I LOOOOVE me some planks! And I love all the different ways they can challenge you and all the different ways you can modify them.
Now that we are a couple of weeks into All About Abs April, we can start to progress our ab exercises. If you find the first tutorials on the easier side, perhaps it’s time to push yourself a little harder. Now with all progressions, keep your form correct! Nothing makes me crazier than seeing someone at the gym doing a crazy move they learned on instagram or pinterest and doing it in correctly, or before they’ve mastered the easier version.
This plank progression is in 2 stages. Stick to the first progression if your form is compromised at all. Fitness is a lifelong journey, not one you have to finish tomorrow. And you certainly don’t want to be injured while trying to get there.
Get yourself into a solid plank – spine in a neutral position, hands directly under your shoulders. It’s important to note that in a plank on your hands, you should be engaging your shoulder blades by pulling them back and down while you pull your belly button in towards your spine.
While keeping your weight evenly distribute between your upper body, lift one leg, while trying to keep your hips flat. If your hips become uneven, regress and go back to your standard plank. If your form is great and this is a solid challenge, hold for about 30-45 seconds and repeat on the other side.
If the previous step was a cakewalk, try to lift the opposite arm off the ground without compromising your form or balance. To maintain your balance try to visualize squeezing your opposite shoulders and hips together. It’s a true challenge and can be a bit rough on the shoulders. Be sure to train both sides. Aim for 30 seconds, but if you can make it to 15 you’re a rock star!
Up & Down…Such is life, especially as a mom & and actress. The month of March through well, today, almost killed me. Tons of clients, auditions, callbacks, getting THIS close on several great roles, and then…not getting them. And of course spring break with the kiddos – life seems to be going at a breakneck pace. All good stuff, honestly – I’m not complaining, but weeks without a day off can take a toll on the mind AND body. So, I’m taking it a bit easy this week and even heading out for a massage later today (YAY!!!). Although massage is a bit of a misnomer for what my massage therapist does to me. It’s more like exquisite torture. But my body holds on to all I put it through, even with foam rolling and stretching, I get some series knots and adhesions. Self care is essential when you work out regularly.
Even though today is an off day for me – lucky for you I recorded a plank variation last week just for today. Thinking ahead, that’s what we moms are good at. So today you’re getting what I call the Up & Down plank. I’m sure there is a more technical term, but Up and Down is so straight forward, and my clients understand exactly what I want from them when I say it.
This is a great full body exercise, where you’ll feel the burn quickly. To do this move, start in a plank, drawing in your core and neutral spine. Engage the shoulder blades by pulling them back & down – think about placing them in your back pockets. Then lower to you forearms on both sides. Make sure your abs are still engaged and then lift back up to your starting position. Alternate sides so you don’t get Popeye arms on one side and Olive oil on the other. Muscle imbalances are not good. At all. One rep equals up and down on both sides. Aim for 10-12 reps 3 sets. You’ll really feel your heart rate jump up, as well as a burn in your shoulders and triceps, along with your core.
So, week 2 of All About Abs April is getting a slow start. Spring break for the kiddos and Easter festivities have taken a toll on this mama. I’m starting a petition that moms should be required a full week off after any school breaks where the kids get more than 2 days off in a row. I am beat. Which is why I’m back in bed at 9:30am after my early morning client, and my son (on his 7th day of spring break, and last!!!!) is entertaining himself with Mario Cart.
I’m also feeling the effects of a week of vacation mentality eating. I don’t know about you, but Easter is one of my favorite holidays – and part of that reason is the food. Brunches galore with quiche, ham and potatoes. And don’t get me started on all the goodness the easter bunny brings. It’s like a festival of sugar in this house once the many egg hunts begin. Seriously – I had one egg hunt a year when I was a kid. Now we have no less than 5 starting the week before. One at school, one at the spring fest down the street, at the mall, church, backyard, it goes on and one. By the time Peter Cottontail arrives Easter morning, we have enough candy stockpiled to keep 30 dentists in business for years to come.
We did have a fun week and a half, but now it’s time to get back to burning some calories and focusing on those abs. Summer vacation and my bikinis are just a short 8 weeks away…yikes!
Week 2 is focusing on my favorite exercise of them all, the PLANK! If you train with me, you know all too well how much I love planks, and have probably done 5 to 10 different variations. Today we will start out with the basic plank. The plank targets your transverse abs. Think of your transverse abs like a girdle that pulls your entire torso together.These are actually a few layers under the superficial abs that make up our would be six packs. I have a six pack actually. It’s just under wine. And cheese. And Cadbury cream eggs.
To begin your plank, draw your navel in and think of your abs wrapping around to meet in the center. Engage your upper and inner thighs and try to keep your spine flat. Elbows and shoulders should be stacked on top of each other and your gaze should be about 2 feet in front of you to keep your spine long. Start your planks on your elbows and try to hold for 30 seconds, continually engaging your core. Don’t let your hips lift too high, or drop too low, and keep your back flat. For a different challenge go up to your hands. If you are a poler or have very strong shoulders, this may be actually easier for you, so get back down on your elbows to feel the burn. For more on planks check out a previous post on the 30 day plank challenge.
I love working on my abs – but I didn’t always. It took many years for me to realize that if my abs and core were not strong and stable, then nothing else in my body was either. So, I’m taking a whole month to teach you how to train your abs correctly. There will be videos, tutorials, articles and even a pole focus each week for my poler bears.
To start us out: a deceptively easy lower ab exercise that forces you to engage your lower and upper abs and your pelvic floor muscles. Lay flat on your back, legs in a 90 degree angle off the floor and draw your belly to the floor. This is what we call “engagement.” Some people also like to think of it as “zipping up”, or “pulling in” if that helps with the visualization. Start with single leg taps, and move on to both legs once this is no longer difficult.
I keep seeing lots of posts about people starting the 30 day plank challenge.
First of all YAY! Planks strengthen multiple muscles at once, and attack the transverse abs, your internal girdle, like no other exercise can. Take a look at all the muscles engaged while planking:
Second – here are a few tips to get the most out of your planks:
Start your plank on your elbows and forearms, move up to your hands (push up position) as you get stronger.
However, If you have a stronger upper body (polers!), you may want to stick with planks on your elbows and forearms. That way your shoulders, chest and lats don’t do all the work.
Draw your bellybutton up and squeeze your entire core from chest to pelvic bone. Remembering to tighten the tops of your thighs.
Keep your hips in line with your torso. You want a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Typical incorrect form include arching your lower back, dropping your hips, raising your hips too high.
If your back starts to hurt, shorten the time you spend in your plank. Your transverse abs (targeted during planks) are starting to fatigue, and your lower back muscles are taking over.
Instead of increasing your time in a plank, consider increasing your instability. Try it on a medicine ball or lift one leg while maintaining correct form. You’ll feel the burn soon!