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3 Unusual Plank Variations to level Up Your Core and Six Pack Strength

Challenge and improve your body in new ways with these unusual plank variations that you have never tried before.

Challenge and improve your body in new ways with these unusual plank variations that you have never tried before.

What are the Benefits of a Strong Core?

Having a strong core offers numerous benefits for overall health, fitness, and daily activities. Here are some key advantages of developing a strong core:

Improved posture: A strong core helps maintain proper alignment and stability of the spine, which promotes good posture. By supporting the torso, a strong core reduces slouching, minimizes strain on the back, and enhances overall body alignment.

fraser dumbbell overhead squatSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Enhanced stability and balance: Core muscles play a vital role in maintaining balance and stability. A strong core provides a solid foundation for movements, whether you’re engaged in sports, exercise routines, or even simple everyday tasks like walking or standing on one leg.

Injury prevention: A well-developed core provides stability to the entire body, reducing the risk of injuries during physical activities. It helps protect the back, improves spinal integrity, and can prevent strains, sprains, and other musculoskeletal issues.

Better athletic performance: Many athletic movements involve the core muscles as a primary source of power and stability. A strong core allows for efficient transfer of energy from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa. It can enhance performance in activities like running, jumping, throwing, and rotational movements.

Improved functional strength: Core strength is essential for performing daily tasks such as lifting, bending, twisting, and reaching. A strong core allows for greater control and power in these movements, making them easier and more efficient to execute.

Reduced back pain: Weak core muscles can contribute to back pain and discomfort. Strengthening the core muscles can help alleviate or prevent lower back pain by providing better support to the spine and reducing stress on the back.

Best Bodyweight Back Workout How to Fix Lower Back PainSource: CrossFit Inc / Depositphotos

Enhanced overall fitness: A strong core complements other fitness goals and exercises. It enables you to perform exercises with better form and stability, maximizing the effectiveness of your workouts and reducing the risk of injury.

Improved breathing and organ support: The core muscles, particularly the diaphragm, are involved in respiration. Strengthening the core can enhance breathing efficiency, allowing for deeper breaths and improved oxygenation. Additionally, a strong core provides support for the internal organs and contributes to their optimal functioning.

Remember, core strength extends beyond just the abdominal muscles. It includes the back muscles, hip muscles, and those in the pelvic region. Therefore, a well-rounded core-strengthening routine should target all these areas for comprehensive benefits.

Unusual Plank Variations

Add these into your training.

Plank Variation 1 – Da Vinci plank

  • Can be done with either a band or a cable
  • An effective standing core exercise
  • A great progression from the plank to test and improve your stability and strength
  • Keep a significant level of tension at all times
  • Avoid any movement
  • Tight core
  • Stable upper body position
  • Hold for 20 – 60 seconds

Plank Variation 2 – Plank with Banded Row

  • This variation adds instability by incorporating a rowing movement with the band
  • Only 3 points of contact with the floor instead of 4
  • Start in push up position
  • Keep the core tucked and the glutes engaged
  • Make it harder by increasing the level of tension in the band
  • Start with 8 – 12 reps per side

Plank Variation 3 – Copenhagen Plank

  • Place the top leg on the bench
  • Drive other leg under the bench
  • Maintain tight core
  • An excellent way to step up the challenge of the side plank

Watch the video below from Mind Pump TV to learn all the technique tips for each exercise:

Mind Pump TV is a popular fitness and wellness channel on YouTube. It is hosted by a group of fitness professionals: Adam Schafer, Sal Di Stefano, and Justin Andrews. They are known for their informative and entertaining content that focuses on debunking fitness myths, providing evidence-based fitness advice, and promoting a balanced and sustainable approach to health and fitness.

Why does the Plank Work So Well for Enhancing Core Strength?

The plank exercise is highly effective for enhancing core strength due to several key factors:

Activation of multiple muscle groups: The plank engages a wide range of muscles simultaneously, including the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles), transverse abdominis (deep core muscles), obliques (side abdominal muscles), erector spinae (back muscles), hip muscles, and shoulder muscles. This exercise recruits and challenges these muscles in a coordinated manner, leading to improved overall core strength.

Isometric contraction: The plank involves an isometric contraction, which means the muscles are activated and held in a static position without any joint movement. Isometric exercises are particularly effective for strengthening the core because they build endurance and stability. By holding the plank position, you create tension in the core muscles, forcing them to work hard to maintain stability and support the body.

Core stabilization: The primary objective of the plank is to stabilize the core, specifically the spine and pelvis. As you hold the plank position, your core muscles work to keep the spine aligned and prevent excessive sagging or arching. This stabilization function strengthens the deep core muscles responsible for maintaining good posture, balance, and overall spinal integrity.

Engagement of deep core muscles: The plank exercise targets the deep core muscles, including the transverse abdominis, which is a crucial muscle for core stability. These deep muscles are not easily activated through traditional crunches or sit-ups but are effectively engaged during planks. Strengthening these deep core muscles provides a solid foundation for overall core strength.

Full-body engagement: While the primary focus of the plank is on the core, it also engages other muscle groups throughout the body, such as the glutes, shoulders, and legs. This full-body engagement creates a more integrated and functional core strength, as the core muscles learn to work in coordination with other muscle groups.

Gradual progression: The plank exercise offers various progression levels, allowing individuals to start at their current fitness level and gradually increase the challenge. As you become stronger, you can increase the duration of the plank hold, try different plank variations, or introduce instability by using an exercise ball or other equipment. This progressive nature makes the plank a versatile exercise for ongoing core strength development.

Remember to maintain proper form and alignment during the plank exercise to maximize its benefits and reduce the risk of injury. It’s essential to engage the core muscles actively, keep the body in a straight line, avoid sagging or arching, and breathe deeply throughout the exercise.

What are the Core Muscles?

The core muscles refer to a group of muscles located in the torso, which provide stability, support, and movement to the spine and pelvis. These muscles work together to maintain posture, protect the spine, and facilitate efficient movement. The core muscles include:

  • Rectus Abdominis: Commonly known as the “six-pack” muscles, the rectus abdominis runs vertically along the front of the abdomen. It helps with flexing the trunk, such as during sit-ups or crunches.
  • Transverse Abdominis: This is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles, running horizontally around the abdomen. It acts as a natural corset, providing stability and compression to the abdominal contents. The transverse abdominis plays a crucial role in core stability and is often referred to as the body’s internal weight belt.
  • Internal and External Obliques: The oblique muscles are located on the sides of the abdomen. The internal obliques run diagonally, while the external obliques run in the opposite direction. These muscles allow for trunk rotation, lateral flexion, and contribute to overall core stability.
  • Erector Spinae: The erector spinae muscles are a group of muscles located on either side of the spine. They extend from the base of the skull to the pelvis and help maintain upright posture, support the spine during lifting and bending movements, and control spinal flexion and extension.
  • Multifidus: The multifidus muscles are small, deep muscles located along the spine. They provide stability to the individual vertebrae, assist in maintaining proper spinal alignment, and contribute to core strength and control.
  • Diaphragm: Although primarily a respiratory muscle, the diaphragm plays a significant role in core stability and control. It is a large dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. By coordinating with the other core muscles, the diaphragm helps maintain intra-abdominal pressure, supports the spine, and assists in breathing.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles: The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that form a supportive hammock-like structure at the bottom of the pelvis. These muscles help stabilize the pelvis, control bladder and bowel function, and provide support to the organs in the pelvic region. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is particularly important for women during and after pregnancy.

It’s important to note that core strength extends beyond just these individual muscles. The core functions as an integrated unit, with muscles working in coordination to provide stability, control, and efficient movement.

Therefore, it’s beneficial to engage in exercises that target all these core muscles collectively for optimal core strength and function.

Learn More

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