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  • Dr. Nancy

Plank On!

The plank has effectively replaced the crunch as the go-to for strengthening the core musculature. It is safer and more effective than sit-ups and crunches.

Grab a Partner and Plank.

I know, I know, you want a sexy beach body. Who doesn’t! But if you don’t handle foundational shortcomings that are happening on the inside of your body, you will never achieve the results on the outside. Strength imbalances and weakness compensation set you up for injury. Healthy is what we are going for. Sustainability is what we are striving for.

Planks are one of the few exercises that I feature in my book, Mastering the Health Continuum. They target your inner abdominals offering a unique advantage in strength-building and stabilization. When in the plank position, you engage your inner ab muscles to keep your tummy tight and hold your organs in. If done on a daily basis, you strengthen those muscles, which leads to a flatter, firmer and stronger tummy.

Just a few minutes of holding this power pose elevates testosterone levels and decreases cortisol levels, helping you to modulate your fat-storage and create the 6-pack of your dreams.

The core consists of the abdominal, back, and pelvic muscles, which are broken down into primary and secondary muscle groups. Primary muscles include: Pelvic Floor Muscles,

Transversus Abdominis, Multifidus, Internal and External Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Diaphragm. Secondary muscles include: Gluteus Maximus, Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius.

A strong core goes beyond vanity, it has many vital functions, including:

· Back support: Core muscles play the primary role in ensuring a healthy back. We obviously aren’t planking enough because lower-back pain affects 80 percent of all Americans at some point in life.

· Posture: Strong core muscles are vital to good posture.

· Routine movements: Movements like bending, sitting, rotating and standing require the core muscles.

· Stability and balance: Your core muscles are essentially the connection between your upper and lower body. Coordination, good balance and stability require a well-conditioned core.

It may look like an easy exercise, but the plank can really kick even an elite athlete’s butt! And once you master the basic plank there are many different variations that can keep you challenged.

Basic Plank Position

1. Get into pushup position on the floor.

2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.

3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.

4. Your head should be relaxed, and you should be looking at the floor.

5. Hold the position for as long as you can.

6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.

7. When your form begins to waiver, pull the plug. You are only benefiting from the plank when you have ideal form.

You may only be able to hold the pose for 10-20 seconds. That is ok, just keep at it and your strength will improve quickly with consistency. When you can hold the basic plank for 2 minutes, start to add other variations and build out your own plank flow routine.

Plank Variations

Extended Plank

Place your hands on the floor, shoulders stacked directly over hands. Extend feet out behind you and come onto toes. Activating abs, glutes, and pulling shoulders back and down, push through your feet and hands to raise your core and legs off the ground. Be sure you’re in a straight line from head to toe. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.

Side Plank

Lie on the ground, on either your right or left side. Depending on the side you choose, bend that elbow and place your forearm on the ground in front of you, so that it is perpendicular to your upper arm. Stack your legs on top of one another. Using your core, glutes, and legs, push your forearm and bottom foot into the ground to raise your body off the ground. Body should be in line from head to toe. Your top hand can rest on your hip or reach upward toward the ceiling. Hold 30 to 60 seconds; repeat on the other side.

Modification: If you’re unable to balance with your feet stacked, simply place one in front of the other.

Decline Plank

Come into forearm plank position but have your feet elevated on a bench or a stair. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.

Extended Plank with Shoulder Taps

Come into extended plank position, hands on the floor, shoulders stacked above wrists, feet extended out behind you, body in a straight-line head to toe. Without moving your core, shift your weight into your left hand as you lift your right hand off the ground and tap your left shoulder. Return your right hand back to the ground. Shift your weight into your right hand as you lift your left hand off the ground and tap your right shoulder. Continue alternating for 30 to 60 seconds.

Reverse Plank

Place your palms, with fingers spread wide, on the floor slightly behind and outside your hips. Press into your palms and lift your hips and torso toward the ceiling. Look up to the ceiling, point your toes, and keep your arms and legs straight. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

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