you will feel a definite contraction through your core. Keep this contraction as tight as possible. If you must release it, go down out of plank, rest as needed and then go back in the same position. This one tweak will give you more bang for your buck. 

The stronger you get in your abs, back, shoulders, chest, quads, glutes and calves, the longer you will be able to hold the plank position. Yes, it uses all of these muscles. That’s why it’s so great! Added benefits are it helps your lower back become more resilient to injury and it will tone and tighten your abs.

7) If you master the tips in step 6 and are looking for an increased challenge, place your elbows an inch or so above your shoulder line (rather than directly underneath your shoulders as suggested above). This will create a longer lever and make the work more difficult. Additional advanced options include elevating a hand or foot and holding.

Try these tips and feel the difference!

Happy Planking!

 

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What Drives You?

Is there a certain something that adds excitement to your life? That floats your boat? That tickles your fancy? I have a passion for physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.  It wasn’t always that way though. I’ve evolved over the years and it’s been a pretty radical change.

Growing up, physical activity meant recreation: softball, tennis, volleyball and bowling. It was whatever my friends were doing. It was whatever organized activity could fill my Saturday morning or after school. It was social.

As a teenager I occasionally went to the Elaine Powers exercise studio with my mom. It was there I fell in love with movement to music and I discovered aerobics. We also did a lot of doggy type exercises on all fours which I didn’t like as much. Knee up, extend leg out, in and down…up, out, in and down. If you’ve ever done them, or seen them done, you know what I mean. I only did them in class and if people were watching, unlike my mom who did them faithfully everyday at home. She had a different goal than I did at the time. I only did what I liked.

When I was married with children and we were dirt poor, Jane Fonda became my best friend. Well, her VHS tapes did anyway. I was desperate to get the weight off and she was the one who helped me. I actually dressed for the part too. You couldn’t work out with Jane Fonda without a proper leotard, even if no one’s watching. (Leg warmers were optional).

When times got better financially I joined the gym and took every aerobics class I could find. I found it helped me reduce stress. It made me happy. I did high impact, low impact, and then I discovered kickboxing. I loved it all.

My focus changed again when someone in my life got a horrible illness. Watching such a strong personality have to fight for her life made me angry and I released this aggression at the gym. It wasn’t fair! I felt my intensity soar as I imagined destroying the cancer with punches and kicks. Take that! Go away!

After I lost this person my focus changed again and I viewed working out as a gift. I was healthy  enough to do it. Not everyone was. I decided to enjoy this gift and also make myself as strong as possible so I’d be ready to fight anything that might come up in my own life. I began strength training around this time.

Then I lost my mother way too early to ill health. This was devastating beyond belief. I realized that just making myself physically stronger wasn’t enough. I had to help others too. Movement still makes me feel amazing, but there’s so much more to it than that. You can’t change your genetics or your family’s health history, but there are things within your reach that you can control to be a healthier you. In my opinion, diet and exercise are key. They are nonnegotiable!

My love of fitness started out as recreation, then it was for fun, stress relief, weight control, aggression release, then it became a gift and finally a passion for myself and to help others.  I am definitely a product of my experience! I’m driven to help people be the healthiest they can be. That’s what floats my boat!