There is undeniable evidence1 that a strong core is key to an injury-free, endurance athlete’s body. It’s also important to note that “core” means all the muscles of the lower trunk and pelvis, not just your abdominal area and back but also your hips, glutes, adductors and abductors too. There have been several studies2 showing how improving your core, as we have defined it, can prevent injury as well as help you recover from one3.
One of the most effective and often used training moves is the plank. For many, it is an abdominal default exercise of sorts, and for good reason. You can do it anywhere, it does not take special coordination or equipment, and there are almost countless ways to vary it.
For maximum benefit, hold each of the following plank exercises for 30 seconds to one minute (or as noted), and repeat up to three times, four to five days a week. As your core strength improves, add time and frequency. Before you know it, you will feel the effects of a more stable and powerful core.
1.High Plank on Bosu
Start by kneeling, with a Bosu ball placed flat side up, in front of you. While on your knees, place one hand at a time on the Bosu’s edges, gripping the handles, then extend your legs behind you as you push onto your toes. Hold the plank with hips in-line with your head and heels. Stay for 30 seconds or as long as you can, and repeat up to three times.
2. High Plank on Double Bosu
Place a Bosu ball flat side down, by your feet and another, flat side up, by your hands. Slowly place both feet on one Bosu and hands on the other in a high-plank/push-up position. Engage your core and push through your hands and toes to stay balanced. Hold for as long as you can and then try to beat your time on the next repetition.
3. High Plank on Physioball
Grab a physioball and place it near your feet. Place both hands on the floor directly in front of it and then slowly place each foot on the ball so the top of your shins are resting on the top of the ball and you are in a high plank or push-up position. Hold and balance. The further your slide down your legs to your toes, the bigger the challenge. Hold for as long as you can, rest, and repeat.
4. Pike Up on Physioball
Grab a physioball and place it near your feet. Place both hands on the floor directly in front of it and then slowly place each foot on the ball so the top of your feet are resting on the top of the ball and you are in a high plank or push-up position. Hold this position and balance. Then slowly push your hips toward the ceiling as you pull your feet toward your chin. Return to the start position and repeat up to three sets of ten.
5. Low Plank with Toe/Heel Touch
Begin in a low plank position on your toes and forearms. Slowly raise your right foot and place your right toe on your left heel. Hold for ten seconds and repeat on the left. Repeat as many times as you can with good form.
6. Low Plank with Single Leg Crossover
Start in a low plank position. Slowly raise your right leg and cross it over your left, placing your right toe to the floor, creating an ‘x’ with your lower legs. Bring your right leg back to the starting position and repeat the move with the left leg. Each time your right toe touches the floor is one set. Do up to 10 and repeat up to three times.
7. High Plank Knee Pulls
From a kneeling position, place your hands directly below your elbows, shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs behind you as you press onto your toes. Keep alignment in your head, hips and heels then slowly pull your right knee directly underneath you and hold. Repeat on the left. Do up to 10 each and three sets.
8. Walking Plank
Start in a high plank and then, walk your hands onto your forearms, one arm at a time. Repeat this process to return to high plank and continue “walking” the plank for a long as 1 minute. Repeat up to three times.
9. Side Plank (high) with Runner’s Knee
Laying on one side, push yourself onto your hand, and be sure your hips, legs and ankles are in alignment and that your shoulder is directly over your elbow and wrist. Extend your other arm straight up overhead, engage your obliques (the muscles on the side of your abdominals) and then bend your top leg at the knee pulling it toward your chest. Repeat knee lifts up to 10 times before switching sides.
10. High Plank with Monster Walks
Start in a high plank position then take your right leg and try to place your foot as close to your right hand as possible, with your foot flat on the floor. Bring your right foot back to the high plank position and do the same movement with your left leg and foot. Repeat as many times as you can with perfect alignment of your spine and lift of your hips. Do up to four sets.