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January’s Five Minute Plank Challenge

Once again, “losing weight and getting healthy” has been found to be the number one resolution for the new year. And so, we are here to help with creative ways for you to achieve those goals. We already told you about the ABCDE Diet and now, here’s a fitness challenge for you to jump-start your year with.

Nearly everything in your life depends on your core strength. Yes, everything — sitting, typing, athletics, walking, working, driving, things we won’t mention here….you get the point. If you have a strong core, it strengthens all parts of your life! I have heard so many horror stories of injuries happening because a strong core wasn't prioritized over other workouts.

One of the best all-around core strengthening exercises you can do is the plank, also called a hover. Not only is it one of the best, but there is absolutely NO equipment needed and therefore, no excuses not to add it to your life. Heck, do it right before you shower in the morning. Do it in your office. Do it before you go to bed at night. The possibilities are endless!

Your abs are a part of your core muscles that are meant to stabilize your body and keep your spine straight. Planks work your abs as well as your entire core. So, yes, stop doing crunches and start doing more planks! By forcing your body to stabilize itself in one position, planks work your abs and back. A significant advantage to planks in terms of developing better looking abs is that they work the transverse abdominus (that holds in the rectus abdominus), while crunches only work and actually push out the rectus abdominus, which can cause your waistline to grow because it bulks you up rather than sucking you in.

There are a number of different plank exercises you can perform, but the standard and most popular version looks like a modified push-up, where you are on your forearms rather than your hands. Make sure to hold your back straight by sucking your abs in, and keep a neutral spine.

Now that you know what a plank is, you can join the Plank Challenge! Today, start with a 10-second plank, no matter how easy it may seem to you. Add 10 seconds a day, and after 30 days, you will be doing a five minute plank! (Pro tip: Definitely watch TV or listen to music while doing this, otherwise you will be bored out of your mind.) 

A five minute plank is quite a milestone to achieve. In fact, there’s a 30-minute core class offered at my fitness club that only approves instructors if they can hold a 5.5 minute plank — that's some serious core strength, people! Shoot high, that's what the instructors have to do. I have no doubt we'll all get there by gradually building daily and being consistent. Take the challenge!

Once you get tired of the standard plank (or, after a five minute plank seems like an easy workout for you), try a variation! Here are our favorites.

- Side planks – These target the obliques, or outer abs. Place one forearm on the ground and balance on the side of your foot.

- Stability ball planks – Place either your arms or your toes on a stability ball with hands or toes on the ground. The instability of the ball will require you to recruit more muscles to stabilize yourself.

- Weighted planks-standard plank with a weight on your back. (This is for those of you who can already do a five minute plank!) Make sure you keep your form and a straight back.

- One arm, one leg planks-perform the standard plank but either extend one arm or lift one leg off the ground. Or, do both at the same time, on opposite sides for balance.

- And, if you're superhuman, try a 'human' flag. Think of yourself as a flag on a flag pole (a true test of core strength). It’s essentially a side plank with your feet off the ground, while holding a pole, etc. Brit is clearly still working up to this one…

What other core workouts do you love? Tell us and perhaps we’ll create a new challenge for February!

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