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5 Core Exercises to Do If You Hate Planks

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5 Core Exercises to Do If You Hate Planks

I hate planks. I'll admit it, because I know I'm not alone. In fact, planks rank up there with burpees and push-ups as the most hated exercises. But you know what? If you hate an exercise, it's probably because you need its benefits most.

Some people have no problem doing endless crunches, but ask them to flip it around and hold a plank position, and they'll groan and hide. Your core and your abs are different muscle groups and they must be trained differently. Your abs are the superficial muscles that run on top of your core while your core, a series of muscles that run horizontally around your midsection underneath the abs like a girdle, protects your organs, and facilitates the transfer of momentum from your upper to lower body and back again. If there's a weak link anywhere during that transfer, you'll pull a muscle and throw your back out.

Planks are an integrated core exercise, which means they activate multiple core muscles, but they also target ab muscles more effectively. While crunches are strictly an ab isolation exercise, planks work the core and also hit the deltoids, triceps, chest, abs and back. In addition, planks activate deeper, stabilizing muscles, which support your body and hold everything in place when you move, protecting you against injury.

Planks are tough because they're an isometric hold, which means instead of doing reps of an exercise, you hold a stationary position for a given amount of time. With planks, it's usually around 30 seconds working up to a minute. Not moving sounds like it would make an exercise easy, but isometric exercises are tough because they sky rocket your blood pressure. Imagine pushing as hard as you can against a wall: the wall isn't going anywhere and you aren't going anywhere, but give it just a few seconds and you'll be huffing and puffing exhausted.

In addition to being physically taxing, isometric holds psychologically play tricks on you, which is probably why people hate planks and other isometric exercises, like wall sits so much. A watched pot never boils, and if you're watching the clock waiting for time to pass, it passes by slower than you can ever imagine. But if you have reps to focus on, the time goes by faster because you feel more in control of the speed and intensity of the exercise.

If you can't stand planks, give these plank variations and other core exercises a try to get the same benefits without hating every second of your workout.

Traveling Planks

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Traveling planks give you reps to work with, but since you are eliminating one hand at a time and pressing up, they require more balance and upper body strength.

  1. Start in plank position on your forearms.
  2. You should be propped up on your elbows and your toes, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  3. Keep your belly button pulled in to activate the core, making sure your entire body is a straight line from head to your heels.
  4. To begin: Take your right arm and place your right hand where your right elbow was.
  5. Press up and place your left hand where your left elbow was.
  6. You'll now be in push up position. Take your right hand off the ground and replace it with your right elbow, repeating on the left side, to lower back down into plank position on your forearms.
  7. The movement should be up, up, down, down.
  8. Do 5 reps leading with the right hand then switch and lead with your left hand.
  9. Your body should stay still and not rock; keep your hips parallel to the ground at all times.

Hip Tapping Planks

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These give you all the benefits of planks with a little extra ab work for the obliques.

  1. Start in plank position on your forearms.
  2. You should be propped up on your elbows and your toes, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  3. Keep your belly button pulled in to activate the core, making sure your entire body is a straight line from head to heel.
  4. Make sure your feet are together with your heels touching throughout.
  5. To begin: Drop your right hip to the ground, contracting the right obliques, keeping your shoulders as square to the ground as you can.
  6. Bring the hips back up to center, then drop them to the left side.
  7. Repeat, alternating tapping your right and left hip to the ground.

Mountain Climbers

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These guys will shred your core and abs, while getting your heart rate up for an extra calorie burn.

  1. Start in plank position on your hands.
  2. You should be propped up on your hands and your toes, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders
  3.  Keep your belly button pulled in to activate the core, making sure your entire body is a straight line from head to heel.
  4. To begin: Keeping your hips down (don't bend at the waist) bring your right knee into your chest.
  5. Explosively reverse the position of your legs, extending the right leg back, supported by the toe, and bringing the left foot up into your chest.
  6. Continue alternating for 45 seconds, keeping the movements quick and continuous.

Side Planks with Hip Lifts

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Side planks target the oblique muscles which give your spine stability and add an extra balance challenge.

  1. Lie on your right side and prop yourself up on your right elbow, directly underneath your shoulder, with your forearm and hand flat on the ground.
  2. Your legs should be stacked on top of each other.
  3. Place your left hand on your left hip.
  4. Slowly raise your hips off the ground by engaging your core and pushing against the floor with your feet and your forearm until your body forms a straight line.
  5. To begin: contract through the right obliques to lift the hips as high as you can from a horizontal position.
  6. Then drop the hips back to horizontal and repeat.
  7. Continue lifting the hips, doing 10 reps, then switch sides.

Supermans/Bananas

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Personally, I think these are harder than planks, but way more fun.

  1. Start by lying face down on the ground with your arms and legs completely extended.
  2. To begin, squeeze through your glutes and your back to arch and lift both your arms and legs as high off the ground as you can.
  3. You should look like Superman flying through the air.
  4. Squeeze and hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Then, keeping your hands and feet lifted off the ground, use your core and abs to roll over onto your back.
  6. Keep your belly button pulled in and your lower back in contact with the ground at all times so your body is nice and hollow, hands and feet just a few inches off the ground.
  7. You should resemble a banana.
  8. Hold for 10 seconds, then roll back into Superman position.
  9. Alternate Supermans and Bananas for 5 sets to work the core the whole way around.

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