The side and front plank are isometric exercises that improve your posture and work your core without the crunch.
Planks strengthen your low back and the muscles that hold your spine erect, necessary components of good posture. Empowered, proper posture is 100% vital for looking and feeling your fittest plus it helps prevent injury and pain by keeping your joints in proper alignment. Not to mention planks will whittle your waist and build a beautiful strong core. It’s all around good stuff.
The muscles worked are the rectus abdominous (your abs), erector spinae (a group of muscles that mostly run up and down your back) and the muscles of the shoulders. Your secondary muscles used are the quadriceps, the abductors and all the glutes.
How to plank:
Start by holding the front plank for 10-20 seconds and the side plank for 10-20 seconds on each side, 2-3 times each. Work up to three sets of 1+ minute holds. For best results do this 2-4 times a week, or whenever you do core work.
The front plank:
- Start by getting into a position like you are going to do a push-up. Your hands will be right under your shoulders and your feet hip-width distance apart. Actually, press your hands and feet down into the ground, and think about making a straight line from the row of your head to your heels.
- Draw your belly button into your spine, and point your tailbone to your heels to scoop the low belly. Reach the crown of your head forward to lengthen your neck. The upper back should be slightly domes or “filled out”, not sagging in the middle or curved over.
- Set your timer and breath. When you feel shaky or weak, engage your hands and feet with the floor even more!
The side plank:
- From the front plank position bring your feet together to touch behind you. Keep your feet really flexed and strong and roll onto the pinky toe edge of your left foot, bringing all your weight into your left hand as you reach your right-hand high. Stack your very flexed right foot on top of the left.
- Engage your core and keep your skull in line with your spine. Push your supporting hand and foot even more down into the ground to elevate the pelvis, set your timer and breathe.
- Repeat on the other side.
About your wrists:
If doing the plank on your hands hurts your wrists, you can do one or both of these exercises on your forearms.
For the forearm front plank, get into a position like you are going to do a push-up, and then lower down to your forearms. Bring your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms parallel to each other, hands in fists or flat on the floor. Press your forearms and hands down into the ground.
For the forearm side plank, start in the forearm front plank and then rotate your left forearm so that it’s horizontal in front of you with your fingertips pointing to the right. Roll onto the pinky toe side of your left foot, and reach your right arm high.
The rest is the same as the instructions above.
Check out this plank challenge for optimal results!
The side plank and front plank combo, whether you do the standard or the forearm variations, is a great addition to an existing core workout. That said, if you have neck injuries or your shoulders and head already lean forward (like when you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk) and crunches seem to exacerbate the problem, this can also be an excellent alternative to crunches altogether!
Consider this just one more tool to help you craft a workout routine that’s perfect for you.