Everyone wants a strong core. The first thing I ask every new Drucker Fitness customer is what their fitness goals are. To this day, I have never had a client who has not mentioned having ‘ripped abs’ or a ‘strong core’ as one of their top priorities for training.
If you feel the same, I can hear you. I’ve always aimed to have a strong, toned core both for functional training and, admittedly, for aesthetic reasons. I have already explained in detail the importance of strengthening your core, because a strong core leads to proper squats and deadlifts, perfect push-ups, and plays a huge role in just about every other exercise.
There are countless exercises you can do to strengthen your core, but today we’re going to focus on one simple one: planks. For me and my clients, planks are an essential part of every workout and an absolute must for anyone looking to work the core.
Basically (see what I did there), a plank is an isometric strengthening exercise that requires you to engage your entire body. An isometric exercise is an exercise without movement, which in this case means a static contraction of the abdominals and the supporting muscles. Every muscle in your body should be working when you do a plank, which is part of why I love them so much.
The great thing about boards is that you don’t need any equipment to make one, so there are no more excuses! One of my favorite methods of getting clients to add planks to their daily routine is to do them while watching TV. Whenever there is a commercial break, get off and hold a board.
If you’re like most countries and watch shows on Netflix ad-free, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Set a timer for 15 minutes and each time it goes off and hold a 30 second plank. Repeat this for as long as you watch TV. Hopefully it’s not five straight hours, but hey, no judgmental. If that’s you, you’re about to smash a ton of boards!
Another advantage of boards is that they are so versatile that you will never get tired of them. There are always ways to make planks harder and target specific muscles more intensely. There are low planks performed on your elbows, high planks on your hands, side planks performed on your hands or elbows, and even inverted planks, in which your body is on your stomach.
While all planks target the whole body and, in particular, your core muscles, each plank serves a different purpose and it’s important to incorporate all of them into your workouts. High planks require you to engage your latissimus dorsi (lats) a bit more, while low planks recruit more core muscles to do the job. Side planks target your obliques while reverse planks target your posterior chain and triceps.
Whatever type of board you are doing, there are a few key points to remember. First of all, always keep a tight core. This means that you need to flex your abdominal muscles all the time, keeping your entire back straight and not falling to the floor.
One of my favorite clues is pretending to have a glass of water on your back while holding a board. If you keep your whole body tight and aligned, the glass of water will stay upright. But when you let your hips sag, the glass spills over. Whether you are doing a high plank or a low plank, always make sure to keep your shoulders flat on your wrists or elbows, depending on the type of plank you are doing.
Another benefit of boards is that there are always changes to be made if you think a regular board is too hard or your form is starting to be compromised. You still have the option of getting down on your knees and holding a board. Much like performing push-ups on your knees, you want to make sure your back is straight and your hips are slightly lifted.
To make the boards harder, you can add shoulder slides, hip dips, and more. One of my favorites is the jack boards, as they combine a classic board with a bit of extra cardio and coordination. To perform plank holds, start with a basic elbow plank, then jump both of your wide feet simultaneously, then return them to the starting position. It’s a great way to challenge the core and your cardio!
Whether you start off on your knees or challenge yourself with plank jacks, you’ll still get some basic killer workout. Everyone starts somewhere, so grab a mat to protect your elbows, set your timer, and get settled on the board.
With beginners I like to start with 30 seconds, even if that means half the plank has to be done from the knees. If 30 seconds is too easy, increase the time. Another fun way to make a base board harder is to weight it down! Take a weight plate or heavy book and have a partner place it on your back. It will really challenge you!
Curious if you can handle a set of Drucker Fitness boards? Check out this board crusher and tell me how you do it!