By stiffly holding your body in a plank position you strengthen your core which are the muscles connecting the lower and upper body. Plank exercises also help to tone your abs, legs, arms, hips and improve your posture and body balance. If you are new at planking it’s important to start this exercise in short periods of time and take longer breaks after. The most important thing is to keep up the work every day to ensure the best result.
The action plan is simple: to do a plank each week, increase the time and alternate it with other exercises. If it’s too hard at the beginning, make sure you get some rest and don’t overload your body. Remember, each day doing exercises step by step makes progress.
Plan for week 1: Start from 20 seconds and increase to 60 seconds.
Plan for week 2: Gradually increase the time from 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
Plan for week 3: Gradually increase the time from 90 seconds to 120 seconds.
Start your first days with a forearm plank. Place your forearms on the yoga mat and align the elbows below the shoulders. Your arms should be parallel to the body at about shoulder-width distance. You might clasp your hands together for more comfort. Correct your neck and spine by looking at one spot on the floor somewhere about 30 centimeters before your hands. Pay attention so that your head is in line with your back. Hold the position for 20 seconds.
As you get more comfortable with the forearm plank, it’s time to alternate it with a single-leg plank. By lifting one leg up toward the sky (only as far as you feel comfortable), you will increase the load on your core. Alternate your legs. By the end of the first week gradually increase your plank time up to 30 seconds.
Important: Do not overload yourself and take a rest when needed by lowering your knees to the floor for a few seconds.
Start your second week with a standard plank. Put your hands directly under your shoulders, ground the toes into the floor, and squeeze your glutes to stabilize the body. Correct your neck and spine. Pay attention so that your head is in line with your back. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Then bend your right elbow and put it on the floor. Do the same with your left elbow. Then return to the starting position by unbending your arms one by one.
This week, gradually increase your standard plank time from 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
For the last week, alternate your forearm plank with the dolphin plank. This exercise is inspired by yoga; it strengthens and tones the core, abs, and shoulders altogether. Begin in a forearm plank and lift your hips up toward the ceiling in a “V” shape and come back to the forearm position. Repeat it 15 times.
As for your forearm plank alone, start with 90 seconds and gradually increase the time to 120 seconds by the 21st day.