One of the fundamental building blocks of total body strength is the core. Its unique musculature makes it versatile and allows us to move in different planes of motion, thus making it necessary for building strength in all parts of our body. For example, a strong core may prevent against lower back injury while performing an exercise called the "dead lift" which is a similar movement to helping a friend pick up a couch off the ground. Traditional exercises such as sit ups or crunches aren't necessarily the best exercises because they can cause too much strain on the lower portions of the spine and lead to herniated discs. Most strength professionals recommend planks and their variations to train the core because of their ability to target every muscle in your abdomen without compromising your spine. To further ensure lower back protection, make sure you don't allow your hips to sag (lower to the ground) while doing the plank and keep your back flat. The down-fall of planks is that holding them for time can be boring especially if you're by yourself, such as you might be during quarantine. Below you'll find three variations of the plank that will help your brain stay engaged and allow you to push yourself to meet repetition (number of times you do the exercise) goals.
1) PLANK AND REACH
The plank and reach is a personal favorite of mine because it allows me to stay engaged as I keep count of how many touches I can do. The key is to keep your hips square to the ground the whole time and rocking your hips.
Step 1) Start in regular plank position, elbows at 90 degrees and directly under your shoulders with your feet wide apart to maintain balance.
Step 2) Reach out as far as you can to an object with one arm while supporting yourself on the opposite elbow. Be sure not to let yourself “rock” side to side.
Step 3) Bring your hand back and place the elbow in its original position and perform the reach with the other hand.
2) TOWEL BODY SAW PLANK
The body saw plank is a dynamic (moving) plank that provides more force on the core as you push your self away by extending at the elbows.
Step 1) Start in regular plank position with your feet shoulder width apart and toes on a piece of cloth or towel.
Step 2) Keeping your elbows in place, push the rest of your body back by extending your elbows.
Step 3) Once you feel you cannot go any further back, bring your body forward to the original position.
3) TOWEL PIKE UP
The towel pike up is an advanced version of the plank and should be performed very carefully.
Step 1) Start in push up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet shoulder width apart with your toes on a cloth or towel.
Step 2) In one motion lift your butt and hips up into the air and bring your feet towards your hands while keeping your legs as straight as possible.
Step 3) Return to push up position.
Try 3 sets of 10-12 reps (20-24 for the plank and reach) with 30 seconds of rest between each set for each exercise.