A plank workout should consist of isometric exercises that target the abs, hips, glutes and erector spinae—low-back muscles and shoulders. The abs have layers that start in front of the spine and move out toward the skin. The deepest layer is the multifidus, followed by the transverse, internal and external obliques, and finally the rectus abdominals.
Any plank workout will help develop anterior stability, or the ability for the front of the body to maintain torso bracing, which involves the rectus abdominus, external obliques and erector spinae. For advanced athletes, the amount of tension these muscles are required to produce repeatedly in a competitive event mandates a plank workout that mimics the time under tension. This can be five seconds all the way to three or four hours for endurance athletes.
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The best way to activate the abdominals is to perform a Plank on a suspension system or rings. With the feet elevated 6 to 12 inches, this changes the force angle of gravity to be closer to the optimal 90 degrees to your torso, which makes the core work even harder. More specifically, the spinal and abdominal muscles have to increase tension to maintain a neutral spine. Most sports require athletes to move their limbs while their core stabilizes their spine. So each exercise will maintain core stability while the extremities move.
1. Side Plank Adduct: Almost every time a Side Plank is done, the bottom leg is the supporting leg. With this exercise, the top leg is the supporting leg. The exercise engages the adductors, or inner thigh muscles, rather than the abductors, or outer hip muscles.
2. Power Wheel Crawl: This exercise calls for a pulling movement with the arms. With your feet in the power wheel, you walk forward and backward on the floor with your hands.
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3. Truck Driver (Extended): Using the Jungle Gym XT in an arm-extended plank position, move your arms in the opposite direction, making a circular movement.
4. Loaded Suspended Push-Ups with feet elevated 12 inches: With your feet elevated, place your hands in handles so your shoulders are directly over your hands. Wearing a vest increases the load on the abdominals and spinal muscles.
5. Renegade Row: Using dumbbells or kettlebells, place your hands directly under your shoulders and position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With one arm at a time, pull the weight up to your ribs. Place the weight back on the floor and repeat with the other arm. Make sure your hips do not rock as you lift the weight.
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Perform each exercise on its own, one at a time.
- Side Plank Adduct: 3 x 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds between sets, but not between sides.
- Loaded Suspended Push-Ups with feet elevated: While maintaining a straight back, perform 20-30 reps. Use a vest or chains to add load, and work your way up to 100 pounds.
- Power Wheel Crawl: 3 x 100 yards (complete distance without touching knees as much as possible). Rest 1 minute.
- Truck Driver: 3 x 20 per arm. Rest 1 minute between sets.
- Renegade Row: 3 x 1 minute. Rest 90 seconds between sets.