Strengthen your core with this awesome plank circuit

July 10, 2014

If you’ve been exercising long enough, chances are you’ve heard that planks are one of the best exercises for your abdominals. Whether you’re a runner, bike rider or weight lifter, you need a strong and solid foundation, and that comes from working the core muscles.

Not only does a strong center better overall exercise performance on your home gym equipment, but it assists with stabilization and balance so you can work more efficiently with a lower risk of injury.

While it may not seem like having strong core is important for running or bike riding, the truth is that a solid core improves these cardio workouts. If you think about it, you need good posture in order to run well on your fitness treadmill and avoid muscle imbalances from leaning far forward or hunching your shoulders. Similarly, you need to able to sit tall on your home exercise bike in order to pedal properly.

Anyone who hasn’t done a plank might think they look easy enough – just hold your body in a push-up position? No problem! However, when you actually perform a plank, it quickly becomes clear how challenging they are. This is because you’re not only working on your abs and back muscles, but your arms and legs engage as well, making a plank a total body exercise. Once you’ve mastered a traditional plank, you can add modifications to intensify the exercise, further improve stability and become even stronger.

The good news about planks is that they can be performed anywhere because all they usually require is your body weight (though sometimes you might add some weight for added upper body work). In addition to your regular cardio sessions, you can incorporate this awesome plank circuit from Women’s Health magazine to take your fitness to the next level:

Plank Knee Tuck to Side Kick

  • Start in a traditional plank position with your hands under your shoulders and on your toes, like you’re starting a push-up
  • Beginning with your right knee, pull it toward your left shoulder, then straighten your leg
  • Keeping your right foot up, open your leg to the outside, then return to the starting position
  • Repeat this motion 10 times on the right leg, then switch to the left

Row to Triceps Extension

  • Grab one 5-pound dumbbell and return to your starting plank position
  • Holding the weight in your right hand, pull your elbow straight back, squeezing your shoulder blade for a row
  • From the row, extend the weight toward your foot for a tricep extension, then bend your elbow and return to the start
  • Repeat this 10 times with the right arm then switch to the left

Spiderman Push-up

  • Set your weight to the side and return to your plank position
  • Keeping your abs tight and neck in line with your spine, lower your chest to the floor while you lift your right knee toward your right elbow, then return to the start
  • Do another push-up, this time bringing your left knee to your left elbow
  • Alternate 10 times

Front – Side Raise

  • Grab your 5-pound weight in your right hand
  • Return to your plank position, opening your feet a little wider than hip-distance for balance
  • Squeeze your abs, then lift the weight to shoulder-height in front, out to the side, back to the front and return to the starting position
  • Repeat this motion 10 times with your right hand, then switch to the left

Once you complete this plank circuit, you’re sure to be feeling the burn throughout your whole body!