12 fig 05
“Upper Body SOS”, Fit Quickies #11, includes Planks and Push-ups form and practice instruction. Image: Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Targeted Body-Shaping Workouts

Let’s get one thing straight.  The Plank should be a part of everyone’s conditioning and body-shaping program and should hold a revered spot in your workouts.  Planks have an extraordinary effect on:

    • flattening the abdomen by targeting the transversus abdominus
    • relieving back pain
    • strengthening the core, from abdominal muscles through to the gluteals
    • strengthening the upper body (watch out chest, shoulders, and arms)

How to do Planks and how often to do them


Kelly Guinane, DPT

I recently met up with my go-to grrrl for all things PT, Physical Therapist Kelly Guinane DPT.

I work with Kelly to help me fine-tune Fit Quickies and to get extra insights into correct positioning and optimal muscle activation as well as safety for all kinds of exercises. We talked a LOT about planks.

Kelly and her team of trainers are utilizing Planks with patients based on research that ranks them #1 for alleviating back pain due to core activation.  And the #1 rank extends to the ability of the plank exercise to activate the transversus abdominus muscle, which is also targeted directly with Fit Quickie #1, ‘7 Seconds to a Flat Belly”. No wonder they’re so tough!

I like this video demonstration from TRX because of the way it is set up with the emphasis on avoiding excessive anterior pelvic tilt by activating the core muscles. At the same time, note precautions for avoiding too much of a pelvic tuck.   Practicing proper Plank position while standing first is a great way to go.



Fit Quickies Plank tips at a glance:

  1. Start on the elbows and work your way up. By this I mean get great form on the knees and then increase the challenge. Correct form makes the challenge deeper and it’s easy to cheat on just about any exercise.
  2. Form tip #1:  Straight line from knees to shoulders and abdominals all fired up. Form tip #2:  Keep the shoulders pulled down from ears AND watch for the tendency to round the upper back – it’s another way we try to relieve the ‘middle’ workload.
  3. Form tip #3: Hands unclasped as the hand clasp gets the latissimus dorsi into the action and takes it away from where you want it – abdominals and glutes.
  4. Once you get the form right with the workload on the knees and can hold it correctly for 30 seconds, try progressing to on-your toes. Again belly in,  gluteals gripped so that back doesn’t sway. If you get through 15 seconds on toes, you can always drop to the knees for the duration.

There are variations on the elbow plank, with knee drops etc. but start with the basics and you’ve got one rockin’ exercise.

Practice planks and pushups about 3 times a week for a major core advantage. Shoot for 2 – 3 sets of 30 seconds each – and work your way up to a minute at a time.

If you have any tips to add on the Plank, by all means please share them in comments below!


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