Plank Challenge Workout

Plank Challenge Workout -- pick a starting interval length based on your  ability and gradually increase it!The excessiveness of my plank-related posts is getting slightly out of hand. But I just love the way you can build up the burn with a series of holds and movements in a plank pose. And core strength is important for good posture, daily movements, other exercise—everything.

I also love the way I’ve seen progress through plank and plank-based exercises. One time in college, I took a group fitness class at the Student Rec Center and we ended with a plank hold contest. My whole body was shaking after 30 seconds and I barely lasted a minute (I don’t know why I remember this so vividly haha). Now, thanks to years of regularly working out (and especially all those megaformer classes), holding a minute-long plank during a class actually feels like a recovery pose to me. What?!

Plank Challenge Workout

This is a workout that can adapt with you as your strength and ability improves. You pick the interval length that’s best for your fitness level and you pick the number of times you repeat the sequence (beginners, just one time through; more advanced, try three sets with a brief rest in between each). Next time you do the workout, challenge yourself to increase your interval length by 5 seconds or add on an extra set.

So to start, pick your interval length: If you’re a beginner, I would suggest 15 seconds. More advanced, try 30+ seconds. You’ll do each move for x seconds, moving right onto the next one at the end without resting or coming out of your plank. There are 8 moves total, so if you pick a 15-second interval, you’ll be in a variation of plank for a total of two minutes.

To give you an idea of what interval length to pick, I can do 45 seconds if I only go through the sequence of exercises once. If I complete 2-3 sets, I’ll do 30-second intervals.

Plank Challenge Workout -- pick a starting interval length based on your  ability and gradually increase it

Beginners: I’ve placed an asterisk (*) next to all the moves that can be modified by doing them from your knees. Just make sure that if your knees are down, your butt isn’t sticking up in the air—it’s still a plank! Keep your hips lowered with abs engaged so that your body forms a straight diagonal line from knees to head.

  • Forearm Plank* | Most of us are familiar with a plank, so just a couple form queues: think of stacking your joints, elbows directly below shoulders. Pull the lower abdomen in to protect the low back (think of pulling up your jeans’ zipper). Squeeze the quads above the knees—notice how engaging these muscles helps straighten out your body even more.
  • Forearm Plank Hops Side to Side | Start in a forearm plank (elbows stacked underneath shoulders, core pulled in tight—don’t let your low back sag or your butt stick up in the air). From here, hop your feet in unison to the right, back to center, to the left, and back to center (that’s one rep). While you hop, try to hold your body in a straight line, not letting your bum pike up into the air.
  • Hip Dips* | This is a great one for the obliques. Start in a forearm plank position. From here, dip your left hip down towards the ground, twisting through your waist and rotating onto the outer edge of your left foot. Chest and shoulders stay square, only below the waist rotates. Come back through center and then repeat to the right. I think of it as tracing a smooth arc shape with my hips. Just be careful not to pike the bum into the air as you come up—it comes no higher than where it’d be in a static forearm plank.
  • Walking Plank* | You’re essentially just moving from low plank to high plank, up and down. Starting in a forearm plank position, press up into a high plank, one hand at a time. Reverse the movement when you’re in a high plank, lowering onto one forearm at a time. Important form notes:
    • Hands under shoulders, not in front. As you do these, think about keeping your shoulders stacked directly over whatever joint is on the floor (wrist in high plank, elbow in forearm plank). As you fatigue, the tendency is to have your hands far in front of your shoulders so that it’s easier to get back down to your forearms—don’t do this!
    • Hold your hips level. Instead of shifting your body weight and rocking the hips to the forearm side as you move up and down, stabilize through the core and hold the hips level. To do this, the arms need to work harder, elbows bending deeper (like when you do a push up).
    • Alternate your lead hand. Your body will want your dominate side to lead on this (from forearm plank: right hand presses up, left hand comes up, right forearm lowers down, left forearm comes down). Switch it up next time through so that your left side then leads the way.
  • Crossbody Mountain Climbers | Start in a plank position with hands stacked under shoulders, abs held in tight (don’t let your low back arch down towards the floor). Pull your right knee across your body towards your left elbow, trying to make physical contact between the two if you can. Step the right foot back into your high plank and then repeat on the other side, left knee to right elbow. I want the pace of these to be controlled: quick, but your focus is on pulling the knee as far forward as possible (try to tap the arm every time) more so than on the speed.
  • Rotating Side Planks* | Enjoy these! They’ll give your shoulders/arms some much-needed relief (albeit momentary). From high plank, shift your weight into your right hand and foot, rotating open into a side plank with your left hand reaching up towards the ceiling. Squeeze that right sidebody, keeping your hips lifted. Rotate back down to your high plank and then shift the weight into your left hand and foot, opening up into a side plank facing the other direction. Continue back and forth.Tip: Keep your feet closer together than you would in a normal plank so that you can easily roll from the edge of one foot to the other as you rotate between the side planks.
  • Plank Jacks | Start in a plank position with hands aligned underneath shoulders. Jump feet out to the sides (like a horizontal jumping jack) and quickly back together. Try to hold a strong plank alignment with your upper body as you jump the feet out and in—don’t let your butt pike up into the air or hips sag downward.
  • Plank* | End just like you started: holding in stillness, this time on your hands (although if your wrists are bothering you, feel free to do a forearm plank instead!). Wrists should be stacked directly under shoulders.

Plank Challenge Workout -- pick a starting interval length based on your  ability and gradually increase it!

WEARING | tank & leggings: c/o Sweaty Betty // sports bra: c/o Cory Vines 

More Planking Fun (…”Fun”):

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I was so excited when Sweaty Betty sent me the “Get Your Om Back” tank–it’s so perfect for my whole 2015 mission to discover my inner yogi! And the back is perfect for showing off a fun sports bra. signature Shop New Yoga Styles at Sweaty Betty!

Core + Cardio Circuit with the Rower

Bear Crunches using a rower (from Core + Cardio Circuit Workout with the Rowing Machine)It’s the official first day of the month-long challenges for everyone playing along! Stay on track towards your goal all week and there will be a kickass giveaway for you to enter on Sunday. I’ll share one of the prizes (there are several) now to spark your motivation: class at your favorite local fitness studio (any studio you choose).

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite way to use a rower is in short bursts, as one station in a circuit. Rowing Whoops. Your. Butt. And legs, and arms, and core…

Today I’m sharing a circuit focusing on core work, but trust me, your legs are going to be jello as well from the long(er)-distance cardio sprints. You can use this circuit format with any of your favorite exercises if you’d rather target arms or full-body off the rower.

Core + Cardio Circuit with the Rower

Equipment I Used:

  • WaterRower GX (use whatever rowing machine you have access to!)
  • 10-lb medicine ball
  • Exercise mat

You’ll go through the following circuit 5 times. Every round of rowing, the distance you race gets shorter and shorter. Your first time through the circuit, you’ll row 500 meters. The second time: 400 meters. And so on, down to a 100-meter sprint to finish the fifth and final round. Here’s the simple breakdown of the circuit (detailed exercise description below the pictorial):

  • 60-sec plank
  • 50 Russian twists with medicine ball (25 to each side)
  • 25 Bear crunches on the rower
  • Fast sprint on the rower (distance gets shorter every time you go through the circuit: 500m, 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m)

Core + Cardio Circuit Workout with the Rowing Machine

60-sec Plank | You can do it from your forearms or hands, up to you. If you need to modify, hold the plank from your knees (just make sure you’re not sticking your butt up in the air—abs should still be engaged!).

50 Russian Twists | Start seated, holding the medicine ball in both hands at your chest, feet lifted off the ground with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, core engaged, balancing on your tailbone. Twist to one side, bringing the medicine ball to the outer side of that hip; then repeat in the other direction. Really twist at the waist—you want your chest to be totally facing whatever side you’re bringing the ball.

25 Bear Crunches on the Rower | Start in a plank position with your feet on the seat of the rower, hands on the floor off the back. Keeping your hips level with your shoulders, back flat, slide your feet forward, bending your knees in towards your elbows. Slide feet back out, straightening your legs into plank position. Two most common errors while doing this are lifting the booty up as your feet slide in and letting the low back arch down towards the floor. Pull your abs in tight the whole time, maintaining a flat back. This is an ab exercise, but you’ll feel it in your legs as well (especially after those long rowing races!). Important: If you don’t feel safe with your feel on the seat of the rower, you can do this exercise with your feet on a towel or sliders on the floor instead.

Metered Race on the Rower | Your goal is to finish the designated distance as quickly as possible—these are races, not a leisurely paddle. By the end of the row (especially the first few longer distances), your legs should feel spent and your body slightly breathless. I’ve put together some goal times so that you have some general guidance with pacing. These times are for ladies (sorry, guys, I don’t have as many men in my rowing classes so I don’t know numbers for you—aim to be a little quicker than what I’ve written though). rowing-distance-goal-times

The above numbers are for generally healthy and fit individuals. If you have a medical condition that would prevent you from pushing at max exertion on a rower, by all means, please go slower than these times!

If you don’t have a rower at your gym or in your home, you could easily do this circuit with another form of cardio (.5mile sprints on the treadmill, reducing it down to .1mile at the end). Get creative! Core + Cardio Circuit Workout with the Rowing Machine

WEARING | tank: StyleStalker // leggings: Fabletics // sneakers: Nike

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P.S. The DietBet starts today! You can still join in if you want some added motivation to drop a few lbs this month.

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5 Side Plank Variations to Try

5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)There are endless exercise possibilities based in a plank or side plank position. Simply holding the static pose is great for the core (especially obliques), but you can also switch it up by adding movement, dumbbells, ankle weights and sliders. Try incorporating some of these fun side plank variations into your next workout!

5 Side Plank Variations to Try

Scroll down below for full exercises descriptions. 5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)

Toe Tap Side Planks

Start in a side plank position with top arm reaching straight up towards the ceiling and top leg lifted up at a high, straight 45-degree angle. This is your starting position. From here, bend the top knee, pointing your toes as you bring them down in front of your bottom base leg and lightly tap them to the floor. Don’t shift your bodyweight into the foot—it’s just a light tap. Straighten the knee, returning to your starting position. Bend the knee once more, pointing the toes and bringing them behind your body this time; again, lightly tapping them to the floor before extending the leg back up to your starting position.

Breaststroke Kick Side Planks

Think of your kick while swimming the breaststroke. I’m wearing ankle weights while doing these for an added challenge, but you can also perform them without the added resistance. Start in a side plank position with supporting hand stacked underneath your shoulder. Hover your top leg (the goal is to not rest it on the ground the entire duration of the exercise). This is your starting position. Crunch the top knee in towards your chest. Next, kick that top foot straight out in front of you (as if you were trying to kick yourself in the face). From here, sweep the leg straight back into the starting position. That’s one rep: bend, kick, sweep. Try not to let your hips sag while doing these; engage the bottom oblique to keep hips lifted.

Thread-the-Needle Pikes

This exercise is another megaformer favorite that I’ve adapted to be done off the machine. Start in a forearm plank position with your feet on a dishtowel (or sliders). You’ll want your top foot staggered in front of your bottom foot. Your shoulders should be stacked over the bottom elbow and your top arm is reaching up towards the ceiling. This is your starting position. From here, you’re going to “thread the needle” by wrapping your top arm around your torso, weaving in between your body and floor (like giving yourself a one-arm hug). As you do this, twist your chest towards the ground and pike your hips up towards the ceiling, keeping your legs straight and sliding the feet in. Slowly return to your starting position by sliding the feet back out and untwisting your torso, reaching your top hand back up towards the ceiling. 5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)

Star Crunch Side Planks with (Optional) Hand Weight

Start in a side plank position, bottom hand stacked underneath your shoulder, top arm stretched up towards the ceiling holding a weight (optional). I also like to wear ankle weights during these for an added challenge, but these are optional as well. Hover your top leg a couple feet up from the bottom supporting foot. The goal is to never rest this top foot down on the floor during the exercise. From this starting position, you’re going to crunch your top limbs, bending the top knee and top elbow and pulling them towards each other while keeping your hips lifted in a strong side plank. Extend the top leg and arm back out to starting position.

Sliding Breakdance Side Planks

For this side plank variation, your top leg is the base leg. Start with your bottom hand stacked underneath your shoulder and the bottom foot on a dishtowel or slider. That bottom foot will just lightly slide across the floor; don’t shift your bodyweight into it (top foot and bottom hand support your bodyweight). Top hand is lighting behind your head, elbow bent. Start with the bottom foot slid forward in front of your body. From here, slide the bottom foot back behind your body and as you do, crunch your top elbow down towards the floor, twisting through the waist so that your chest faces the floor. As you open back up and untwist from the torso, slide the foot forward again.

5 Side Plank Variations to Try (add these to your next ab workout!)

WEARING | tank VS Sport (old but similar here) // sports bra c/o Puma (old but similar here) // leggings c/o Eddie Bauer

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What’s your favorite way to side plank? Have you tried any of these five variations?

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P.S. Sorry it’s been so quiet on the blog this week! Sometimes life gets in the way of … everything. It’s been one of those weeks! 
deal-classpassBefore I end this post, I just wanted to let you guys know that ClassPass is running another of their referral deals. If you sign up using THIS LINK before March 24th, you’ll get $25 off your first month. I love CP and it’s expanded to a ton of cities throughout the US (and Canada!). Last time they did one of these refer-a-friend deals, several of you were bummed to miss the sign-up deadline, so just thought I’d pass along the news again this time around! :)