The plank is an exercise, or a series of exercises done in variation. It targets the core of your body, the abdomen and back. The plank also strengthens your arms and shoulders. It is part of the sun salutation series of poses in classic yoga. In Pilates, it can be done entirely on its own or as part of your floor work. If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or struggle with wrist issues, modify the exercise to resting on your forearms rather than resting on your hands.
Lie face down with your hands under your shoulders and feet together. Be sure you are lying on a supportive surface, such as a yoga mat or carpet, as surfaces such as hardwood or tile floors make this exercise harder on your wrists.
Curl your toes under, push your hands into the floor and slowly extend your elbows to raise your body. Avoid dropping your hips, hunching your shoulders or rounding or arching your back. The plank is so called because this is what you are creating, a single, long line, similar to a plank of wood. Keep your your hips, shoulders and neck aligned.
Hold the plank position for 30 seconds to one minute. Focus on keeping your core engaged and your gaze soft and relaxed. Keep your shoulders and your scapulae -- the area from the sides of your neck through your shoulder blades -- down by engaging the trapezius, deltoid and latissimus dorsi muscles that so you get the full benefit of the exercise. Press your thighs up, and your tailbone down, to keep proper alignment. Think of lengthening your spine and pressing toward your heels.
Lower your knees slowly to floor and bend your elbows to release from the plank and return to a full lying position. Repeat as you are able, up to three separate holds.
Roll onto your right side and bend your knees 90 degrees behind you. Prop up on your right elbow, placing it directly under your shoulder.
Lift your hips to create a side plank. Use your oblique muscles, the muscles that run down either side of your waist. Check that your body is aligned from your knees up to your hips, neck and shoulders.
Hold the side plank for 30 seconds to one minute. Slowly drop your hips down to the floor, and release the hold. Switch sides and repeat as your are able, up to three separate holds per side.
Items you will need
- ✓ Yoga mat or soft surface
- Consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, especially if you've been inactive or have a medical condition or injury.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.