The modern day human spends an disproportionate amount of time seated; at a desk, in a car, by the computer or watching TV at home. Often, this means slumped shoulders, a curved neck, and generally ‘weak posture’… and then eventually, the scourge of ageing Britain, back pain. Whilst some muscles will naturally grow tighter and others weaker, there are exercises and stretches you can perform to encourage a stronger core. The word ‘core’ mainly describes the central band of the torso, and the purpose of training it, is to encourage better support and protection for the load-bearing joints in and around the back. Almost every move the body makes relies on the core – balance, running, reaching, lifting, kicking. Therefore it’s crucial to build and maintain well-conditioned core strength. This post is about doing exactly that! Read MORE to see 4 flavours of plank…
By pounding out sit-up after fruitless sit-up, in some respects you exacerbate the hunched position you already hold from sitting. But whilst sit-ups aren’t a bad idea, ideally you’d want to include other exercises to improve overall core strength, to help reduce the risk of lower back pain and promote improved posture. To my mind, the plank is one of the very best exercises to work your core and below are my four favourite plank ‘theme & variations’ to target your core effectively. Aside from working the abs it is a full body exercise and also targets you arms, shoulders, back chest and legs. Just 15 minutes a day of the below will help improve your core condition no matter how strong you feel.
1) Original Plank (as below image)
Such a phenomenal exercise – if executed correctly, but undisciplined form when planking can aggravate the lower back especially, whilst failing to target the abs at all. So:
1. Resting on your forearms and toes, your elbows should be directly underneath your shoulders.
2. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise – this is crucial. Neither too engaged, nor disengaged, neither too arched nor curved.
3. Keep the head neutral as well (avoid allowing your head/chin to drop, or indeed cranking it up) – noiselessly hold this position whilst engaging your abs.
Tip: Imagine you should be able to rest a stick down your back and the only contact points should be the head, upper back and hips.
Avoid: Sinking the lower back, or an arched back, sticking your bottom and the hips in the air. Relax you shoulders avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears.
Simplification: Rest on your knees and forearms
2) Side plank (as below image)
The side plank works the obliques and helps stabilise your spine.
1. Start by lying on your side and lift yourself up into a ‘straight line’, by supporting your body weight between your forearm and your feet.
2. Repeat on the other side.
Simplification: Rest on your knees.
Avoid: pushing your hip back behind you and/ or letting them drop towards the floor.
3) Superman (as below image)
1. Start in the Original Plank position.
2. Slowly raise your right arm off the ground whilst at the same time lifting your left leg off the ground. Hold this position for 2-4 seconds, then release.
3. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg, and alternate between sides in succession, until failure.
4) Walking plank (as below images)
1. Start in the Original Plank position.
2. Plant your right hand down, and slowly raise up, extending the arm, with your weight supported by your hand.
3. Slowly and in a controlled manner, do the same with your left hand side.
4. Both hands should now be straight under you shoulder supporting you body weight.
5. Then slowly bring your right hand down to the original plank forearm position.
6. Repeat with the left arm. Repeat the process and cycle between them in fast succession, until failure.
This was a post I wrote for Sweaty Betty as part of their Get Fit for Free campaign, which went live yesterday. All images were shot in and around the Caesar Augustus in Capri
I was wearing: Double Time Run Tank and Visama Reversible Yoga 3/4 Leggings.
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