A Workout For A Perfect Six-Pack
Millions of people dream of washboard abs. You can carve out a perfect six-pack with the help of a healthy diet and a well-planned workout. There are lots of core exercises that you can perform regularly to reach your body goals. One of the best ab exercises of all time is the plank. In this article, you will find different planks for abs, from a basic forearm and high plank to a more dynamic walking plank. Buckle up, and let’s get down to planks!
Anatomy Of Your Abdominal Muscles
First things first, to better understand why the plank is so effective at working your abs and core in general, let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of your abdomen. There are two main muscle groups in your anterolateral abdominal wall: flat muscles (located laterally on either side of your abdomen) and vertical muscles (two vertical muscles near the midline of the body). The “six-pack muscle”, which you want to develop is the rectus abdominis. Its function is to assist the flat muscles in compressing the abdominal viscera. The Rectus abdominis also stabilizes the pelvis during walking and depresses the ribs (9). Besides the rectus abdominis, your anterolateral abdominal wall includes external and internal obliques, which should also be targeted during your workout if you want to reach your goal. Especially effective at working your obliques are side planks for abs.
Benefits Of Planks For Abs
Doing planks for abs is a must if you want to either sculpt a six-pack or reach an overall fit look. But what are planks for abs? A plank is a calisthenics exercise, meaning that it doesn’t require any additional equipment since it uses your body weight as resistance. A basic plank is a static exercise; however, some variations of the plank are dynamic. Although the plank is often used as an ab exercise, it also works your back muscles, quads, obliques, pecs, rhomboids (3), and some variations involve even your glutes and arms (6). This makes for one of the benefits of this exercise – it is a full-body workout. Besides that, the plank has a lot of other benefits, including the following:
- Effective body strengthening. Even a fitness newbie knows that the plank is one of the best core exercises. It works your core muscles, toning them up and strengthening your whole body.
- Posture improvement (10). Since this exercise strengthens your spine, rhomboids, and your abdominal muscles, your posture naturally improves.
- Reduction of back pain. Improved posture and overall stronger core boost your spine health, fight and prevent back pain (4).
- Better coordination and stability. Stronger core = better coordination and balance (2). And planks are known for their effectiveness at boosting your core strength. Some plank variations are especially challenging in terms of balance, so by performing them you are sure to improve your stability.
- Mood improvement. Physical activity has proven to have a positive effect on your mental health and state of mind. Like any other exercise, planks can improve your mood and help you fight stress.
- Metabolism boost. Planks not only burn calories while you perform them but also add to your muscle mass, thus boosting your metabolism and making you burn more calories even when you are resting.
Best Planks For Abs
Now that we have answered such questions as: “What are planks for abs?”, “How good are planks for abs?”, and “What are the plank benefits?”, it is time for you to learn how to do planks for abs. So, without further ado, here are the best planks for flat abs:
This plank can be performed by literally anyone. It is a simplified version of a regular plank, so if it is too difficult for you, then this knee plank is what you need. To perform a modified plank, lie face down on the mat and lift your upper body off the ground with the help of your arms while keeping your knees on the floor. Keep your back straight and core engaged. Hold for the required amount of time. Practice this type of plank until you begin to feel that it is easy for you, then progress to a high plank (7).
This variation of a plank is a bit more challenging than a modified one but still belongs to the beginner-level exercises. Make sure that you perform it correctly, to ensure the best effect. To perform a high plank life face down on the floor and lift your body off the floor, so that you hold your weight on your forefeet and straight arms. Keep your back straight and make sure that your body creates a straight line from your head to heels. Engage your core and avoid letting your stomach sag or arching your back (8).
Even more challenging than the high plank, a forearm plank, will set on fire not only your core but also your arms and pecks. To perform this exercise, lie face down on the floor and lift your body off the mat, using your elbows and forefeet as pillars. Maintain a straight line from your head to heels and avoid arching your back or bending your knees (1). Hold for as long as possible.
Side plank is one of the best exercises for your obliques. Like a regular plank, it strengthens your whole body, improving your posture, stability, mood, and metabolism. Here is how to perform a side plank: lie on your right side and place your right elbow under your right shoulder. Lift your body, holding it on your right foot and arm. Your body should create a straight line. Make sure to engage your core and avoid sagging your hips (6). You can make this exercise even more challenging by lifting your left arm or/and leg.
Plank up-downs are a dynamic variation of a plank exercise. It involves a transition between a forearm plank and a high plank, making it more challenging in terms of balance and strength. To perform a plank up-downs, get in a forearm plank, with your elbows and forefeet on the floor, holding your body above the ground. Now strengthen your right arm and place your right hand on the floor underneath your right shoulder. Repeat the same movement with your left arm, so that you reach a high plank. Bend your right arm and place your right elbow on the floor. Repeat with your left arm, returning into a forearm plank. Repeat the required number of times. Try to sway as little as possible and keep your back straight (5).
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Another dynamic variation of a plank, walking plank, is a great workout for your whole body. You can perform a high walking plank, as well as a forearm walking plank. For a first variant start in a full plank, with your body above the ground, and your forefeet and straight arms as pillars. Simultaneously move your right hand and your right foot to your right. Follow up with your left hand and foot. Pause and move to your left in the same manner or make a couple of steps to your right and then the same number of steps in the opposite direction. To perform a forearm walking plank, start with your elbows on the mat, and repeat the above-described movements.
The reverse plank can really spice up your workout routine. It involves your lateral and posterior deltoids, obliques, abs, glutes, and quads. You can use weights for this one in the form of a weighted belt or a vest, or by placing a dumbbell on your hips. However, be careful as additional weight increases a chance of an injury. To perform a reverse plank, lie back down on the floor. Place your hands under your shoulders and lift your body off the ground. Now you hold your weight on your feels and arms behind you. Maintain a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for the required amount of time. Maintain a rhythmic breath and avoid arching your back, lowering your hips, or bending your knees.
Plank With Shoulder Taps
Another dynamic plank, plank with shoulder taps is a real stability challenge. It can be performed in both regular high plank and reverse plank. The latter is more difficult in terms of strength and balance. To perform a regular plank with shoulder taps, get in a high plank position: lie face down on the mat and lift your body off the floor using your straight arms. Now, while balancing on your left arm, lift your right hand off the floor and tap your left shoulder. Return your hand back down and tap your right shoulder with your left hand this time. Repeat the required number of times, switching hands each time.
To perform a reverse plank with shoulder taps, start in a reverse plank position, and perform the movements described in a previous paragraph. Be careful to avoid any injuries. Don’t rush and avoid swinging. Keep your body in a straight line, without lowering your hips or arching your back.
How Many Planks A Day For Abs?
As you may know, when it comes to exercising, to reach a successful result whether it is weight loss or muscle growth, you need to challenge your body. You can’t stick to the same routine for years and expect any changes. And the same goes for planks. There is no set time or number of repetitions of a plank which you should do a day to reach a six-pack.
Furthermore, everybody is different and progresses at its own pace. And while some feel like holding a minute of a forearm plank is too easy, others may find the high plank too challenging and stick to a modified plank. So, to carve the body of your dreams you need to listen to your body. Try this or that variation of this exercise to find the one that would be challenging but not too difficult for you. Hold it for as long as you can and try to slightly increase the duration or intensity with each workout.
If you have always dreamt of rocking those perfect washboard abs, then it is time to stop dreaming and start working! Stick to a healthy diet and properly plan your workout to reach the best results. One of the must-do exercises for abs is a plank. They can do miracles for your core, strengthen your whole body, improve your posture, help fight back pain, and boost your metabolism and mood. There are numerous variations of this exercise, so you are sure to find the one that would work perfectly for your fitness level. You can combine different planks in one workout to spice up your training routine and make it a bit more fun while keeping it as efficient.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Plank Variations That Will Challenge Your Core (2015, acefitness.org)
- Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Front Plank (n.d., exrx.net)
- How to strengthen your core (2020, mayoclinichealthsystem.org)
- Plank Variations | 5 Plank Variations to Strengthen Your Core (2017, acefitness.org)
- Side Plank (n.d., exrx.net)
- Slide show: Exercises to improve your core strength (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- The 8 best core exercises for gym and home training, from beginner to advanced (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- The Anterolateral Abdominal Wall (2020, teachmeanatomy.info)
- Tips to improve posture (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)