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The Benefits of Planks

If you surf the internet as often as some of us — hey, you can’t train 24 hours per day! — you may have seen a lot of 30-day challenges popping up lately. One of the more popular ones involves a plank, which promises to give you shredded abs and a taut core. Here’s one example:

Days 1-2: Hold for 20 seconds

Days 3-4: Hold for 30 seconds

Day 5: Hold for 45 seconds

Day 6: Off

Days 7-8: Hold for 45 seconds

Day 9: Hold for 60 seconds

Days 10-30: Increase by 30 seconds every 2-3 days. By day 30, you’ll be up to 300 seconds.

Now, we know the “do this and you’ll get shredded” promise is an empty one. If someone planked all day, every day but ate like a wild hog at the pastry buffet, that person wouldn’t be ripped. They’d be overweight, but with a strong core. To get ripped you need to follow a strict diet and sculpt your body into the shape that makes you happy. Adding planks can help you do that.

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Done properly, planks are a surefire way to strengthen your core, shoulders, neck, back, hips, and legs. Additionally, they can help your posture and improve balance. Plus, they’re easy to execute — they require no equipment or lifting heavy weight.

Standard Plank

Also known as a forearm plank, it’s the one you’ll most commonly see people doing at the gym. Lie face down and brace your weight on your forearms. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your body should be in a straight line. Brace your core and breathe through the exercise as you tire.

Side Plank

From the standard plank position, rotate onto one side and create a straight line with your body. Hold, or add difficulty by adding a crunch: keep your body as straight as possible as you move your hips up as high as possible, hold for a beat, and then return to the start position.

Push-up Side Plank

Another advanced move is to add a pushup to the mix. Get into a pushup position, execute a pushup and when you’re at the apex of the movement, keep your body straight and core tight as you rotate to one side and extend and arm without locking your elbows out.

Plank With Arm and Leg Lift

Get into a pushup position and lift up one arm and the opposite leg. The emphasis goes to your upper back, chest, sides, core, and glutes.