If you are looking for a quick and effective way to tone your midsection and give your entire body a workout, give this 4-Way Plank a try. When done properly, this series of exercises not only strengthens the midsection but will improve your posture from head to toe. Improving posture is important for preventing future injury while working out.
Work up to holding each of the following four positions for one minute each. You will notice that in each position the instructions say to tighten your thighs. This is referring to the quadriceps, or the muscles along the front side of the upper leg. It is very important to do this because we are targeting posture muscles throughout the entire body, not just the abdominals.
1. Front Plank
In our day-to-day lives, we hunch over our phones and computers to work and communicate with the world. This leads to hunched upper back and shoulders. We’re going to work on counteracting that in the front plank.
Notice the instructions say to “let your shoulder blades collapse together.” This is kind of like imagining you are squeezing someone’s finger between your shoulder blades. This will make the exercise much harder to hold, but the key here is form, not time. Work on perfecting the form first, then work up to holding this for a full minute.
- Lie on your stomach propped up on your elbows, your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
- Tuck your toes under and bridge your body off the floor.
- Without moving your elbows, pull your hands apart so your wrists are wider than your elbows and let your shoulder blades collapse together (remember: squeeze someone’s finger between your shoulder blades).
- Tighten the thighs and hold. The knees should be locked out straight and there should be a slight arch in the low back.
2. & 3. Side Plank (Left and Right Sides)
It’s fun to observe which side of the body feels stronger — the left or the right!
- Lie on your side propped up on your elbow with the other arm resting along your body and your feet stacked on top of each other.
- Lift your hips off the floor and let your shoulder blades come together (this is that posture thing again).
- Flex your feet by pulling your toes toward you and tighten your thighs. If you have a hard time holding this at first, try lifting your body off the floor for a few seconds at a time to start.
- Switch sides and repeat.
4. Reverse Plank
Beware, this is the hardest of the four positions. The reverse plank targets the muscles of the hip that stop working when we sit.
Shoot for holding this for a few seconds to start. When you get the hang of it and when your body learns how to activate the right muscles in your butt and the backs of your legs, this will get easier and you will be able to hold this longer.
- Lie on your back propped up on your elbows.
- Flex your feet so your toes point to the ceiling and tighten your thighs.
- Lift your hips/buttocks off the floor keeping your toes pulled back and feet straight. It is very important to not let your feet turn out!
- As you lift your hips off the floor, think about pushing your chest to the ceiling and allowing your shoulder blades to come together.
Enjoy this series on its own or as part of your workout routine!