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Day 26: Walk the plank

posted on Friday, 26th September 2014 | find under Fitness
Award-winning blogger Faya (Fitness on Toast) works the entire body today, giving four types of plank in her Walk the Plank Challenge.

Faya wears the Double Time Run Tank and Visama Reversible Yoga 3/4 Leggings.

The modern day human spends an disproportionate amount of time seated; at a desk, in a car, by the computer or watching TV at home. Often, this results in slumped shoulders, a curved neck, and generally 'weak posture'... and then eventually, the scourge of ageing Britain, back pain. Whilst some muscles will naturally grow tighter and others weaker, there are exercises and stretches you can perform to encourage a stronger core. The word 'core' mainly describes the central band of the torso, and the purpose of training it is to encourage better support and protection for the load-bearing joints in and around the back. Almost every move the body makes relies on the core - balance, running, reaching, lifting, kicking. Therefore it's crucial to build and maintain well-conditioned core strength. 
By pounding out sit-up after fruitless sit-up, in some respects you exacerbate the hunched position you already hold from sitting. But whilst sit-ups aren't a bad idea, ideally you'd want to include other exercises to improve overall core strength, to help reduce the risk of lower back pain and promote improved posture. To my mind, the plank is one of the very best exercises to work your core and below are my four favourite plank 'theme & variations' to target your core effectively. Aside from working the abs it is a full body exercise and also targets your arms, shoulders, back chest and legs. Just 15 minutes a day of the below will help improve your core condition no matter how strong you feel.
1) Original Plank
Such a phenomenal exercise if executed correctly, but undisciplined form when planking can aggravate the lower back especially, whilst failing to target the abs at all. So:
1. Resting on your forearms and toes, your elbows should be directly underneath your shoulders. 
2. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise - this is crucial. Neither too engaged, nor disengaged, neither too arched nor curved. 
3. Keep the head neutral as well (avoid allowing your head/chin to drop or cranking it up) - hold this position whilst engaging your abs.
Tip: Imagine you should be able to rest a stick down your back and the only contact points should be the head, upper back and hips. 
Avoid: Sinking the lower back or an arched back, sticking your bottom or hips in the air. Relax your shoulders to avoid shrugging your shoulders toward your ears.
Simplification: Rest on your knees and forearms
2) Side plank
The side plank works the obliques and helps stabilise your spine. 
1. Start by lying on your side and lift yourself up into a 'straight line', by supporting your body weight between your forearm and your feet.  
2. Repeat on the other side.
Simplification: Rest on your knees.
Avoid: pushing your hips back behind you and/or letting them drop towards the floor. 
3) Superman
1. Start in the Original Plank position.
2. Slowly raise your right arm off the ground whilst at the same time lifting your left leg off the ground. Hold this position for 2-4 seconds, then release. 
3. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg, and alternate between sides in succession, until failure. 
4) Walking plank
1. Start in the Original Plank position.
2. Plant your right hand down, and slowly raise up, extending the arm, with your weight supported by your hand.
3. Slowly and in a controlled manner, do the same with your left hand side.
4. Both hands should now be straight under your shoulder supporting your body weight.
5. Then slowly bring your right hand down to the original plank forearm position.
6. Repeat with the left arm. Repeat the process and cycle between them in fast succession, until failure.

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