Boost endurance by holding the plank for longer time periods.
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The plank is a static isometric exercise that conditions the stabilizing muscles in your shoulders, abdomen and hips and strengthens your upper and lower body. In contrast to crunches, which only work the abdominals and lower back, the plank develops muscular balance among several core muscle groups. While the four-minute plank can be an endurance challenge for individuals in excellent physical condition, performing four one-minute planks can be just as beneficial with regard to building your core musculature.
If you can't sustain correct form while doing a four-minute plank, you'll do more harm than good and set your body up for potential injury. Performing four one-minute planks with proper form will benefit your core musculature without posing a risk of damage to your joints.
You'll know when your form starts to deteriorate because your hips will begin to sag or your shoulders will feel weak or wobbly. If you're new to the exercise, your body may even start trembling. When you start to experience symptoms of fatigue, it's a good idea to stop the exercise and take a breather, according to вЂњTennis Fitness for the Love of It: A Mindful Approach to Fitness for Injury-free TennisвЂќ by Suzanna McGee. Allow your muscles to recover and then perform another set.
To perform a standard plank, get on all fours on the floor. Bend your elbows, aligning them directly under your shoulders and resting your body on your forearms. Straighten and extend your legs, balancing your body on the balls of your feet. Your weight should be equally distributed between your forearms and legs, with your back held straight like a wooden plank. Your head, neck and body should form a straight line. Draw your navel toward your spine, tightening your abs.
Gauging Your Core Strength
If you can hold the standard plank for two minutes while maintaining good form, then you have a strong core, according to McGee. If you can't hold it for two minutes, regularly perform the plank as well as variations of the exercise - plank with arm and leg lifts, plank with knee-to-elbow touches and side plank -- to increase your endurance. If you're a novice, aim to hold the plank for 30 seconds on your first few attempts. Gradually increase the duration of your plank in five-second increments every few days. While working on your endurance, focus on maintaining proper form.
Boosting the Intensity
If a four-minute plank becomes an easy task, you can boost the intensity of the exercise by using an unstable surface. To perform a stability ball plank, kneel with the ball positioned at the front of your thighs. Bend over and drape your midsection over the ball. Place your hands and feet on the floor. Walk your hands away from the ball, pulling your body forward and off the ball. Stop when only your feet are resting on the ball and your body is in the plank position. Maintaining a straight back and pulling your navel toward your spine, hold the position for as long as possible.