Perform a plank in a pushup position, adding resistance with a partner.
While a crunch isolates and works your front abdominal wall, the plank exercise for men conditions all of your core muscles, which include your rectus abdominis, erector spinae, transversus abdominis, obliques and glutes, in a single efficient exercise. These core muscles enable you to stand erect, bend and rotate. By strengthening your core with planks, you can exert more control over your movements and your trunk will be less vulnerable to injury.
More Fiber Action
The function of your core musculature is to stabilize your body and prevent extraneous movement. Men tend to focus on crunches, an isolation exercise that produces movement, increases the risk of injury to your back and activates far less core muscles, according to вЂњThe Men's Health Big Book: Getting Abs: Four Weeks to a Flat, Ripped Stomach!вЂќ by Adam Bornstein. According to a 2013 study published in the вЂњJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research,вЂќ researchers at Penn State's College of Health and Human Development found that a plank with a hand reach generates 27 percent more activity in your front abdominals and obliques than the crunch. And the erector spinae, or the muscles that run along your spine, worked two to three times more in planks than in crunches.
Narrow the Points
Begin the plank by lying prone on the floor with legs fully extended. Lift your body up onto your elbows and forearms with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Your body should form a straight line. Hold this position for 15 seconds, focusing on pulling your navel in toward your spine and breathing naturally. If this position strains your shoulders, you can perform the plank in a pushup position with arms extended. To boost the difficulty, decrease the number of stability points. For example, perform a plank on three points by lifting your right foot 6 inches off the floor, holding this position for 10 seconds, and then raise your left leg for 10 seconds. To perform a two-point plank, simultaneously raise the opposite foot and arm off the floor. Tilt your head up and look outward to help maintain stability.
Upside of Instability
If you perform a plank on an exercise ball your abdominals work almost twice as hard, according to "The Men's Health Big Book of Exercises: Four Weeks to a Leaner, Stronger, More Muscular YOU!" by Adam Campbell. Use the same form as a standard forward plank but place your forearms on the ball. To boost the intensity yet another notch, place your feet on a bench in which the platform is the same height as the ball.
Perform dynamic bridging exercises, such as an elbow-to-knee plank or a walkup, by moving in the plank position to further challenge your core musculature. For example, the elbow-to-knee plank combines the benefits of the forward plank and the side plank by activating the front abdominal wall and the obliques. Begin in the standard plank position and then lift and draw your right elbow down toward your left knee. Bend and bring and your left knee to touch your right elbow at the halfway point just under your midsection. Continue this movement pattern, alternating your elbows and knees, for 30 to 45 seconds.