Nearly every health professional agrees that planks, not crunches, provide one of the best workouts for your body, especially your abs. If you want a flat, toned stomach this simple and sometimes intense exercise is the best way to go. If you’re wondering why, you’re not alone. Get the answers before incorporating them into your routine.
Why They Work
The reason crunches, for example, don’t work is because they focus on one main muscle group in your core. Planks on the other hand are multi-taskers. “The plank is one of the best exercises for a flat, toned stomach because it works all the muscles in your core, including the rectus abdominus (the “six-pack muscles” you can see), transverse abdominus, internal and external obliques, hips, and back,” according to Nora Tobin of Shape.com. But that’s not where the benefits end:
- Convenience: You can do planks at the gym, at home, and without any other equipment; all of which allows you to reap the same great benefits.
- More than just your abs: Planks also help to strengthen your shoulders, neck and biceps which support your core throughout the pose.
Get Toned Abs
Now that you know why you should do planks, it’s time to see how you can incorporate them into your routine and make the most of your workout.
Standard plank: Get into pushup position, but rest on your forearms. Keep your body straight, from back to neck and pull your abs in tight. Hold this for 10 seconds, then 20 seconds going further each time. Watch yourself in the mirror if possible; to be sure your back is flat.
Plank with Leg Lifts: Get into standard plank position and lift your left leg off the ground. Pulse for 10 to 20 seconds; repeat on the other side.
Side plank: Start in standard plank position and turn so your weight is on your left forearm. Lift your right forearm up, extending it toward the ceiling. Come back down and repeat on the other side; do 10 on each side.
Mountain climbers: Get into pushup position, and stay there. Pull your left knee into your chest, then your right knee. Go back and forth, moving quickly, doing 5 to 10 on each side.
Plank Twists: Get into pushup position, and pull your left knee across your body to the right side until your mid section twists. Pull it back and repeat on the other side. Do 5 to 10 on each side.
Plank with Bosu Ball: Do any of the above plank variations, but on the round side of a Bosu Ball. This forces you to engage your core as you try to remain stable.
Interval Planks: Incorporate this exercise into a circuit, start by holding for 10 seconds and increase your time with each round.
Tabata Planks: Hold your plank for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds. Repeat this for four minutes to complete the workout.