Plank It ‘Til You Make It!

If you’re in search of an effective full-body tone that won’t interfere with your hectic daily life, look no further than the stupendous plank!

This exercise works both the upper and lower body, sculpting lean muscle – even hard-to-reach “problem regions” – in a super short amount of time. And, for those peeps, who can’t fit a gym membership into their schedule or budget, here’s more incentive: you can literally plank from anywhere, no fancy fitness equipment required!

So, shape on up with these 4 fat-torching variations on the classic plank. And you’ll be good to get on with your day in under 15 minutes.


Two-Point Plank

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two-point plank 2

  • Areas It Targets: 
  1. Obliques
  2. Abdominals
  3. Glutes
  4. Quadriceps
  5. Hamstrings
  6. Biceps
  7. Triceps
  • How To Do It:
  1. Lower your body into a standard plank position (feet together, legs straightened, back flat and level, elbows locked, and hands shoulder-width apart).
  2. Shift your right leg slightly outward and lift your left leg off the ground until your heel is level with your pelvis.
  3. Tighten your torso and raise your right arm directly in front of you, then hold this position for 10 seconds.
  4. Tuck your navel deeper into your spine for balance, then pull your right elbow to meet your left knee underneath your body (avoid rounding back, lifting pelvis, or twisting spine).
  5. Push your right arm and left leg back outward and away from each other, then return to a standard plank position.
  6. Repeat steps 2-4, with your right leg and left arm.
  7. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, alternating sides.

Side-Twist Plank

side-twist plank 1

side-twist plank 2

  • Areas It Targets:
  1. Obliques
  2. Abdominals
  3. Shoulders
  4. Glutes
  5. Lower Back
  • How To Do It:
  1. Lower your body into a modified side plank position on your right side (right elbow bent and resting on the ground, feet stacked on top of each other, legs straightened, and core tightened).
  2. Support your weight on your right elbow and raise your left arm, bending at the elbow, and anchor your hand behind your head.
  3. Tuck your navel into your spine and rotate your left rib cage toward the ground, pulling your left arm down to meet your right arm.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then return to a modified side plank position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 5 reps on the right side of your body.
  6. Switch to the left side of your body, then repeat steps 2-4 with your right hand anchored behind your head.
  7. Do 3 sets of 5 reps on the left side of your body.

Reverse Leg-Lift Plank

reverse leg-lift plank

  • Areas It Targets:
  1. Abdominals
  2. Upper Back
  3. Lower Back
  4. Glutes
  5. Quadriceps
  6. Hamstrings
  • How To Do It:
  1. Start in a reverse plank position (hands behind the body, elbows locked, core facing up, legs straightened out in front, feet together, and back tightened).
  2. Keep your body in a straight diagonal line with your hips and glutes pressed as far from the ground as possible.
  3. Support your weight on your hands and lift your right leg with a slow, controlled movement until your foot is level with your chin.
  4. Point your toe and hold this position for 10 seconds, squeezing your quads and core for balance.
  5. Lower your right leg back to the ground and return to a reverse plank position.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5, with your left leg.
  7. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, alternating sides.

Up-Down Plank

up-down plank 1

up-down plank 2

  • Areas It Targets:
  1. Obliques
  2. Abdominals
  3. Upper Back
  4. Shoulders
  5. Biceps
  • How To Do It:
  1. Lower your body into a standard plank position (feet together, legs straightened, back flat and level, elbows locked, and hands shoulder-width apart).
  2. Lower your right elbow to the ground, followed by your left elbow, making sure both arms are parallel, so that you are now in modified plank position.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then return to a standard plank position (while raising your body, keep core engaged and avoid twisting spine).
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 and do 3 sets of 5 reps, leading with your right elbow.
  5. Switch sides by lowering your left elbow to the ground first, followed by your right elbow.
  6. Repeat steps 2-3 and do 3 sets of 5 reps, leading with your left elbow.
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Video

Yoga Week 3: a “Mindful Core”

…As described by Adriene Mishler of Yoga With Adriene, a YouTube channel I recently discovered while combing through “yoga workout video” Google results.

I was initially looking for Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown Level 2 since I’d completed Level 1 last week, but my search hit a snag – Level 2 is nowhere to be found on the world wide (waste of a) web. It’s available for purchase on Amazon, but – being the cheapo that I am – paying for the second installment when the first installment was free…yeah, not gonna happen!

So, that’s when I stumbled upon “Yoga With Adriene.” I tried her 40 Minute Fat Burn for starters, and – with over 90 other videos on this channel – I’ll be in for the long-haul.

Although this particular yoga session was more calming and free-flowing than the high-intensity workout you can expect from Jillian, my core “hurt so good” by the end of those 40 minutes.  Every posture was designed to subtly engage the abdominals in such a way that, at first, I didn’t even realize how much emphasis was being placed on those muscle groups.

Between the warm-up, actual flow and final cool-down, my body felt invigoratingly loose and my abs powerfully tight. It was a delicious combination! I wouldn’t call these poses difficult by any means (even for a beginner), but they put an unmistakable fire in my belly.

And in my book, that’s mission accomplished.

Below is a link to the video and – as with Yoga Meltdown – some screenshots for your perusal:

(I’d also highly recommend subscribing to Yoga With Adriene. I did!)

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*Disclaimer: I DO NOT own the rights to these images or video*

Video

Yoga Week 2: an Out-of-Breathalyzer

Yesterday, wanting to try a more individualized at-home practice, I powered through Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown Level 1 video. 35 minutes later, I was one panting Downward Doggie!

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the workout and would highly recommend it to any beginner yogi, looking for a solid foundation in proper pose technique while still working up a serious sweat.

You can access the video here via YouTube:

Jillian combined sun salutation sequences (i.e. Mountain, Plank, Chaturanga, Upward-Facing Dog, and Downward-Facing Dog), low- to mid-impact balancing postures, and aerobic repetitions based on higher-impact variations of those postures. The result was an intense yet energizing yoga flow – ideal for improving flexibility, strengthening both upper and lower muscle groups, and sneaking in your daily dose of cardio, to boot!

Some of the poses covered during this practice were basics that I remembered from my previous (more committed) yoga days, – such as Warriors 1, 2, and 3 – but some were brand new to me – such as Camel, Locust, and Dolphin. Despite the subsequent soreness (a sure sign you’re doing something right!), my body loved discovering these movements and finding its rhythm within the flow.

I screen-shot some image stills from the video to give my fellow “yogi noobs” a visual idea of how each posture should be executed, as well as what you can generally expect from this workout:

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camel pose

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aerobic variation of camel

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plank pose

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aerobic variation of plank

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warrior II pose

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aerobic variation of warrior II

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locust pose

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dolphin pose

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chaturanga pose

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upward-facing dog pose 

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downward-facing dog pose 

And, in case you need any more incentive to give Jillian’s out-of-breathalyzing yoga practice a try, just look at THAT face

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#BeastMode

Personally, I can’t wait dive in deeper. Stay tuned for my review of Level 2 next week!

*Disclaimer: I DO NOT own the rights to these images or video*

Let’s Get Down to the Core of It

Craving a dose of “fitspiration?”

No problemo!

The following ab exercises are my personal go-to’s for a simple, speedy, and straightforward workout program that you can easily knock out in less than 20 minutes, while carving out a killer core in the process. Just try these next time you catch yourself  moaning “I can’t.” Because I guarantee…you CAN!


Crunch:

  • What it works:
  1. rectus abdominis – muscle that runs vertically down the entire length of the abdomen
  2. obliques – muscles that are located on both the sides and front of the abdomen
  • How it’s done:
  1. Lie face-up on a flat surface with your knees bent and feet grounded.
  2. Lace your fingers securely behind the base of your skull with elbows bent.
  3. Lift your head and shoulders so that your upper back is slightly elevated.
  4. Be careful not to strain your neck and keep the mid and lower back grounded.
  5. Hold this position for approximately 3-5 seconds then lower to the floor.
  6. Repeat 50x (beginners), 100x (intermediate), and 150x (advanced).
  7. Make sure to rest for 3-5 seconds between each repetition.

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Plank:

  • What it works:
  1. rectus abdominis – see above description
  2. transversus abdominis – muscle that wraps around the lower torso from ribs to pelvis
  • How it’s done:
  1. Position your body into a push-up stance with the spine flat and stomach tucked in.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower them to the floor so that they support your weight.
  3. Hold for 30 sec. (beginners), 1 min. (intermediate), and 1 min. 30 sec. (advanced).

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Bridge:

  • What it works:
  1. rectus abdominis – see above description
  2. transversus abdominis – see above description
  • How it’s done:
  1. Lie face-up on a flat surface with your knees bent and feet planted 8-10″ from the glutes.
  2. Tighten your abs and lift the hips until you form a straight line from the shoulders to knees.
  3. Be careful not to arch your back excessively while performing this movement.
  4. Hold this position for approximately 3-5 seconds then lower to the floor.
  5. Repeat 50x (beginners), 100x (intermediate), and 150x (advanced).
  6. Make sure to rest for 3-5 seconds between each repetition.

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Leg Lift:

  • What it works:
  1. rectus abdominis – see above description
  2. transversus abdominis – see above description
  • How it’s done:
  1. Lie face-up on a flat surface with your entire body straightened out vertically.
  2. Press your legs tightly together and raise them until they are perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds then slowly lower your legs until they are 6″ above the floor.
  4. Hold this position for 10 seconds then lower your legs completely to the floor.
  5. Repeat 2x (beginners), 4x (intermediate), and 6x (advanced).
  6. Make sure to rest for 3-5 seconds between each repetition.

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Russian Twist:

  • What it works:
  1. obliques – see above description
  • How it’s done:
  1. Sit on a flat surface and lean backward approximately 30 degrees.
  2. Raise your legs until they are parallel to the floor and bend at the knees,
  3. Lace your fingers together in front of your body and bend the elbows.
  4. Twist your locked arms and upper body alternately from side to side.
  5. Repeat 30x (beginners), 40x (intermediate), and 50x (advanced).

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Jack Knife:    

  • What it works:
  1. rectus abdominis – see above description
  2. obliques – see above description
  • How it’s done:
  1. Lie face-up on a flat surface with your entire body straightened out vertically.
  2. Extend your arms above the head while still remaining firmly pressed into the floor.
  3. In 1 fluid motion, lift your arms toward the legs while pulling your legs into the chest.
  4. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds then lower to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10x (beginners), 15x (intermediate), and 20x (advanced).
  6. Make sure to rest for 3-5 seconds between each repetition.

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