Core exercises are a critical component of a training routine, and form the foundation for strong and consistent performance in endurance sports. Let’s take a look at 3 basic exercises the ‘plank’ family.
Back Bridge or Back Plank
- Basic version (start): begin by lying flat on your back. Place your feet flat on the floor and next to each other, such that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your arms may rest on either side of your body.
- Basic version (activate): Raise your buttocks off the ground such that your thighs, pelvis, tummy, and chest are on a straight plane – so you are not slouching or sagging at the waist. Your knees should still maintain that 90-degree bend. Hold this position for at least 20 seconds (beginner) up till 2 minutes or longer (advanced).
- Enhanced version: keep your knees touching each other; keep your feet touching each other; and cross your hands over your chest. This challenges your balance and lateral engagement more.
- Basic version (start): begin by lying flat on your tummy with your toes pointing toward the ground. Prop yourself onto your elbows, such that your chest comes off the ground, with your forearms situated directly beneath your head – your elbows should be bent about 90 degrees.
- Basic version (activate): Raise your knees, thighs, pelvis, and tummy off the ground. Your weight should transfer through the upper arm (still bent at 90-degrees to your forearm, which is resting on the floor). Keep the body ‘under tension’ such that the back of your legs, buttocks, and lower back are on a straight plane.
- Enhanced version: Do the same exercise but with your feet on a raised platform, bench, or Swiss ball
- Basic version (start): Lie sideways with your feet ‘stacked’, and one elbow resting on floor beneath your shoulder. Your other arm can rest on the side of your body or raise it up.
- Basic version (activate): Raise your hips and thighs off the ground such that your spine is straight and extended. Avoid curving your back and keep your head and neck aligned with the plane created by your body. If you have trouble maintaining this position, you can go to a less strenuous version where your lower knee is resting on the floor, with both legs bent at 90-degrees.
Enhanced version: You can balance on the palm of your hand instead of elbow.
Top Tips for Planking
Do planks on a soft surface, such as on a rubber floor, tiled floor, grass, or use an exercise/yoga mat. Avoid sore palms or forearms!
Devise sets rather than holding ‘to failure’ (aka, until you cannot maintain the position any longer). Start with short sets as a beginner, and work your way up from there, as follows:
Beginner: 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds per exercises
Intermediate: 2-3 sets of 45-60 seconds per exercise.
Advanced: 2-3 sets of 90-120 seconds per exercise.
For a really challenging workout variation, raise one leg off the floor for any of these exercises. You can either do so for set intervals (eg: 10 seconds on one leg, and swapping every 10 seconds in a 60-second set) or go for a prolonged set where the leg is held up all the way or even moved either vertically or horizontally in a scissoring motion.
If you need help in maintaining your form, do these planks facing a full-length mirror or mirrored wall in a gym or similar workout space