The plank is the one exercise most commonly done wrong, according to a personal trainer - and this subtle change could make it twice as effective in half the time
- The plank is a great tool for strengthening your core and sculpting abs.
- ButpPersonal trainer Max Lowery says it's the exercise he most often sees done incorrectly.
- He has a technique for holding the plank position which will make your workout more effective, and you only have to hold it for 30 seconds.
The plank - holding yourself on your hands and toes as if you're about to do a push-up - is one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for strengthening the core, and a great way for sculpting abs.
It's so good for the body that there are now workouts based solely around that movement, like the plank challenge.
The idea of the former is that you spend some time in plank position each day over a period of 30 days, gradually building up your stamina to hold the position for longer and longer, with the end-goal being a hold of two or three minutes.
But according to Max Lowery, a 27-year-old personal trainer and the man behind the 2 Meal Day eating regime, it's one of the exercises he often sees people doing incorrectly at the gym.
He says it's not so much about the length of time you spend holding the position, but activating the right muscle sets while doing it. In fact, Lowery says that if you make one subtle change to your plank, you'll only have to hold it for half a minute at a time.
"You'll often see people hold a plank for seven minutes," he told Business Insider. "But I personally can't think of anything more boring and I usually just hold it for about 30 seconds."
Lowery has a knack for making your plank doubly more effective in half the time - and it's pretty straightforward.
"It's a very simple technique that can radicalise the way you train, and increase the effectiveness of every exercise," he said.
Here's how to do a perfect plank:
First, Lowery said that there's nothing wrong with how most people hold the plank in principle, as per below.
As, long as your back isn't sagging like this...
But when you hold a plank in the classic way shown below, he says, "You're not really going to feel it in your abdominal region where you really want to feel it. Most of the stress is on your joints, not on your muscles."
Instead, Lowery wants you to "contract your abs as hard as you can, by that I mean tense as if someone's going to punch you in the stomach. Then drive your abs down, push your elbows back, tilt your hips, and squeeze your glutes."
Just like this:
"I'm feeling it a lot more like this," he said. And the good news is you then only have to hold it for 30 seconds.
You can watch the video of him doing his perfect plank here:
Lowery added that while the example he used was a plank, you can apply this to many other exercises, including squats.
"It comes back to that mind body connection," he said. "Once you bring 100% attention to tensing those muscles, that's when the strength, physique, and fitness levels are going to completely transform.
"If you understand that your nervous system controls your muscles, initially there might be a problem with the communication between the two, but the more you train the nervous system to stimulate those muscle fibres then you'll really start to feel the burn."
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