Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Exercise of the Week: Plank

"The Plank" — it sounds scary, and it's probably just as uncomfortable as "walking the plank" with a gang of sword-waving pirates behind you...but it's also one of the best core exercises you can do.

Notice I said core exercise - not just an exercise to work your abs. The plank will help you build your coveted six pack abs, but it also works your entire core: abs, obliques, hips, and the transverse abdominis (the deepest of the abdominal muscles that wraps around your spine for protection and stability).

There is good news! The plank can be done anywhere, requires no equipment and involves no movement or crunching motions at all. Bad news? It's still quite difficult and should only be attempted after you've mastered the traditional crunch and sit-up exercises.

How to Do the Plank

1. Get into a pushup position, but place your elbows on the ground instead of your hands.

2. Keep your body as straight as possible from your head to your toes (Imagine a table laying across your back).

3. Pull your abs in towards your spine as if you were bracing for a punch to the stomach.

4. Be sure to breathe normally and hold this position for as long as you can.

Additional tip... Don't let your back sink down, and if it does, stop immediately.

Depending on your current core strength, you may only be able to hold perfect form for about 10-15 seconds at a time. Try to increase the time by 5-10 seconds with each workout. As your core gets stronger, you will be able to last for longer and longer.