Tone It Up Tuesday

I’m trying out a new concept today for my Tuesday posts….talking about one specific exercise that I’ve been working on and why you too should be incorporating it into your regular workout. A lot of my favorite bloggers use Tuesday as “Search Term Tuesday” and unfortunately, in the whole of 9 months that I’ve been doing this, there have only been 3 terms used that led people to this blog:

amberlynn pappas
amberlynn shout house
i pee myself a lot don’t make me laugh

So, there’s that. And that’s why I’ve taken this a totally different route and hope that it brings you all a little something new from the same old exercises.

Week One   –   The Plank

There are a million different variations on the plank that make it just about the right exercise for anyone. You can even do it standing up if you don’t want to (or unable to) get down to the ground. Here are some photos to show you some different variations:

Standard Full Plank with arms extended. I don’t recommend the ankle weights and here you are looking for a nice straight line down the outside of the body from the shoulder joint to the hip joint and ending in the heel. Keep the elbows “soft” or not locked out while the heel of the hand is directly under the shoulder. Remember that your head is an extension of your spine, so your gaze should be pointed slightly in front of the hands to keep the neck is not flexing forward nor hyperextending and compressing the cervical vertebrae.
If you have wrist issues you can modify the plank by lowering down onto the forearms. All of the same principles listed above should apply, so this guy should not be looking off to the side so that we get a good face shot during the exercise. Now the elbows are placed directly under the shoulder joint.
Another way to reduce the stress on the upper body is to bring the knees down to the ground. This can then be performed with either the extended arm position (shown) or the lowered arm position resting on the elbows and forearms. However, the principles for head/neck alignment still apply and now the side line should run from the shoulder through the hip and end at the knee.
Here is a standing version with the lowered arm. You can also do this with an extended arm or placing your arms against a stable chair back pushed up against the wall. Just remember that side line as you step back away from the wall to align the body.
A Side Plank is another great option which can be varied in many ways. Here he shows a version with the bottom arm resting low instead of extended and the top arm extended. The top arm could also be lowered to the hip, the bottom arm could be fully extended with soft elbow, or the knees could be dropped down instead of the legs extended. No matter which variation, our straight line should now extend diagonally through the center of the body (crown of head to between heels or knees if lowered). Watch for hips popping up or drooping down to one side and the head leaning to one side or the other. This exercise requires a lot more balance and stability on the part of the exerciser, so practicing one of the other variations first will help.
Incline Plank is another advanced planking move and is sometimes called Reverse Plank. The straight line here is also shoulder-hip-heel, but requires a lot more chest strength and pulling up of the backside of the body while not allowing the head to fall backward. The only variation for this plank exercise is to do Table Top by walking the heels back until they are directly below the knees and allowing the top of the body to look like a four legged table with a head sticking out of one end.
Balancing Plank Options can occur by adding any kind of balance product under either the upper or lower body and choosing some variation of the plank to increase the balance work. Here are just three examples using a medicine ball, physio ball, and balance disk. A Bosu, foam roller, or any other balance equipment would be equally as effective.

The plank is one of the most versatile exercises because there are so many variations. It also sets you up for moving into so many different exercises….especially variations of the push-up. It engages almost every muscle in your body and is most effective at working your CORE. Core can be a dirty four-letter word in the fitness industry because it so misunderstood. The short story on your core is that any muscle that is not moving one of your appendages is probably part of the core and it’s main goal is to keep you upright, your organs protected, and increase your stability, balance, and coordination of most of your movements necessary to complete your activities of daily living.

So, how long should you plank for and why have I chosen it to go first? You can plank for as little or as long as you like. I like to set my goal as one song that I’m listening to on Truffle Shuffle to get through my plank. If I need to rest, I rest and then get right back to it. A good beginning point could be a goal of 15 seconds with about 1 minute rest, repeated 3 times. Saturday and Monday I spent some time planking and thinking about the concept of pushing myself to true fatigue. I have found that I quit some exercises long before I actually fail to be able to perform them correctly due to muscle fatigue. So, I am planking every other day this week to find out how long my body can go for over my mind. Give it a try and see which gives in first for you. Which muscle is the strongest…your body or your mind?

 

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