Posted by: Joe Nuss on Mar 31, 2012
By Elizabeth Towe
The plank is always an overall great core exercise. It asks support from the shoulder girdle as well as the musculature of the hips and torso. By adding alternating hip extension there is more load on the shoulders and the front of the hip. This load will help increase strength and stability in movements that require alternating leg power, e.g., cycling, running, and kicking in swimming.
- Start on hands and knees to find neutral spine. Place the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips. Tuck the chin and tailbone under and arch the back up toward the sky to find the end range of flexion of the spine. Then drop the belly button toward the floor and lift the tailbone and chin up toward the sky to find end range of extension of the spine. Do this several times while breathing in and breathing out, then settle in between to find neutral spine.
- Tuck your toes and lift your knees to find your plank. In this position make the plank more stable by drawing the belly button toward the spine to turn on the transverse abdominals (TA), bring your shoulder blades together and slightly down to turn on the shoulder stabilizers, and contract the glutes and the quads to find the straight line from the shoulders to the ankles.
- Slowly begin to lift the right leg 1 inch off the floor. The position of the pelvis should not change. Hold that 3 seconds and slowly place the foot back on the floor. Slowly switch to the other side.
- Alternate 5-10 times (2-3 sets) on each side, with control. If your plank begins to sag or you feel it in your back, stop and rest. It is important that this is not done with momentum or speed because you are teaching the nervous system to take the load into these areas and become stable. Think of it as asking permission and not knocking the door down.
- The illustration shows a progression of the plank with feet on an unstable surface, in this case a BOSU. Start on the ground and work different progressions of stability.
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Elizabeth Towe is a runner and a cyclist and the owner of Balanced Movement Studio in Carrboro. She graduated from East Carolina with a degree in exercise and sports science and has been personal training for over 20 years. Her ultimate goal for all of her clients is to help them realize and achieve the optimal quality in their life – and to remember to have fun doing it.