With the holidays coming up, we all know we’re going to indulge. The key to surviving the over-abundance and over-serving is to keep your exercise schedule going from Halloween straight through New Year’s Day. It’s so easy to give in to that sluggish, overfed feeling, plus it’s cold and dark outside, with long lists of things to do in the warm indoors. Our goal this year is to at least do SOMETHING every single day, be that a short a.m. plank and/or push-up series at home, a brisk walk after a big meal, and squeezing in a class or run at least 4 days each week. Who’s with me?
The Charlotte fitness studios, for sure. And this year, OrthoCarolina has joined in the fun with a pre-Thanksgiving PLANKSGIVING challenge on Instagram to keep you honest in the days leading up to turkey day.
Regarded as two of the best whole body fitness moves you can do using your own body weight to tone & strengthen, PLANKS and PUSH UPS are the PERFECT artillery against losing fitness ground over the long and festive holiday season. We reached out to our Charlotte fitness studio clients for their favorite PLANK and/or PUSHUP tips, and got some great videos and tips to share.
IM=X owner Laura Fuller counsels us on safe planking before we get started on testing out all these awesome moves:
“While planks are a great way to strengthen your core and challenge your whole body, it is more important to do them modified and safely than to go all the way with strained form. If while holding a plank you feel your lower back more than your abs, it’s time to modify. Yes, plank work will help strengthen the muscles surrounding your lower back if done properly but the core of the work should be felt in your core and abdominals. Low back discomfort or strain while planking means that your back muscles are kicking in too much to try and help support the position. If this happens to you, set your knees down (so your body forms a straight line from the top of your head to your knees for a modified position), then actively lengthen your spine (think of growing taller from head to tailbone as this active lengthening will automatically recruit important back stabilizers), and contract your abs deeper beginning from the pelvic floor up (not just sucking your belly in!). See if that makes a difference and practice strengthening your planking skills in the modified position on your knees without back strain before progressing. You’ve got this!”
The core consists of a group of muscles that we rely on to give our body (especially the spine) stability and strength for functional and athletic movement. So, what better way to challenge it than by adding to your plank the element of instability. Here, we’re demonstrating with a medicine ball. You can also use a BOSU Trainer or a larger stability ball for similar effect. Play around with ways to make your plank even less stable by lifting an arm or leg or by adding more than one medicine ball.
How much fun is THIS? 🙂
Instructor Annie Dixon recommends using a stability ball to “stir the pot” as well as do a version of a “mountain climber” which are both excellent and challenging exercises you can do at home to build core stability and strength. CycleSouth’s classes focus on using your core as you ride and the studio offers several 55 minute classes on our schedule which include Cycling + Arms.
HSM | Core
At HSM | Core planks and pushups are done on the Megaformer, where the moving carriage adds an element of instability to the mix — making core strength essential to hold it in place.
The Plank to Pike Pushup: This versatile move produces a serious total-body burn. You can try it at home using gliders, towels or paper plates, but you can only get the full experience on the Megaformer.
The Cobra: We love The Cobra because not only does it work the abs by keeping you in a plank position the entire time, but it shares the love with your triceps, shoulders and lats as well. The key to The Cobra is taking it slow and control, control, control.
Three great options demonstrated by Brandon Morgan, Coach at The Arboretum and South End locations and TJ Chaney, Coach at Quail Corners and South End
Plank Dips: Add rotation in your hips and keep your bottom in line with your shoulders for the ultimate core/oblique combination move. This move targets your entire core focusing on your lower and side abdominals.
Side Plank Crunches: This variation of a plank is great for not only working your entire core with more side to side stabilization but also for targeting your obliques.
Medicine Ball Push Ups: Great variation of a normal push up that adds-in extra core stability work while rolling the medicine ball from side to side. Also, the arm that is on the medicine ball while doing a push up adds more body weight to the arm on the ground for more resistant.
Chrysten Crockett – Bootcamp VIBE5 teacher gives us this well-rounded perspective on doing planks and pushups effectively:
There’s no such thing as “girl push ups.” For some reason the modification of the push up (with your knees on the ground) has been deemed as the easy way of doing the exercise. However, if performed properly, the modified push-up is just as challenging as the standard push up. The key to keeping your core engaged during the modified version of the push-up is to keep your feet off of the ground and lead with your chest. Meaning, as you bend your elbows to reach the ground push your chest down before your hips. This will ensure you are allowing your core to support your lower back and your chest and shoulders to pick up some of the load.
Planks are a great multi-functional exercise that not only works the core but also supporting muscles such as the shoulders, back, glutes and legs. One way to make sure you get the most out of your plank is to practice diaphragmatic breathing as you hold the position (or breathing with your diaphragm). This will allow you to keep your core engaged as you exhale and inhale.
Adding leg movements into the plank really gives your core that extra challenge. It’s difficult to stabilize your trunk (torso) when your legs are unstable. Some exercises to try are:
Mountain climbers – where you bring one knee at a time to your chest in a running motion
Plank walks – in a high plank position move your body from left to right using your legs and arms while keeping your core engaged to eliminate and shifting from side to side.
Plank Jacks – think of a jumping jack in a plank position. As your arms stay firmly planted, jump your legs in and out while keeping your hips low and parallel to the floor. Control the motion by land your feet softly as you jump.
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