Fall is right around the corner and it’s the perfect time to take stock of your fitness goals and give your fitness motivation a reboot before the holidays. Holiday feasts and fun will be here in no time, so now is our chance to lock-down healthy habits and stay active as we head into the holiday season and the end of the year. Tone your torso, flatten your abs, and improve your strength with the 21-Day Fall Fitness Challenge: Planks.
After the success and fun with the HIIT Summer Workout Series (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3) September kicks off the 21-Day Fall Fitness Challenge Series. The Fall Fitness Challenge will be a little different. In September, October, November and December there will be a new 21-day challenge. Beginning with planks in September.
Planks are an effective isometric exercise that helps build endurance, stabilize the entire core region, , strengthen the obliques, abdominals and lower back, along with muscles in the shoulders, chest, back and legs.
Various plank exercises challenge all the major muscle groups and stabilizers, improve strength, and prevent injury. The plank is 100 percent excuse free, meaning no equipment needed, you can easily modify to fit your fitness level, and it takes very little time. All you need is a little motivation, direction and structure to reach your goal.
The plank can be performed effectively in a variety of different levels with these 17 variations as your core strength and endurance increases.
Plank (1) Start in a push-up position except keep your hands directly under your shoulders instead of outside of your chest. (2) Legs are straight out behind you with feet together. (3) You are balancing on your palms and the balls of your feet. Hold this position. Targets: rectus abdominis, lower back, chest, shoulders
Dynamic Plank (1) Start in plank position. Keep your spine straight and your eyes focused on the ground in front of you. Don’t arch your back. Imagine pulling in your belly button up toward the ceiling. (2) On the right side of your body, drop down onto your elbow so your forearm and right palm are flat on the floor with the elbow positioned directly under your right shoulder. (3) Then, slowly do the same on the left side so that the left forearm and palm are flat on the ground, with the left elbow directly under the left shoulder. (4) Raise back up to starting position one arm at a time by first placing the right hand directly underneath the right shoulder and pressing up, followed by the left.
Elevated Feet Plank (1) Slightly shorter than body length from a bench or chair start in a pushup position coming down to rest your weight on your forearms instead of on your hands. (2) Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. (3) Brace your core by contracting your abs. (4) Bring both feet up on the bench, keeping your body straight.
Plank with Hip Rotations (1) Assume a plank position with your forearms flat on the floor and your palms down. Your body should form a straight line from your head to you ankles. Brace your core. (2) Keeping your hands in place and using your feet as the pivot point, twist your body to the left as far as possible without losing your balance. Don’t change your lower back posture as your twist your body. (3) Repeat to the right, that’s one rep.
Plank to Pushup (1) Start in a forearm plank. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were being punched in the gut. (2) Press your body up into the top position of a pushup by extending your arms one at a time, up into a full plank. (3) Pause, then reverse the movement and return to your forearms. That’s one rep.
Superman Plank and Reach (1) Begin on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor and shoulder width apart. Your knees should be hip width apart and bent 90 degrees. (2) Brace your abs, and raise your right arm and left leg until they’re in line with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. (3) Return to start position. Keep you hips and lower back still throughout the move. Repeat with your left arm and right leg. Each arm leg extension counts as 1 repetition.
Dolphin Plank Hip Raise (1) Begin in a forearm plank. Keep abs tight and don’t let your hips or back sag. (2) Inhale and contracting your core raise your hips so that your body forms an inverted V. (3) Exhale, brining your body back to a forearm plank.
Plank Jack (1) Lower yourself into a plank so you are resting on your elbows and forearms and up on your toes with your legs straight and feet together. (2) Jump both feet out in the opposite direction and then jump them back together. (3) Repeat this jumping motion making sure your core is engaged the whole time.
Plank-Up (1) Start in plank position. Keep your spine straight and your eyes focused on the ground in front of you. Don’t arch your back. Imagine pulling in your belly button up toward the ceiling. (2) On the right side of your body, drop down onto your elbow so your forearm and right palm are flat on the floor with the elbow positioned directly under your right shoulder. (3) Then, slowly do the same on the left side so that the left forearm and palm are flat on the ground, with the left elbow directly under the left shoulder. (4) Raise back up to starting position one arm at a time by first placing the right hand directly underneath the right shoulder and pressing up, followed by the left.
Plank with Arm Lift (1) Start in plank position with your feet wider than your shoulders, instead of placing them close together. (2) Raise and straighten your right arm with your thumb pointing up and hold it at a diagonal in relation to your torso. (3) Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and switch arms. Each arm raise is one rep.
Plank Knee to Elbow (1) From standard plank position, hands directly under shoulders, lengthen your neck, eyes looking slightly in front of your hands. Keeping arms straight, push on your hands away from the floor to stabilize your shoulders. Tighten your, don’t arch your back and tuck your tailbone creating a straight line from head to toes. Exhale and bring your right knee as close to your right elbow as possible. Return to start position. Exhale and rotate your right knee to your left elbow. Return to start position. Right knee to right elbow and left elbow is one repetition.
Plank with Shoulder Tap (1) Start in a push-up position except keep your hands directly under your shoulders instead of outside of your chest. (2) Legs are straight out behind you with feet together. (3) You are balancing on your palms and the balls of your feet. Hold this position. (4) Alternate tapping your shoulders with your torso and hips squared to the ground and no movement. Perform for the prescribed number of repetitions. Left shoulder tap and right shoulder tap is one rep.
Push-Up to Side Plank (1) Start off in a push up position on the floor with your toes extended out and arms at shoulder level. (2) Perform a push up and then come back up shifting your weight to one side of your body twisting to one side and bringing the arm on the twisted side up towards the ceiling. (3) Hold this position for a count then return back to the starting position for another push up alternating sides.
Side Plank (1) Lie on your left side with your knees straight and prop your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm. (2) Brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Place your right hand on your hip, keep your head in line with your body and position your elbow under your shoulder. (3) Breathe deeply for the duration of the exercise. Hold for prescribed amount of time. That’s one set. (4) Turn around so that you’re lying on your right side and repeat.
Side Plank with Hip Dips (1) Start by lying on your right side, leg extended, with your left foot stacked on top of your right foot. (2) Support your body weight on your right elbow and right hip resting your left arm on the side of your body. (3) Keeping your bell button pulled in, exhale and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Hold for a few seconds. (4) With control, lower your hips back down to the start position and repeat. Perform a full set, then switch to the other side and repeat. Make sure to keep your chest out, shoulders back and spine straight.
Side Plank with Rotation (1) Start by lying on your right side, legs extended, with your left foot stacked on top of you right. (2) Support our body weight on your right elbow forming a straight line with your body. (3) Keep your belly button pulled in and your hips raised. (4) Extend your top arm toward the ceiling. (5) Rotate your body to reach your extended arm underneath your body, then extended the arm back up to start position. (6) Repeat on the other side.
One-Leg Plank (1) Start in a forearm plank. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were being punched in the gut. (2) Raise one foot a few inches off the floor and hold. (3) Lower your foot and repeat with the other foot. That’s one rep.
Tighten your torso, flatten your abs, and improve your strength with the 21-day plank challenge.
The 21-Day Plank Challenge
Every day for 21 days you will time yourself as you hold a plank of any variation. You can do the same variation for the entire 21 days or try a few different variations keeping in mind the difference in intensity when you compare previous times.
How The 21-Day Plank Challenge Works
- Download and print the plank calendar below.
- On day one, you start with a standard forearm plank, holding for as long as you can whole maintaining good form. This establishes your baseline.
- Next, set a time goal. You can set a specific time to add each day, i.e. hold it for 5 to 10 seconds longer than the day before or you can set an end goal time. Or both. Set yourself up for success!
- For the next 21 days, you simply hold the plank longer with good form.
- Record your times on the daily plank calendar so you can easily measure and review your progress.
Remember, some days are better than others. Don’t be discouraged if some days are harder. This is why keeping track of your time daily is so important to use during this challenge. Once you see how you’ve improved your time overall, you will be amazed by how strong you feel.
Share the motivation reboot! Forward this challenge to a friend or family member. It makes it easier to stick to your goal.
Injury Prevention Tips
- It’s essential that your spine stays level and that you activate your lower abs to protect your low back. If your back starts to arch, or your butt starts to dip, it’s time to call it a day.
- Make sure your wrists or elbows are directly under your shoulders to relieve any shoulder pressure.
- You should not feel any joint, back or shoulder pain during your planks. If you are, it’s probably related to your form. Have someone take a picture of you, or ask a personal trainer to review your form. Make sure everything is in a straight line.
- Remember to breathe. Holding your breath makes the exercise harder and focusing on your breath can actually improve your concentration and duration.
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