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A Strong Core and More


When it comes to building abdominal muscles many tend to associate a visible 6-pack with a strong core. I mean what’s the point of having abs if you can’t see them right?

Having been a personal trainer for many years I have found that the solid foundation for a majority of fitness goals starts with developing a strong core. What exactly is a core? Think of the core as the root of your body where you possess all of your power. Contrary to popular belief it isn’t just your abs.

Your core consists of your abs, back region, and your entire hip complex! Therefore, doing crunches may not be the biggest bang for your buck.

There is a plethora of exercises I can show you that can work your mid-section but let’s look at an exercise commonly done carelessly; the good ol’ fashion plank. Have you been planking as efficiently as possible? Let’s see.

Plank  

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  1. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and forearms firmly planted on the floor.
  2. With your toes curled under and forearms pressed, lift your body off of the floor keeping your hips only as high as your shoulders. Not higher and not lower. This is where you focus on keeping a flat back with a neutral spine (not arched and not rounded).
  3. Keep your neck relaxed and aligned with your spine. Imagine an apple placed between your chin and your chest.
  4. Squeeze your butt-as if you had the shiniest gold valuable coin.
  5. Flex your quads and keep them still.
  6. Brace your abs like you are about to take a hit in a boxing match.
  7. Hold for 10 seconds. Rest. Repeat 6-12 times to make 1-2 minutes.                                                         

To slightly increase intensity, bring your feet together. However, if this causes discomfort in your lower back this move may be a bit advanced. You can widen your stance to decrease intensity or you can modify the exercise.

Modified Plank — If planking is too much right now.        

                          

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  1. Set up for a plank.
  2. Drop your knees while still keeping your hips aligned with your shoulder. This will take the pressure off of your back still allowing you to brace.
  3. You should still be bracing in this modified option and even find that you cannot relax in this position. Always keep focused!
  4. Hold for 10 seconds. Rest. Repeat 6-12 times.

Progression: Weighted Plank- If you’re ready for more intensity.

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  1. Set up for a plank. Follow the same instructions as listed above for a standard plank with confidence before proceeding with adding weight.
  2. Have someone place a weighted plate (pick a light weight and work your way up to heavier weights when you are ready).
  3. The degree at which you brace will depend on how hard the weight is for you.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds. Rest. Repeat 6-12 times.

 

Have you been planking hard enough? The goal is to keep the quality of movement high and we do that by breaking it down into multiple sets, not duration.

Once you train your body to brace and unbrace you may find excellent carryover to your general strength training whether it be bodybuilding, powerlifting, or weightlifting. Instead of thinking “what’s the point of having abs if you can’t see them?” Ask, “what’s the point of abs if you don’t know how use them?”

I often get asked what I think about while i’m planking…

“Brace. Flex. Push.” Brace my abs, flex all of my muscles, and push against the ground.

 

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