Healthy Byte: A Proper Plank

Originally Posted HERE

Image result for plank

Whether you’re taking a group fitness class or following an exercise DVD at home, it’s a sure bet that you’ll be doing planks at some point during the workout—and there’s a good reason. Planks are the ultimate test of total-body strength—not just your core. That’s why they’re the groundwork for many bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and burpees.

“The plank is one of those jack-of-all-trades exercises you can carry in your back pocket to strengthen not only your core, but also your chest, arms, back, legs, and booty,” explains, Nicole Blades, as NASM-certified trainer at BodyRoc FitLab in Connecticut. “A plank with proper form can help improve your posture, too. The best part is, this dynamic move doesn’t require any equipment. It’s a total bodyweight exercise.”

So what muscles do planks work, exactly?

Whether you’re in a low or high plank, you’re balancing weight on your arms and toes. This targets a wide range of muscles, especially the rectus and transverse abdominis, Blades says. The rectus abdominis are the front muscles in the abdomen that support the muscles of the spine and help keep organs in the abdomen area in place. They’re known as the “six-pack muscles” because they give your abs shape and definition. On the other hand, the transverse abdominis (TVA) muscles are as known as the “corseting muscles” because they cinch the waist and act as core stabilizers that support the low back. In fact, a weak TVA is often the culprit of low-back pain.

When you engage your upper-body muscles, you’re putting less pressure on your core and are able to hold a plank longer. You can further engage your shoulders and back muscles in a plank when you grip the floor more with your fingers and hands. Keeping a neutral spine will also help relieve pressure on your neck and make holding a plank less uncomfortable. But that’s just the upper body! Here’s how a plank works your lower-body, too.

Your core includes your hips and low back

When people think of their core, their tend to think only about their abs, but the powerhouse includes your hips and low back, too. “A solid plank works the quads (front of the thighs), glutes, and calf muscles in your lower half,” Blades says. In fact, your hips play a big role in making your planks stronger. Your hips are connected to your lower abs, aka the lower part of your rectus abdominis, so engaging these muscles will help you hold the position longer with proper form. When you squeeze your hips, you’re also able to brace your core more and keep your low back lifted—something that many fitness newbies tend to overlook.

How to do a proper plank

That said, there are many different ways to achieve the perfect plank, but here’s a step-by-step breakdown on how to do a high plank.
  1. Get into a tabletop position with your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips in line with your knees.
  2. Engaging your abs, shoulders, back, and glutes, extend your legs back to straighten into a plank and hold.
  3. If you can, do the exercise in front of a mirror, to check that your butt isn’t raised. (A common mistake, but your body should be flat as opposed to an upside down-V shape.)

For a modified plank Blades suggests dropping to your knees instead of holding yourself up on your toes. “Get on all fours and walk your hands forward so your body forms a slanted line from your head to knees, like you would in a modified push-up,” Blades ays. To recruit the glutes and hamstrings, keep your feet lifted toward your butt. Once you master this variation, you can work your way up to a forearm plank by placing your forearms on the ground.

Aim to hold a plank for 15 seconds, then work your way up to 30, 45, 60 seconds, and so on. Instead of watching the clock, Blades suggests setting a timer. This way you’re not painstakingly watching the seconds go by. Don’t forget to also use your breath, deeply inhaling and exhaling. By focusing on your breath, you’ll be able to help set your mind at ease throughout the uncomfortableness. Sometimes you have to practice a little mind over matter. As Blades puts it, “If you feel like you’re about to quit, push yourself to stay in plank a few seconds more. You can do it!”

Healthy Byte: Day 1020

Day 1020 op3

I came across a status update in my MFP newsfeed the other day and it really resonated with me. The poster said something to the effect that she is proactively taking time for herself and that she shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about wanting to keep herself in the ‘top 5’ of her priority list. Without knowing the specifics which instigated this bit of self-declaration, I can’t help but to admire her insight but I am also sadden that even in 2015, many – women specifically, feels obligated to justify this very intrinsic human need … to love oneself.

From very early on, I think most are taught to oppress our own wants and needs for the sake of others. And then we are continuously groomed that selfishness generally is a vile pursuit. But I think all the good intention in raising a better human being, many have somehow interpreted that as any form of self preservation is an agent of evil. But the reality of it is that we all need to be a little selfish in order to be the best version of ourselves.

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

As wise old Bilbo the Hobbit so eloquently stated, sometimes I think we can all understand his sentiments of feeling a little ‘thin.’ And no one is a better caretaker of us than ourselves. So logically, in order for us to continue to be everyone else’s everything, doesn’t it make sense that our own wants and needs should be one of our top priorities?

We have to be our own best self-advocate because no one knows us better. Now I’m not saying forego all our responsibilities (whatever it maybe) with reckless abandonment. No. But what I am encouraging is that we should allow ourselves to purposely carve out time 100% guilt free. From my observations, a feat easier said than in put into practice, especially for mothers.

And perhaps it is this notion of total selflessness which serves as a stumbling block for many to be successful in weight loss maintenance because in order to keep the weight off, we have to make our own health a priority. Otherwise, the daily grind makes it far too easy to revert back to old habits.

It takes a certain level of self-perseverance, selfishness, self worth, whatever label it maybe – one has to have it to remain steadfast in our food repertoire as well as fitness routine. And no one should feel guilty about that … ever!

I think the quote below is a good one to file in the back of our minds so that we can all continue to be successful … remember our environment has tremendous hold over our own well being, and environment includes the people who are in our lives … for better or for worse. Day 1020 op4

TIP OF THE WEEK

Why I am a bodyweight strength training fangirl …

Believe it or not, I was within 2 lbs in all three photos below although I look ‘slimmer’ in the far right one. How is this possible? It’s the miraculous difference between what I have affectionately dubbed ‘doughy thin’ and ‘toned slender.’

doughy vs toned

It is hard to believe that a few toned & defined muscle here & there can make such a visual impact but it does. Aside from looking more healthy, there is an even more pertinent reason to build muscles.

Muscles uses more fuel to sustain itself, therefore increased muscle mass means more calories burned. And as we age, we lose muscles so unless we want to eat less and less calories in order to compensate for the muscle loss or do more & more cardio; the only viable alternative is to increase what we already have.

Bodyweight strength training is a wonderful method to doing just that. Unless one has aspirations to overly bulk or enter in physique competitions, the average Jane or Joe really only needs to tone & define without the traditional approach to lift weights.

One of the main benefits of bodyweight strength training is that it can be done anywhere at any time – equipment free, no gym required. Bodyweight strength training also offers less opportunity for injury because there’s no extra weight to support (weights). And there are essentially an endless amount of variation to increase level of difficulty.

For a very long time I did follow a rather strict lifting regiment but I saw very little results and was starting to have elbow and shoulder issues. After some research, I reverted to what I was familiar with from my days in the Army … basic calisthenics of push ups, pull ups, and planks.

My daily exercise routine consists of 30 minutes of elliptical (high resistance for leg muscles), variety of push ups (triceps, regular, wide arm) alternating with variety of planks (regular, high, arms up) for 1 minute, then variation of pull ups (bicep, regular, wide arm). Now just keep in mind that ANY form of strength training is a painfully slow process regardless of method so be patient, be very very patient. The results below are after almost two years of work.

drum rolls please ….

IMG_9786

IMG_9784 (2)

IMG_9780

I lifted nothing but my own bodyweight. Consistency is key.

HB Sig