You tweet how many minutes you hold a basic plank.
But I’m assuming you also progress your plank?
… say what?
And of course, you bridge, right?
While the current trend of planking is wonderful, it’s only the beginning. There is SO MUCH MORE you can and should do with this exercise – and it’s Siamese twin the bridge. The idea of holding a stable stationary plank is to begin to strengthen the muscle of anterior core (erector spinea, rectus abdominus (abs), transverse abdominus).
It is the beginning of core strength, not the end all.
The most important muscle that planks strengthen is the erector spinea, which sits right along the spine. Strengthening this muscle helps develop a strong back and reduces future back aches. These muscles grow weak with sitting leading to back aches and chronic injuries in the active athlete. That’s why planking by holding a stable pose for time is an important start to fitness.
But how often in life do we stand unmoving asking for a strong supportive core? Not much in my life. And I’ll bet not often in yours either. Typically we are moving. So when you are able to hold a plank for at least a minute and repeat it maybe a time or two with rest, it’s time to increase the challenge of your plank.
There are literal hundreds of way to do this:
- extend one foot straight out. move it in tiny circles, or to the side.
- add gentle movement: while maintaining form, touch your knee to the ground.
- increase the intensity: place your feet on a stable bench or step.
- add instability: start with either your elbows or your feet on an exercise ball.
Use your imagine, Google, YouTube to find variations. You can do one or more of the above combinations to bring your core strengthening into the moving world. Try it! It will bring new challenges to your planking and new-found strength to your middle.
While you’re at it, remember the basic rule of fitness- what you do to one side, you must do to the other. Planking without bridging is as silly as doing bicep curls with just one arm.
When you’ve completed your planks, turn over on your back, feet flat on the floor and bridge your back up. Floor contact should be limited to your feet, arms, shoulders, and head.
Bridging works all the spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, arms and legs. It stretches the pecs, quads and hip flexors some of which you used while planking.
And for all of us who sit too long
watching sports on TV /or with poor posture, bridging reverses some of the damage done to our spines with all that sitting. It strengthens the deep, deep core muscles of the pelvic floor -working as well (I think better) than kegels.
Again, when you can hold this stationary pose for a minute, and repeat it 2-3 times, add some movement to your bridges. In December, I posted an awesome/awful variation that rocks my world. Like the plank, add simple movement or instability to the exercise. Instability in this case might be placing your feet on a balance disc, wobble board, or medicine ball.
When you’ve finished straight planking and bridging, flip to your sides and get 30 second side planks in.
This entire routine – 3x one minute plank, 3x one minute bridge, and 3x2x30 second side planks should take you about 12 minutes to do. And -the GOOD NEWS from this- this is really all you need to do to give your core a great workout.
Deb Roby has been a blogger since 1998 and a Certified Personal Trainer since 2009. She has spent way too much time fighting injuries lately. Look for her free e-book on strength training for runners coming out this spring.