Plank Your Way To A Toned Body

Planks are great exercises that can be done anywhere, at any time and without any equipment.  They help to give you a nice, flat tummy, strengthen the shoulder girdle, improve balance and can help to firm up your whole body.  Yogi's sometimes use side planks to help calm a scattered/stressed mind...I think I should be doing more of theses.  Haha!  I always joke with my students that it wouldn't be an "Ashley" class if we weren't doing planks.  So here are two variations that you should try:

Side Plank

Start out by laying on your right side, with your right forearm and elbow directly under your shoulder.

Have your knees bent slightly in front of you.  Press up onto your knees and push your hips forward, so that you are in a straight line from your knees to your head.  (level 1:  stay on the knees)

Make sure that both of your hips are pointing straight ahead and bring your top leg straight out to rest on the floor.  (level 2:  bottom knee is bent on the ground, top leg is straight)
Extend your bottom leg behind your front leg, so that your feet are stagarard.  (level 3:  both legs straight out)

Your top arm can either go straight up towards the sky (like the picture above), or you can rest it on your hip.

Your main focus is to stabilize through your core and your pelvis.  Draw the abs in and up with every exhale.  You want to breath in through your nose and exhale out of the mouth like you are blowing out candles on a cake to help activate your TVA's (transverse abdominus).

Keep the hips up and facing straight ahead, while you hold this pose for 15 slow, deep breaths (about 40-60 seconds).
Repeat on the left side.

***Don't sink into the shoulder that is supporting you, and don't forget to draw the belly button in with every exhale.  Try to keep the tension out of the neck, and jaw and in the abs.

Reverse Plank

Sit on the ground with your legs fully extended out in front of you.  Place your hands a few inches behind either sides of your hips, so that your fingers are pointing towards your toes.

Gently lift your hips up, so that you are in a straight line from the shoulders to the toes.

Make sure that you are lifting from your heart, so that you are not sinking into your shoulders.

Focus on breathing deeply and pulling the abs in on the exhale, just like the exercise above.  You want to again stabilize your center, so keep the pelvis from rocking around by drawing the abs in.

(level 1:  hold the reverse plank for 20-30 seconds)
(level 2:  hold the reverse plank for 30-60 seconds)
(level 3:  lift one leg and hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs without lowering hips.  See pic above)

PLF Daily Tip:  Try adding these planks into your workout about 2-3 times a week.  As with anything start out at level 1 and work your way up to level 2 or 3.  :)

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