How to Do Planks

Make the plank exercise as challenging as your fitness level allows.
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The plank exercise can add variety and a new challenge to your abdominal-strengthening routine. Aside from activating the abdominal muscles, you also use your buttocks, shoulders and legs to stabilize the body, which makes the plank a full-body exercise. If you have a preexisting medical condition, consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine, and as with all exercise, learn proper form to get the best results and to prevent injuries. Never hold your breath when performing the plank exercise -- breathe as normal.


Before performing the plank exercise, warm up your body for about 10 minutes. A warm up increases your heart rate, raises your body temperature and stimulates blood circulation and oxygen to the muscles. It makes exercising easier and minimizes your chance of injuries. Jogging, jumping rope or riding a stationary bike are all good warm-up exercises. Finish your warmup with light stretching, to improve the range of motion of your muscles and joints. Stretching can also be used to cool down the body after completing your exercise session.

The Front Plank

Prop up on your elbows while lying on your stomach. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders, so they carry most of the weight. Depending on your preference, spread your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart and come up on the balls of your feet. Look down at the floor, activate the glutes and leg muscles and contract your abs -- imagine pulling your bellybutton toward your spine. You back must remain straight and your hips must stay parallel to the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can before releasing the tension. Repeat the exercise three times and try to hold the tension longer each time.

The Side Plank

The side plank focuses mainly on the oblique muscles, located on the sides of your waistline. Indirectly, you also use the hamstrings and glutes to stabilize the body. Perform the side plank as a separate exercise, or in a flowing motion following the front plank. As you lie on your side and prop up on one elbow, align your ankles, shoulders, hips and head. Keep your elbow under your shoulder, your back and legs straight, your abs contracted and don't allow your hips to lower to the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can before switching sides. Repeat the exercise three times on each side.


If you're new to exercise, modify the plank exercise until you're strong enough to perform the full exercise. Perform the front plank on your knees and make the side plank easier by bending the knee closest to the floor, while keeping the upper leg straight. When you've mastered both exercises, add a challenge by using straight arms instead of bending them at the elbows, or by raising one leg in the air.

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