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10 Plank Variations You Should Try If You’re Tired Of The Standard Plank

10 Plank Variations You Should Try If You’re Tired Of The Standard Plank

Ready to build tight core muscles and reveal a washboard stomach? Look no further than the humble plank exercise. You can forget about performing hundreds of crunches, risking a back or neck injury in the process. Planks have an incredibly low risk of injury and actually help to improve posture.

Better yet, there are countless plank exercise variations to work your muscles harder as your strength progresses. Almost all variations work your midsection, abdominals, obliques, and deep core muscles. Many place secondary tension on arms, shoulders, back, glutes, and even hamstrings.

Ready to chisel out a mighty midsection? Start working your way through these 10 plank exercise variations.

Plank Exercise Progression:

  • Hold plank positions for 20-60 seconds
  • Repeat 3 times with 1 minutes break between each set
  • Push yourself to go 5-10 seconds longer each session
  • When you can, perform a variation for 60 seconds
  • Once you can perform a plank variant for 60 seconds, move on to the next variation
  • Perform workouts 3-5 times per week

1. Plank Jacks

Adding jacks significantly increases the engagement of your abdominal muscles during this exercise. They should be performed from the straight-armed plank position.

Purposefully tighten your core and keep your back in line. Plank jacks should be performed between 20-40 times before moving on to the next plank variation!

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2. Caterpillar Crawl Plank

This move is best performed on a hard and smooth surface using a small towel to reduce friction. Assume the straight-armed plank position with the towel beneath your feet. Begin by crawling forwards then backwards with your arms.

Remember, keep your core tight! This plank exercise will also work your shoulders and triceps!

3. Spiderman Plank

Begin the plank with your forearms parallel to the floor. Draw one knee towards your elbow, getting as close as you can without compromising your body position. Then, push your heel back towards its starting position before repeating on the other side.

There’s no twisting or bending during this exercise, and try not to let your foot touch the floor! Perform between 10-20 times per side and you’ll really feel your abdominals burn!

4. Side Plank

Side planks put greater emphasis on the obliques and deep core muscles. It’s a smaller group of muscles so this move quickly becomes tough. Build up to 30 seconds on each side with a quick transition.

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Keep your body, head, and neck naturally in line while performing this move. Place your other hand on your hip and squeeze your hip muscles to straighten your posture.

5. Decline Plank

This is similar to the regular plank, but with your feet elevated to place greater tension on your upper abs. You could use any secure object, such as a bench, sofa, or table.

Remember to keep that back straight and continue to breathe naturally.

6. Ball Roll Out Plank

This balancing act will greatly stimulate the abdominal and core muscles through stabilization. Begin in the forearm plank position on the ball and push your arms forward to roll the ball slightly. Hold this position for up to 60 seconds, then carefully roll it back.

Find a position that best engages your abs and midsection and remember to breathe naturally.

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7. Leg Lift Plank

From the standard plank position, raise one of your legs behind you while keeping your body parallel to the ground. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds before switching to the other leg for a further 30 seconds.

Keep your body alignment in check and stay parallel with the floor throughout this exercise.

8. Leg and Arm Lift Plank

This is a tougher plank variation performed much like the previous leg lift plank, except you must also lift your opposite arm!

Again, it’s essential to keep a horizontal back during the entire exercise. Try doing 30 seconds on each side.

9. Leg and Arm Side Plank

While in the side plank position, raise both your top arm and leg into the air as high as possible. Support yourself with your other arm and leg, but stability should be provided by tensing your midsection.

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Hold each side for 30 seconds before switching.

10. Wall Plank

Admittedly, this plank exercise is far harder than it looks. Get back in a forearm plank position, push your feet against a wall, and hold this position.

Increasing the elevation of your feet will increase the difficulty. If you can perform this exercise for 60 seconds, you’ll have incredible abdominal strength!

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Published on March 8, 2019

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

When we fall into a workout routine, our moves become automatic, and the body quickly adapts. This is called muscle memory.[1] While teaching your body how to properly execute squats, push-ups, or crunches is a benefit, overly relying on these moves to consistently grow gains won’t yield the kind of results you want. That’s because the muscles work in the same way every time.

Simply put, they’re not being “surprised,” so they get lazy.

Supplementing your routine with flow yoga is one way of surprising your muscles, especially if you are new to the yoga practice and have never tried the postures. It’s like taking a new road home when you drive, deviating from your usual route. Science has found that by doing so, you’re creating new neuropathways in your brain.[2] The same is done in your muscles when you try a new routine.

How is this done? Let’s dive right into it.

How Flow Yoga Boost Your Gains in Your Workout Routine

Think about your current workouts:

If you lift weights, you rely on external tools to engage your various muscle groups. Over time, your shoulders, legs, or biceps will come to expect the weighted plates or dumbbells, in the repetitive sequences that you remember.

In flow yoga, we use the body as the weight. Add gravity and hundreds of different postures and combinations, and you have a workout that uses the same muscle groups, but in many different ways.

A pose such as plank is a full-body workout, with every muscle engaged to keep the body in one long line. While it’s a stationary pose, it requires muscle control and activation, with no room for passivity.

    A Flow sequence, on the other hand, requires your muscle to switch from one pose to another swiftly, providing you with a more balanced and wholesome use of your major muscle groups.

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    Not only do these poses and routines re-energize the body in a refreshing way, they also allow you to learn something new, which is powerful for the mind.

    Bottom line? Complementing your exercise regimen with flow yoga is like hitting the shuffle button on your workouts, using your muscles in ways that “surprise” them, which in turn boost their growth and performance.

    Energizing Flow Yoga with Added Cardio

    Flow yoga is also known as “Vinyasa.”[3] In Sanskrit – the sacred language of the practice and its Indian roots – Vinyasa is roughly translated to “one breath, one movement.”

    This guideline, first and foremost, enhances your breathing, and teaches you how to go from our typical shallow, chest-only breathing, to a more deeper, belly-chest breath that uses the entire lung system.

    Not only is this beneficial for a myriad of healthcare reasons (combat allergies, eliminate toxins, reduce stress, ease anxiety), it also greatly impacts our muscles,[4] and therefore our workout.

    Flooding your muscles with rich oxygen will only keep them healthy, while the cardio benefit will get you warmed up to take on the more challenging postures in a flow yoga class. This prevents injuries and cramping.

    The best example of energizing cardio in flow yoga is the Sun Salutation sequence. Each pose is completed on an inhale or an exhale, until the sequence is finished. One full sequence may be repeated several times, encouraging you to take fuller and deeper breaths. The cycles warm up and loosen the body and prepare the muscles for stationary poses that are held longer.

    Here’s how to do a Sun Salutation Flow:

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    Due to the Sun Salutations, the muscles are not thrown into a challenging workout, but rather primed and prepared with energizing breath.

    Why is this important, you ask? Because happy muscles are warmed-up muscles.

    The Best Thing About Flow Yoga

    The best thing about practicing flow yoga? You’re building strength and flexibility.

    Strength and flexibility are like the Mecca of a wholesome workout routine. Before we get into why this is important, let’s break these two down individually to see how they stand up on their own:

    Meet Strong Stan

    Strong Stan is at the gym, doing bicep curls with massive dumbbells. His muscles have peaked in size, and he proudly displays them.

    While he loves to lift weights, Strong Stan often skips stretching or warm-ups. He just doesn’t see how that could help him continue his muscle gains, so he jumps right into a heavy workout.

    While it’s not evident to a passerby, Stan’s muscles are hurting. Without sufficient flexibility or deliberate stretching, Stan’s muscles are shortening and getting tighter. This eventually leads to joint injuries,[5] because un-stretched muscles have limited range of motion.

    Big muscles are a sure indicator of strength, but here’s the kicker – choosing not to prioritize flexibility will keep them inherently at risk.

    Meet Flexible Fiona

    Flexible Fiona is in a flow yoga class, easing herself into a backbend.[6] She effortlessly gets into the pose, and “hangs” out there for a few breaths while the teacher cues the class.

    Even though the teacher instructs the students to engage their glutes and be mindful that this is an active pose, Flexible Fiona opts otherwise, and relaxes into the posture by sacrificing the strength she ought to be building.

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    To many in the class, Fiona’s execution of the backbend would be a success – maybe even something to envy. However, what Fiona doesn’t realize is that her excessive flexibility is actually a detriment to her joints.[7]

    Flexibility has been defined as the “absolute range of motion” by Tony Gummerson, Martial Arts instructor. For people who are naturally flexible, that line of absolute range is often blurry and, in practice, overlooked.

    It’s very easy for Fiona to go above and beyond her range of motion, since her flexibility parameters are much wider than what Strong Stan may experience in a similar pose.

    Because she doesn’t feel the stretch in the same degree of motion as other students in class, Fiona has to push the envelope of her flexibility. This puts too much pressure on the joints that are already overworked, and it overstretches the muscles that are now prone to tearing.

    Your goal is to create muscle and joint balance and wholeness.

    What Strong Stan and Flexible Fiona have in common is that they’re both missing vital pieces of muscle awareness.

    In Stan’s case, heavy and tight muscles crave flexibility. Without it, not only would Stan hit a plateau in his gains because of a sure injury, but he would miss out on having the lean and toned muscles that we all want to have.

    In Fiona’s case, her overstretched muscles are not getting a workout at all. Rather, her excessive flexibility is resting on her joints, which leads to definite injury.

    So what can you do? It’s quite simple.

    You have to give your muscles the opposite of what they’re used to.

    If you’re a Stan and hate stretching, focusing on your flexibility is key. You will lengthen your tight muscles, and you’ll create new muscle memory by practicing routines that are new to you and your muscle groups.

    If you’re a Fiona and hate strengthening, focusing on this priority is vital. Your muscles are used to being passive as you stretch, so shaking up the usual and putting them to work will not only keep you injury-free, but that much closer to the muscle gains you’ve been looking for.

    Fortunately, flow yoga is the whole package, and can be the one-stop-shop for both Stan and Fiona.

      Final Thoughts

      If you’re serious about using flow yoga to supplement your workout routine to boost gains, sign up for a class at your local gym or yoga studio. There are a number of styles of yoga to try, but as we’ve discussed in this article, the Vinyasa style is your best bet to complement a moderate exercise regimen.

      Many studios offer beginner-style Vinyasa classes, where the instructor will explain the basics, and break down the sequences in a pace that is suitable for entry-level students. From here, the student can build upon their practice, and opt for more challenging, fast-paced classes, such as Power Flow or Ashtanga.

      Working out is a lesson in teaching your muscles. The gains that we grow are the result of that experience, and it all comes down to conditioning our body in a way that is healthy, efficient, and balanced.

      With a practice like flow yoga, we can offer supplemental training to our current regimen that will work our muscles in ways that are new, refreshing, and “surprising.” This method will keep our muscles toned and lean, as long as we prioritize the balance between strength and flexibility to ensure that we’re meeting both of these needs. Our muscle gains and body health depend on it.

      More Resources About Yoga and Fitness

      Featured photo credit: Edit Sztazics via unsplash.com

      Reference

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