If you’re a fitness enthusiast of any degree, chances are you’ve found yourself elbows down, back straight, holding yourself up in a plank. Perhaps it was your personal trainer who put you there, a workout video that forced you to hold one for “just 60 more seconds” at the end of a difficult session, or you discovered their somewhat torturous nature on your own. Whatever the case you can be certain that you’ve been doing planks for good a reason: They actually work.
Planks are an extremely beneficial workout not only for your shoulders, front and back of thighs, chest, and back muscles running up and down your spine, but also your core. When your body weight is suspended, relying on your elbows and feet for support, your core muscles are forced to kick in and engage to hold you up. Try holding a plank for just 15 seconds and you’ll see what I mean. No matter how effective they may be, however, lest we branch out from the traditional plank we’re destined to get bored of the whole exercise altogether and travel back to a less-effective sit-up for a stronger core.
In this week’s Saturday Morning Drill we’re seeking to break you out of your plank comfort zone and guide you into more challenging variations, including a side plank that engages the oblique muscles and a knee drop that will have your abs screaming by the time you hit 20 reps. So get on your workout gear, pull up a yoga mat for elbow cushion and let’s get started!
More sunlight in the evening means the days are getting warmer and your pants are getting shorter. Spring is right around the corner, and soon we will reunite with our scant summer clothes whether we like it or not.
If you have been hiding your unused arms and legs under layers of bulky winter clothes, breaking out the tank tops and bikini bottoms will feel like a shock to your system. To give your muscles a much-needed wake up call, the following five yoga poses are a must for springing into action and shedding excess layers of all kinds.
An overall great pose to sculpt your shoulders and triceps and firm up your core, plank pose works wonders to whip your body into shape for spring. Build a solid foundation from your feet (or knees) to the palms of your hands by engaging all of the muscles between your hips and your ribs. Take several deep breaths in plank while imaging your spine lengthening and your entire body strengthening. Hold for up to one minute and repeat up to three times throughout the day.
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Sometimes, you think you’ve seen it all, and then, someone comes out of nowhere and amazes you. Someone goes above and beyond the normal and does something like, say, set a new world’s record for fitness.
Former Marine George Hood is that person.
Hood has recently set a new Guinness World’s Record for holding a plank for 1 hour, 20 minutes and 5.01 seconds. The 53-year old also has set Guinness World Records in endurance for jumping rope and spin cycling. His planking record is officially notated as the Static Abdominal Hold and blew away the former record by almost 30 minutes.
I can’t even fathom those numbers. I’m super impressed by what he’s accomplished. Hood first added planks to his fitness regimen to strengthen himself in an effort to surpass his spin cycling record. In doing so, he set another record, although that wasn’t his original intent.
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Pamela Hernandez owns Thrive Personal Fitness in Springfield, MO where she focuses on weight training for weight loss. She writes a blog for her web site, www.thrivepersonalfitness.com, sharing vegetarian recipes from her kitchen, exercise strategies, lifestyle tips and stories from her own journey. You can also follow Pamela on Twitter @ThriveFit or pick up more tips on Facebook, www.facebook.com/thrivepersonalfitness.
A client commented to me the other day about the lack of crunches in our workouts. She had worked at a health club many years ago and still had memories of endless crunches during the abs section of her aerobics class.
I told her that while crunches can have a place in a fitness routine, they are not the best exercises for overall core strength. A lot has changed in our world since Abs of Steel was in everyone’s VCR. We sit more during the day for longer periods of time and have less opportunity to be physically active at workplaces and schools. Bodies have gotten weaker. I see a constant stream of tight hamstrings, weak backs and hunched over shoulders. For the majority of my clients, it’s not about having a six pack. It’s about being able to pick up the kids and get up out of a chair without pain.
If this sounds familiar, and sit ups and crunches aren’t the answer, you may be asking what should you be doing?
First, remember the core is involved in pretty much every exercise we do in a standing or upright position. Get in touch with it by pulling your belly button into your spine during exercises like overhead squats and standing shoulder presses or while using cardio equipment like the elliptical trainer.
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Most fitness experts will tell you that mixing up your workout can lift you out of a plateau and bring you closer to your desired results. Doing the same exercises day in and day out can not only lead to burn out or overuse injuries, it can slow your advancement towards becoming fitter, tougher and leaner. By changing your routine from time to time, your body will be challenged and become stronger as a result.
If you are one of the millions who practice yoga not so much for the repetitive routines some styles offer, but because you love to mix it up, stay fresh and keep it interesting, the following will show you what you can do to add a challenging variation to the classic sun salutation sequence.
In some traditional yoga styles you would normally be exhaling into chaturanga, inhaling into upward dog and then exhaling back into downward dog. This is the mid-section of a sun salute, also referred to as the vinyasa, and is great for developing total upper body strength and tone. However, mixing it up just a touch can be exactly the refreshing change you need to take your upper body strength to a new level.
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