If you read my article 4 Brutal Exercises That Build Extreme Core Strength, you probably fall into one of three categories. Maybe you have a very strong core and were able to attempt and conquer the 4 exercises. Some of you may have attempted them and failed. And I'm sure that some of you out there didn't even try them, knowing that your core training regimen has not been adequate enough.
Well by now, I am sure that many of you are on your way to a strong, functional core and have incorporated the first two Core Strength Blueprints (v1.1, v1.2) into your training regimen. If you have already conquered the Barbell Climbs and Standing Med Ball Rollout, then the goal of Core Strength Blueprint 1.3 - the Weighted Plank - is probably already attainable, but that doesn't make this Blueprint any less crucial.
I consider the plank to be the single most effective core exercise, but despite its basic nature and somewhat beginner level reputation, it is a position that most lifters do incorrectly. The most important thing to remember about a plank position is to keep your abs flexed and do not allow your hips to sag. If your abdominals relax and hips lower, you are putting your lower back at risk. Keep good position in mind at all times, follow this 4 week plank progression to build the strength and stability required to perform Weighted Planks.
|Stability Alternates (knees or Swiss Ball)||1||12 (per side)|
|Side Plank||1||30secs. (per side)|
For week #1, begin with Stability Alternates from either your knees or a Swiss Ball, slowly raising one leg and the opposite arm, holding each rep for 2 seconds at the top. Next, transition into a 1 minute traditional Plank, then hold a side Plank for 30 seconds per side. Keep your body straight and feet in line with each other. After each side is complete, go back to a Plank position and "walk up" to a push up position, then back down to a plank. Repeat this Walk Up for 3 sets of 12, and don't let your hips get too low or too high.
|Stability Alternates (off knees)||1||12 (per side)|
|Side Plank||1||Max (per side)|
On the second week, you will perform the Stability Alternates off of your knees (or Swiss Ball) in a push up position. For the other 3 movements/positions you will do 1 set of "max time". Rest 30-45 seconds between positions.
|Stability Alternates (3secs. hold at top of each)||1||10 (per side)|
|Plank (start by lifting 1 leg for 10secs., then the other for another 10secs.)||1||75secs.|
|Side Plank + Hip Dips||1||30secs. (per side), 10 Dips (per side)|
|Warrior Twist||1||15 (per side)|
For week #3, you will now be holding the Stability Alternates for a 3 count at the top of each rep. This week also adds a few twists to the basic Plank positions. On the front plank, lift one leg off of the ground, alternating sides every 10 seconds. You should feel your glutes and lower back engage on the side you lift up, but don't allow your hips to twist or elevate from the starting position. Stay solid! After the 30 second holds on Side Planks, perform 10 Hip Dips, touching your hip to the floor and then squeezing your obliques to come back up.
Next you will hit a set of 20 Walk Ups then transition into a set of Warrior Twists. As you rotate your torso, try to get your arms in a straight line from the floor to the ceiling with out turning your hips. I've found that it helps to think of "pushing down" towards the floor the hip on the same side that the shoulders are rotating up.
|Plank (front position for 2mins., change to sides when needed)||1||6mins.|
OK…now this is about to get serious. One of the core workouts I use every week with my athletes at the Ohio Regional Training Center is the 6 minute Plank, and its time for you to give it a shot. Try to make it to at least the 2 minute mark in the front position, then after that you may switch to side Planks when needed. Maintain perfect position and do not touch the ground when transitioning from front to side and vice versa.
The week after you complete your first 6 minute plank it's time to attempt the weighted Plank. Start with one 45lb plate and shoot for 30 second holds and then build up from there. When using weight its even more crucial to keep your abdominals engaged and your hips at the right height. Reece Humphrey (Team USA Wrestler and Musclepharm Athlete) will even stand on each others backs and see who can hold the other person for the longest. My best weighted plank is a 20 second hold with 225lbs of plates, but remember, I didn't start there…I had to work up to it!
You already have Core Strength Blueprint 1.1 and 1.2 in your arsenal and now you have a third weekly core workout to add to your training, so it's time to get after it. Stay tuned for Blueprint 1.4…the toughest one yet!