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If you're determined to build a rock-solid set of abs before your approaching beach holiday, several bodyweight exercises can make a difference. As an alternative to crunches, give your abs a challenge through the front plank exercise. When developing your plank workout, you have the choice of holding the pose for one long duration or several short periods; in either case, you receive the same muscle-building benefits because you engage your muscles the same amount.
The plank exercise bears a slight resemblance to the upper position in a push-up, but unlike the push-up, it doesn't involve movement. To perform this exercise, lie on the floor on your stomach, engage your core muscles and raise your upper body to rest on your elbows and forearms. Place your hands next to each other on the floor, roughly below your head, and hold this position. Be sure to keep your core tight for the duration of the pose; if you release your core, your back will sag and potentially lead to pain.
If you're new to the plank exercise, you're likely to struggle with holding the pose correctly for one minute, let alone four minutes. As your abs get stronger, however, you might be able to hold the pose for two, three or even four minutes. As the Mayo Clinic notes, it's an effective workout technique to exercise in short bursts if you're unable to exercise for a long duration. Therefore, if your workout goal is holding the plank pose for four minutes, performing four one-minute planks is just as effective as one four-minute pose.
Knowing Your Limits
Although you might consider it a matter of pride to be able to hold the plank pose for as long as the person next to you at the gym, don't push yourself past the point of comfort. The Mayo Clinic warns against exercising beyond your level of fitness and stresses the importance of pacing yourself. When you're new to the workout, set modest goals and revisit the goals once you've built enough strength and endurance to increase the length of time you're able to hold the plank pose.
Core Exercise Benefits
It might be tempting to use the plank exercise solely as a way to sculpt a set of six-pack abs, but strengthening your core has a number of everyday benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, building a strong core boosts your balance and stability and helps you perform simple tasks, such as bending, with greater ease. Harvard Medical School reports that a strong core can reduce symptoms of back pain and can also improve your posture.