Planks are by far the most effective exercise to tighten your stomach muscles and create hard abs. Here are 5 plank variations to up your core game and keep your body guessing PLUS a Primal plank challenge for you!
First things first, planks are amazing for you!
I know when I mention planks (just like all of my Bootcamp members!) you softly groan and roll your eyes
Planks are the most effective exercise to tighten your stomach muscles and develop that strong set of abs I know you want so badly
And I'll be honest. There were few people alive who hated planks as much as I did
Squatting until I felt light-headed, or performing pull-ups until I got motion sickness was nothing compared to the thought of a 30-second plank
(Cue eye roll)
Interestingly it wasn't until I started doing planks on a regular basis that I really started to feel a difference in my core strength
I'd do tonnes of crunches all week every week, but I'd never feel the same "pulling" sensation as I did with planking
You see there are 3 layers to the stomach wall and when we perform crunches we work the top layer
Planks are SO effective because they work the deeper core muscles. These are the muscles that when strengthened, pull your waistline in
(Ladies these muscles relax and go sleepy after pregnancy. Planks will draw them back in!)
For once in my life, I felt my abs tensing without me having to squeeze them and I felt them working harder doing day to day tasks and other exercises
Planking activated my deeper core muscles which caused them to "switch on" more and more!
This is something you simply can't achieve with conventional crunches!
So I've put together 5 plank variations from easiest to hardest, that I want you to start integrating into your workout at least twice a week
You hear me, twice a week MINIMUM
1. Plank Heel Raises
Why? Plank heel raises will make you unstable
The more unstable you are the more your core will have to work to support your body weight
I also use them a lot with my clients who need to activate their bums more, as the kickback motion is waking up the glutes nicely
Just make sure you're not kicking too high that your poor back's heavily arching
The height the lady is kicking in the image is perfect! Kicking higher won't make it harder it will make it easier! Slow is the key here
Focus on pulling your belly button in and keeping that back lovely and flat and you're good to go!
Aim for 20 slow reps each set
2. Shoulder Taps
Another great way to make yourself as unstaple as possible
The reoccurring theme with any plank exercise is the speed or the rep
If you can perform 10 slow shoulder taps for a 3-second count, you'll get far more results than the people who slap their shoulders at a hundred miles an hour
You're not swatting flies remember
A little bonus for you as well. To level this variation up even more, you can bring your arm in front of the body until it's straight
And make sure that you're resisting the urge to twist the body when your arm is off the floor. In the image notice how the ladies body hasn't moved. That's what you're looking for!
Aim for 20 slow reps each set
3. Plank Saw
Now these are awesome
A plank saw is a variation of your bog-standard plank, but instead of staying stationary you're pivoting on your toes
In the image you'll see the ladies face starts over her hands, then she leans right the way back until her arms are almost straight
This simple variation will have your stomach trembling like me after my third coffee
Remember, slow and steady, and instead of counting reps, perform these for time as it's easier to gauge progression
One last thing. When doing a plank saw, make sure your back stays flat and the same height. You're moving perfectly horizontally, your bum shouldn't rise at all
Aim for 40 seconds at a time
4. Weighted Planks
If you're beginning to find these bodyweight variations a schooch easy, then you're ready for some extra resistance
Just like you started with bodyweight squats and moved onto the dumbells, you have to keep increasing the intensity to continue progressing
So ask a friend very nicely to pop a weight on your bum and try a normal plank
In a couple of sessions, you'll be ready to try variation 2,3 and 4 with extra resistance too
The beauty here is there's no end
You can just keep adding small amounts of weight week after week and repeating the same process. Developing a stronger core with every passing week!
5. Ab Rollouts
The grand finale. The big one.
In the fitness industry, there's a lot of squabbling between the powerlifters, bodybuilders and crossfitters
But the one thing they all agree on is the ab rollout is the most effective exercise for your stomach
That said it's also the exercise that most will get wrong
The problem is the body will always look for the easiest route out. 99% of the time the individual will push their bum back as they roll the wheel
This turns the movement into a funky-child's pose stretch instead of an ab exercise
To engage the abs, just like in the image you have to lean towards the roller. I always call it a "trust fall"
When you roll back in, start the movement with your arms and roll until you're back to where you started
DON'T shimmy your bum back and then slide the roller effortlessly back to your knees
You can also perform these on a medicine ball, by slowly walking your hands out on top of the ball
Primal Ab Challenge
Try this routine 2-3x a week for 1 month and I can GUARANTEE you the strongest core you've ever had
I just want to be clear that these plank exercises won't get rid of "belly fat"
That's down to your diet, not exercise
If you need help reducing your belly fat read this
But these exercises will get you results you've never had before
Remain consistent to the program, maybe even set a reminder a few times a week and you'll be amazed how much stronger and confident you are
Also if you can't feel it in your stomach, watch this to make sure your form is spot on
Thanks for reading,