Many people desire a stronger set of core muscles. These muscles include the abs and the back and are used constantly to stabilize the body. Pilates is a method to strengthen and tone muscles with a low-impact workout. Planks are one of the moves that can be used to target core muscle groups. As planks are performed, the position forces the body to stabilize itself and tightens abdominal and back muscles. They are easy to learn and require little to no special equipment.
A planking exercise is just as it sounds. The body looks like a plank, or a board, when it is in the correct position. Often, people believe that this is too easy, but once the position is tried, it is discovered that it requires more effort than it seems.
To begin, a yoga mat can be used for comfort. The plank begins like a push-up, with you laying on your stomach. Place your forearms on the floor, shoulder-width apart and raise up. At the same time, raise up on your toes. All of the body weight will be resting on the forearms and toes. The torso must be kept rigid and the body held in a straight line from head to feet. The head should be relaxed and looking at the hands. Try to hold the position for ten seconds and gradually increase the time until the plank can be held for 60 seconds.
Once the basic planking position can be held for several seconds, there are many variations that can be added to continue to tighten and define the abdominal muscles. Side planks are used to tighten the oblique (side) muscles. These are done by resting the body on one arm and the side of the foot. Weight can be placed upon the back when performing the standard plank, but this must be done with caution.
Too much weight can cause serious muscle damage. Using a stability ball can add a challenge to the plank position. The arms can be placed on the ball while the toes are on the floor, or the toes can be positioned on the ball while the arms are on the floor. Either way, the instability of the ball increases the need for the body to stabilize itself and creates a better work-out for those abdominal muscles.
One arm or one leg planks can also be done by getting into the standard planking position, then raising an arm or leg off the floor. Again, this move makes the body stabilize itself and use the abdominal muscles to a greater degree. All planking exercises should be done slowly and with caution to build up muscle tone.
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