While ab exercises like the traditional crunch and sit up are the most common means for most people to try and tighten their tummy, I can assure you that they are not as effective as these potent planks. While it may look like you are just lying with your body suspended, I can assure you that your abs and core are working overtime to stabilize the spine. In fact, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2011 demonstrated that elbow planks were twice as effective for core and spine activation when compared to the crunch.



In this article we are going to give you a number of plank variations which start from easy and get more difficult as we go down the list


FOREARM PLANK (LOW PLANK)


Lie on the floor with your forearms under your torso and your upper arms perpendicular to the floor. Now lift your body so that you are being supported only by your forearms and your toes. Keep your core tight so that you can make a straight line with your body from your head to your toe. Don’t let your stomach sag or your back round out. Keep this hold for between 30-60 seconds for 3 sets.




STANDARD PLANK (HIGH PLANK)


Now that you have mastered the forearm plank, add a bit more challenge to the move by performing a standard plank. Start off the same as a forearm plank but now lift your body so that you are planted on your hands and toes with your arms straight out under your shoulders. Keep this hold for between 30-60 seconds for 3 sets.




SUPER PLANK


Begin in a forearm plank and then straighten your right arm and plant it in the top of the push up position. Now straighten your left arm so that you are in the position of a standard plank. Hold this position for a count of 2 and then slowly reverse the movement going back down into a forearm plank. Now repeat the movement back up into a standard plank and then down again but start with your left hand. Repeat this for 10 reps with each arm.



ALTERNATING PLANK


Start off in a forearm plank then lift and stretch your right arm out in front of you and simultaneously lift your left leg up off the floor as high as possible. Hold for 2 seconds then return to the forearm plank position. Immediately lift and stretch your left arm out in front of you and simultaneously lift your right leg up off the floor as high as possible. Hold for 2 seconds and then return to the start position. Alternate these positions for 10 reps on each side.




KNEE-TO-INSIDE ELBOW PLANK


Start in the standard plank position then slowly bring your left knee underneath and across your body towards the inside of your right elbow. Hold for 2 seconds and then return to the start position. Perform the movement on the opposite side. Do 10 reps on each side.


This can also be done as a knee-to-outside-elbow.



STABILITY BALL / TRX PLANK


This is the same as the standard plank but now you are either hooking your feet into the TRX machine or place them on top of the stability ball. This adds a new dimension to the standard plank and really challenges the core as you will now need to focus on keeping balanced. Hold for 30-60 seconds.




LATERAL-DRAG PLANK


Place a sand bag just outside your left hand shoulder. Get into a standard plank position and grab the sand bag with your right hand. Keeping your body in a straight line and without rotating your hips, drag the sag bag to the right and stop when the bag is just outside of your right shoulder. Now plant your right hand on the floor and grab the sand bag with your left hand and drag it to the left side. Repeat the movement for 10 reps on each side.




SCORPION PLANK


Begin in the standard plank position and then raise your right leg, bent at the knee. Lower your body half way to the floor by bending your arms. Reach your raised leg as far over your back as possible and rotate so that your right toe touches the ground on the left side. Push back into the start position and repeat on the opposite side. Do 5 reps on each side.




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