Everybody wants defined abs. Good thing there are so many different abdominal exercises to choose from — you'll never get bored as you work your way toward washboard abs!
Here are three versions of the plank, a move that works the lower back, chest, and shoulders in addition to the rectus abdominis.
Start in a push-up position, but keep your hands directly under your shoulders instead of outside your chest. Legs are extended straight behind you, with feet together. You are balancing on your palms and the balls of your feet. Hold this position for as long as you can, working your way up to 1 minute. It's a lot harder than it sounds! Make for sure you keep your abdominals pulled in.
Start in plank position. Maintaining this position, exhale and rotate your torso by bringing your right knee in toward your left armpit. Return to the starting position, then repeat, bringing the left knee toward the right armpit. Plank twists work not only the rectus abdominis but also the internal obliques.
Start in a basic plank position, but instead of placing your hands under your shoulders, bring your hands together and place them on the floor in front of you (about 3 inches in front of your head). This variation places much greater emphasis and intensity on the rectus abdominis because you're not able to use your arms as pillars to support your body weight.
A Note on Form
Before trying any type of plank exercise, review these tips on performance:
- Be sure to focus on keeping your spine neutral (straight).
- Keep your eyes focused on the ground in front of you.
- Don't arch your back. Imagine that you are pulling your belly button up toward the ceiling.
- Until you've mastered them, do these exercises in front of a mirror to check your form. You don't have to watch yourself the entire minute or set, just check in, particularly toward the end of the interval or set, when your muscles start to fatigue.