By Liz DiAlto
At the gym, there’s one exercise that we all dread. Planks aren’t only painful, they’re soooo boring! If you aren’t familiar, a plank is a core exercise performed in either a high push up position (hands shoulder-width apart, directly below the shoulders, with your body in an elevated push-up position, spine neutral and straight with your belly button pulled in toward the spine, on your toes) or in that same body position, but lowered onto your elbows (as pictured). Unlike most exercises, which are performed in repetitions, planks, though, are isometric, meaning they’re usually performed in timed sets. Any veteran “plank-er” can tell you, this can be the longest 30 seconds to 90 seconds ever!
Here are four fantastic and effective suggestions for spicing up your planks, plus one bonus tip for the super tough gym goddesses out there.
Bosu Planks: If you belong to a gym, you’ve probably seen a Bosu ball, it looks like half of a rubber ball, with one flat side to steady it and one flexible side to challenge your balance. Here are two great ways to take advantage of the Bosu:
1. Set up for either a high plank or low plank with your feet on the Bosu ball. For an extra challenge, alternate tapping toes off the ball onto the floor and back onto the ball making sure not to let your butt creep up, breaking the straight line of your spine.
2. Set up for a plank with your hands or elbows on the Bosu ball. You can use the Bosu with the ball side up or flip it with the ball side down, holding onto the sides of the flat surface for your plank.
Tip: For beginners, 20 seconds+ is a great goal for these planks, intermediate 45 seconds+, advanced 60-90 seconds+
Spiderman Planks: In a high or low plank position, alternate bringing each knee to the outside of your elbow on the same side. Do 10-15 reps on each side for 2-3 sets for a total of 20-30 reps.
Plank with a Twist: Instead of bringing the knees outside the elbows like in a Spiderman Plank, alternate bringing each knee under the body and across to the opposite side, squeezing through your core. Again, do 10-15 reps on each side for 2-3 sets for a total of 20-30 reps.
High-Low Plank: Begin in a high plank position on your hands, lower down to your elbows one at a time, then raise back up to your hands. Start out doing 5 on the right side first, then 5 on the left side for 2-3 sets. Increase repetitions as you get stronger.
Bonus Tip: Are you a workout warrior who needs that extra boost? Try combining one or more of the planks above. Go for a high-low plank with a twist, or a Bosu plank with a twist. Use your imagination and you’ll never get bored! Try out these exercises twice a week for a month to increase core strength and take a giant leap towards the abs of your dreams!