You can mix them into your workout, do them while watching TV, or even sneak in a few sets at work. We’re talking about planks-the do-anywhere, core-strengthening exercise that requires zero equipment but can yield some serious results.
Problem is, lots of people think the classic old plank is boring. When done correctly, it will completely fire up your core, but let’s face it-it’s not the most exciting exercise to do.
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So we tapped Greg Pignataro, C.S.C.S., a personal trainer with Grindset Fitness, to show us how to kick the classic exercise up a notch.
Good news: Now, you’ll get the same core-strengthening benefits with some moves that are a little more fun to execute. And that’s something that will only benefit you as a cyclist.
“If your abdominal muscles and spinal erectors are lacking either the strength or endurance to maintain proper positioning while pedaling on a flatter surface, the slight but constant forward-leaning seated position can place stress on your lumbar spine,” Pignataro.
A strong core, on the other hand, is key to riding faster, stronger, and more efficiently. The muscles also help keep you from collapsing forward or over-arching the spine when out of the saddle and climbing, he points out.
Pignataro created a series of eight plank variations you can do individually or as a total workout. But before you start, just know that some of these moves are considered advanced plank variations, which means, they’re best for people who can easily hold a traditional plank for at least 90 seconds-with proper form. That means your core stays engaged and your glutes squeezed together to prevent your hips from sagging.
How to do it: Hold or perform each plank variation for 30 seconds. Then, rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next one. When this becomes too easy, that’s your cue to increase your work time by five seconds until you build up to 50 seconds of work with only 10 seconds of rest for each move.
“This is a principle known as progressive overload, and it will ensure that you increase your strength and endurance by a manageable amount,” he explains.
Elbow Extension Planks
Start in a regular plank position, then slide your feet a few inches backward so that your elbows are slightly in front of you. Moving your base of support from directly underneath you to further out in front of you decreases the load on your shoulders while greatly increasing the challenge for your abdominal muscles.
Start with your elbows in regular plank position, but with your feet slightly wider apart than for a typical plank. Pick one arm up, touch your hand to your same side hip, then reach out in front of you. Alternate sides until the time is up. The challenge comes from resisting your natural urge to twist your hips. Try keeping them so flat and straight, as if you were to balance a glass of water on your lower back.
From a regular plank position, alternately touch each knee to the ground by slightly bending them one at a time. For a slightly greater challenge, try bending both knees at once. You'll feel this quite strongly in the lower portion of your abdominal muscles.
Place your heels and palms on the floor, with your hips raised and glutes squeezed, shoulder blades pinched together. This will help challenge the spinal erectors in addition to your abdominal muscles. To make this move slightly easier, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. To make it harder, alternate lifting one leg at a time.
Side Plank With Leg Lift
Assume a side plank position, then either raise the top leg and hold it in the air for the full duration of the plank, or repeatedly perform leg raises until the time is up. You’ll work your glutes as well as your obliques.
Hip Rotation Planks
Start from a typical plank position, then twist your hips to one side until it touches the ground. Alternate sides for some more oblique activation.
Start from a regular plank position, then extend one elbow at a time until you’re up in a pushup position. Then, drop one elbow at a time until you’re back in a plank position. Repeat.
Hip Extension Planks
From a regular plank position, raise one leg off the ground with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, push through your raised leg’s heel in a donkey kick. You should feel a strong contraction in your glutes on the side of the raised leg.
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