The plank exercise is a great exercise to build core strength. By performing this exercise it can help the body be much stronger in many motions. The exercise is very safe for people with low back pain when compared to sit-ups. This blog is intended to give variation in plank difficulty. The plank progression is best used from the simple form and work up to the most difficult. The exercise should be challenging but pain-free when performed correctly. Follow pictures and instructions. If the simple exercises cause pain, seek medical advice before continuing the exercises.
This first plank is the lowest impact. It is done from balancing on the elbows and knees. It is not leveraging lots of body weight and is a good starting point. This is where our plank progression starts. This should not be painful to perform. Each rep should be done by holding this position for 30 seconds to one minute. If the body starts to get shaky, hurt, or feel uneasy, stop. Rest for a moment between each rep, 30-seconds is usually enough. Perform three to five reps if possible. Try to complete at least five reps of 30-second holds before moving to the next plank exercise.
The second plank progression is done by balancing on the elbows and toes. The plank position will add more weight making it more challenging to hold the pose. Keep the body ridged. Imagine a straight line from the heels, thru the hips, and to the shoulders. It will provide a deep engagement for the core. Breathing should still be smooth through the hold. If you are holding your breath, or only taking puffs of air, then back down to level one again for a few weeks. Try the exercise again when you are more conditioned. Hold the exercise for 30 seconds to one minute as well, taking 30-seconds breaks between each rep. Perform three to five reps if possible. Do at least 5 30-second holds before moving on to the next plank progression.
The third plank position is the most difficult. Do this from a traditional push-up position. Balance the body from the hands and toes. When holding this position tuck the stomach in and flex the bottom. By tucking the stomach and flexing the bottom it makes this more challenging. Like the previous progressions, it should be held between 30 seconds and one minute. Shaking, soreness, and pain are all reason to stop the third plank position. Move back to a previous hold for a week or two and try this one again if it is difficult. Your strength will build.
Side Plank Progression
The side plank is able to engage the sides of the core a little better than the traditional plank. Side planks are safe and can help reduce some back pains. Do all sides planks with a form that is balanced and vertically level. Vertically level is when the hips and shoulders stacked with one directly over the other. Avoid rocking forward or back. If you cannot hold good form, then move back to a previous side plank progression hold. Alway do side plank exercises on both sides. The progression will start with easy and continue through very difficult.
Side Plank 1
The first side plank is done from the knee and elbow. Start from the elbow and hip and push up to balance on the knees. Keep the shoulder square over the elbow, it will make it easier to balance. Remember to keep the shoulders and hips stacked over each other. Hold this position for 30-seconds to one minute. Do this side plank on both sides for best results. Try to perform three to five per side plank session. Perform five 30-second holds before moving on to side plank 2 progression.
Side Plank 2
The second side plank hold is done from the elbows and feet. Again start from the elbow and hip position. Now you will balance up onto the feet. This makes it more challenging to hold the vertical level position. It will take more work to hold this plank. Remember to keep the shoulders and hips stacked over each other. Hold this position for 30-seconds to one minute. Perform this on both right and left sides. Try to perform three to five per side plank session. Perform five 30-second holds before moving on to side plank 3 progression.
Side Plank 3
The third side plank hold is done from the hand and feet. Keep the hand under the shoulder. It is even more difficult now to balance. The exercise is now really working more than just the core, hips and shoulders are very active now. Make sure your shoulders are injury free before performing this exercise. If you have pain with any exercise so far, get the shoulders checked before proceeding. Remember to keep the shoulders and hips stacked over each other. Hold this position for 30-seconds to one minute. Perform this on both sides. Each shoulder needs a chance to stabilize. Try to perform three to five per side plank session. Perform five 30-second holds before moving on to side plank 4 progression.
Side Plank 4
The last side plank, the Star. At this point, you want to continue to challenge yourself. There are many different ways to perform exercises. It is safe to change things up when you have mastered the form, stability, and basic side plank holds. You can do the star formation or add weights, go up and down, put in some forward toe touches, reach the upper arm down to the floor. Keep the core ridged with the shoulders and hips stacked one over the other to be safe. Continue to look for new ways to exercise once all these steps are easy.