The Plank, also known as the prone bridge to some, is a basic core strengthening movement. Walk into any gym or fitness facility and you will see someone performing this movement or a variation thereof.
The plank can be a great movement to work on core strengthening. As with any movement, the plank can become too easy for some people. Many times, clients or athletes will just hold the plank longer and longer to try and make the position more challenging. Eventually, at some point, their technique falters and the benefits of the exercise diminishes.
Instead of just holding the plank longer and longer, here are some ways to make the plank harder without having to hold it longer.
Ways to Make Progress Planks
1. Stop Holding Your Breath
When clients or athletes are trying to attain maximal core tension, they will have a tendency to hold their breath. In movements such as deadlifting, squatting, etc., using the breath and maintaining it are vital for maximal core tension to help buttress the spine against shear forces.
But, when performing a movement such as a plank, holding your breath can be working against you by making the movement easier. By holding your breath, you are using intra-abdominal pressure to maintain a neutral spine instead of using the musculature of your core to do the job.
Instead of holding your breath, try breathing when you are performing a plank. This will make the exercise that much more challenging.
-Maintain a neutral spine.
-Take a deep belly breath and breath 360 degrees into your stomach, back, and sides of your body.
-As you breath out, the exercise will become harder. Make sure to maintain your neutral spine position.
Attempt to perform for 3-4 breaths and then take a break. You can perform for multiple reps and sets.
2. Change Your Base of Support
Another way to make a plank more challenging is by altering your base of support. This can be accomplished by taking away a point of contact with your arm and/or leg.
By taking away one of the 4 points of contact in a plank, it will decrease the amount of control over the position and in turn, make it more challenging. It would be similar to taking away one of the legs of a table.
3. Incorporate Movement
When performing a plank, we want the lumbar spine to be in a position where it doesn’t move. This doesn’t mean other aspects of the body or spine can’t move. When performing a plank, try incorporating some type of movement into the exercise to increase the difficulty.
4. Make Your Body Longer
Besides resorting to medieval torture devices to attempt to make your body longer, to create a longer lever arm, and in turn make a plank more challenging, you can try this:
The bodysaw can also be used with a foam roller, TRX suspension trainer, slideboard, etc.
If you are performing planks while working out or training and they are just becoming too easy, try breathing, changing your base of support, incorporating movement, and/or using a bodysaw variation to make them more challenging.
Here I will be writing and posting about topics ranging from physical therapy, injury prevention/reduction, and strength and conditioning.