PLANKS! This is the third exercise of ten in the functional fitness series and is probably one of the best exercises for building core strength. The purpose of my writing about these ten exercises is to post in a permanent place those movements which adults of most any fitness level can perform every single day so as to achieve or maintain their fitness which will support their activities of daily living.
Initially, the plank exercise may create a bit of a challenge for adults who find it difficult to get down onto the floor. If you cannot get down to the floor and safely back up again, it is wise to perform the first two functional exercises from this series, squats and pushups (wall and counter versions) until sufficient body strength is developed to get up and down from ground level.
The plank is an isometric (static, non-moving core exercisewhich also strengthens the shoulders, glutes and hamstrings. This exercise also has an important role in improving one’s posture and balance. The ‘low’ plank (pictured below) is performed by hovering one’s body above the floor, balanced only on forearms and toes, forming a straight line from shoulders to heels. In this position, the abdominals will be engaged (braced) together with the gluteal and thigh muscles while simultaneously continuing to breathe normally. Work up your first hold time to 30 seconds. Add another 1 or 2 sets of 30-second holds as you build up your strength.
How To Progress: As you improve your strength, you’ll want to progress and vary your planking routine. Progress from a forearm plank to a straight arm (high) plank. Once you can hold a high plank for 2 or 3 sets of 30-second holds, you can add side planks (pictured below) to your repertoire. Performing variations to the basic plank (front, side) will quickly enhance your core strength and stability and it will also improve and challenge the surrounding (secondary or synergistic and stabilizing) muscles throughout your back and shoulders.
Functional fitness exercise number 4 of 10 will be posted mid-week.