A strong core is at the heart of all movement. If you asked any professional athletes—runners, footballers, cyclists, ice skaters, ping pong pros—all of them will tell you that a good chunk of their gym time is spent on abs work. And yes, the rest of us amateurs know the importance of the core as well. Which is why we spend the last few minutes of a workout holding a plank, staring at a timer counting down the seconds.
But the thing is, many of us aren’t planking correctly. Here’s a trick to know if you’re doing it right. If you’re not shaking and sweating in the last seconds of a one-minute plank, chances are your position is off. Put a person in the right position—hands directly below shoulders, a perfectly straight line between heels and head—you’re going to be shaking fast.
Planks are a super effective move, and a goal in and of themselves, similar to maxing out push-ups. Want to improve your plank, and therefore your shoulder and core strength? Here’s a four-move, equipment-free workout that’ll get you strong and help you break a sweat, too.
You can do this at the end of your regular gym session, in which case you don’t have to do any special prep. If you only have a few minutes and want to do this Plank Plus workout by itself, just do some shoulder circles, arm and wrist stretches, and add in jumping jacks or high knees to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm.
This is an 8:30 minute, four-round workout.
Rounds 1-3: These rounds are 2 minutes. Do each move for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
Round 4: This round is 2:30 minutes. Do each move for 30 seconds, but skip the rest and finish with mountain climbers for 1 minute.
#1 Beast shoulder taps
Start on all fours, knees bent at a 90-degree angle and hovering just above the floor, hands under shoulders. Keeping shoulder blades, back, and hips flat, shift weight to left side, lift right hand, and tap fingertips to left shoulder, then replace hands. Reverse and tap on the right. Continue alternating sides quickly, while maintaining a level back and square hips.
#2 Beast crawls
Start on all fours, knees bent at a 90-degree angle and hovering just above the floor, hands under shoulders. Keeping shoulder blades, back, and hips flat, step forward with left hand and right knee, then right hand and left knee, and then reverse two steps to start. Continue crawling forward and backward two steps at a time.
#3 Reverse high plank march
Start in a reverse plank, heels on the ground and toes pointed up, hands under shoulders with fingers pointing toward heels, hips and chest high, facing the ceiling. Lift left leg high, then replace foot. Repeat on the right side. Continue alternating sides.
#4 Mountain climbers
Start in a high plank. Draw left knee to chest, then replace foot while quickly drawing right knee to chest, so that one foot is always on the floor. Make it easier by taking more time between foot switches.
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