Bikini season is nearly here, which means there’s no time like the present to get your stomach in summer shape. While washboard abs take a lot of work and dedication, they don’t necessarily have to take up a lot of your workout session. For a core exercise you can do in very little time and requires little to no movement, look no further than the plank.
You’re likely familiar with the traditional plank, where you hold the top of a push-up position either on your hands or forearms. However there are plank variations you can do to help strengthen and slim your midsection. While great abs might help you rock that two-piece on the beach, a strong core can also help you stay injury-free and reach fitness goals, such as running faster, jumping higher, or lifting heavier. Give these plank poses a try. They might sound easy, but once your muscles kick in, do your best to maintain proper form despite the shaking and shimmying.
From the traditional plank position, lift one hand up and place it on your hip as you rotate your body to the side. The hand on the floor should be in line with your shoulder. If this is too much pressure on your wrist, lower to your forearm instead. Perform planks on both sides.
Watch Your Form: Keep your body tight, so that it is in a straight line. Don’t let your hips sink to the floor.
Ready for More? Raise the hand on your hip toward the sky so that it is in a straight line with your opposite arm. If you still need more, raise the top leg and balance on the lower leg.
Newbie Side Plank
Don’t quite have the strength to sustain the side plank yet? No worries; you can work up to that. Start with an exercise ball to help support your upper body weight. Place it beneath your right side, and put your arm down on the ground. Find your balance. Make sure that the ball is the correct size to allow you to build strength without overdoing it.
Watch Your Form: Don’t sink into the ball. Work toward holding as much of your own weight as you can support.
Ready for More? Ditch the ball and move on to the side plank. However, instead of straightening both legs, place one knee on the ground, so that your lower leg is parallel with your upper leg.
From the traditional stance, bend and tuck one knee forward toward your shoulder on the same side. Hold for three seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Watch Your Form: Keep your butt from rising up in the air. Do you best to keep your body in one line, even while moving.
Ready for More? Do all repetitions on one leg at a time. For even more intensity, float your foot instead of planting it back on the ground at the starting position.
Feet on Ball Plank
Place the tops of your feet on an exercise ball, and hold the traditional plank position on your hands.
Watch Your Form: With the ball, it’s easy to let your hips sink to the floor and create too much of an arch in your lower back. Keep your hips in line with the rest of your body.
Ready for More? Bend and tuck your knees toward your chest, rolling the ball forward before returning to the starting position. For even more, add a push up in between each roll rep.
Turn your plank upside down. Begin in a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you. Place your palms on the floor a few inches behind you with your fingertips pointing toward your heels. Raise your hips toward the ceiling and hold.
Watch Your Form: Make sure your hands are in line with your shoulders. Too far forward or back can put harmful stress on your elbows and shoulders.
Ready for More? Float one leg off the floor about 6 inches and hold. Repeat on other side.
When planking, use a stopwatch and time yourself. Record your time, and then try to beat it the next time you do it. If you find you’re not able to hold your planks for very long, do multiple rounds of shorter reps–about 15-30 seconds each.
What is your favorite ab exercise? Tell us in the comments!