Saturday, August 21, 2010
First I would like to take a moment to discuss the form for a standard plank before we get into anything fancy. We can always build and modify, but we need a foundation first.
A true plank, I mean, one that will have you shaking, keep you in proper alignment, and really activate your core, takes a bit of cueing and focus.
So the basic idea of plank is this:
You are on your hands and the balls of your feet, your core is tight, the ribcage is stitched in, the muscles above your knee caps are pulled up, you are constantly pulling up out of the shoulders, the shoulders are rolled back so you don’t wear them as earrings, you neck in alignment with the spine, shoulders are over the hands, spine is stretching with length (pretending there is an invisible string pulling on the top center of your head and elongating all of your muscles) and belly button is pulled into the spine.
Once you have mastered the basic plank, you can now move on to some of the variations I have provided below. Even if you have done plank before, check yourself with all the above cues and make sure that you are doing all of them. Most of the time you can’t get all of those details from a written source…eh hem…except mine ^_^
Variation #1: Side Plank
You may have seen this plank if a magazine or you may have tried it yourself. I would say that most people find this variation very difficult. The challenge with this variation is keeping stability while in proper form. The hand stays under the shoulder just like with the standard plank as well as lifting up out of the shoulder. I like to cross the legs like scissors at the bottom to avoid slipping by stacking the feet. This is fine as long as the hips stay squared up. Now this is the basic pose, but here’s some cues to really milk that side plank for all it’s worth. Pretend there’s an invisible string pulling up on your top hip, causing you to lift up, keep your neck in alignment with the spine, keep the ribcage stitched in, the belly button becomes a part of the spine, slow deep breaths.
Variation #2: Reverse or Incline Plank
From a seated position, place the hands shoulder width apart behind the back with the fingers pointing towards the feet. Press the hands down and lift the buttocks and take the weight of the body on the hands and feet. The legs can be stretched out in front of you or the knees can bent. Straighten the arms and lift the hips as high as possible.
Some cues: The thighs should be rotating inward, the hips lift until you can’t see your toes, the chest lifts until you can’t see your hips, press the floor away with the palms. Take deep breaths and hold for 5-7 breaths.
Variation #3: Tree Pose plank
From the standard plank position, take one foot and place that foot on the inner thigh. Hips remain square and the core remains very tight. Avoid shifting the hips to one side or popping the hips up. Now, bend the elbows and breath in short blasts. Hold for 10-15 short breaths and switch sides
Variation #4: Alternate Leg and Arm Reach
Start this plank in the basic position. Gently shift some of your weight over to one foot (stay on the ball of it though) and lift the other leg. Keep strength and length in the leg. Once you’ve adjusted here, lift up an opposing arm and pretend like your reaching. Breath in short blasts. Hold for 10-15 short breaths and switch sides.
Variation #5 Rotating Plank
This plank is an advanced pose and requires a lot of core stability, so try it with caution
Start from side plank; variation #1. Take the top arm and reach towards the ceiling. With the bottom leg, extend it in front of you so it’s as even with your hips as possible and then raise it so the foot is pointing up towards the ceiling. Inhale, and rotate your ribcage open and allow the arm to reach back while the leg lowers down almost to the ground in front of the hips. Exhale and pull the arm and leg back to the start position. Repeat this 7-10 times and switch sides.
Well, that’s it for some creative variations. Some you may have heard of, others you may not have. Try them at home or at the gym to add some spice to your workout.