Fitness Friday: The Walking Plank

What, walking the plank?! No, the Walking Plank. Although, after you try this one, you might opt for walking the plank instead.

The Plank is one of the most popular core exercises for good reason – it effectively works the abdominal muscles while keeping the spine in a neutral position. Done properly, it also works the muscles of the quadriceps, hips, glutes, the entire back and the arms. The trouble with planks, though, is this crazy trend to see how long you can hold the position. While this can make for fun and spirited competition in a group class, it’s ineffective at best, and potentially harmful at worst.

The plank is an exercise with diminishing returns: Holding one¬†for longer than 30 seconds doesn’t do any more good than stopping for a short rest and then doing another one or two reps. In the meantime, using all those other muscle groups quickly leads to fatigue, which can cause form breaks. At the point where you can no longer hold your torso perfectly straight, you put a great deal of stress on the vertebrae of your lower back, erasing the “safety benefit” that planks can offer over traditional sit-ups or crunches.

By adding movement to a plank, however, you not only increase core muscle activation, but the move instantly becomes more functional, because the purpose of the core is to support and stabilize the body through motion. There are a number of different varieties of moving planks, but one of my favorites (and one of the most challenging) is the walking plank.

If you’re exercising on a hard surface, you’ll need to round up a couple of smooth rags (as I’ve done in the video below). If you’re exercising on carpet, you’ll need something rigid and slick, like those furniture moving discs. If you don’t have a lot of floor space, that’s okay – you can move forward a few “steps” and then reverse directions. Just remember, it’s essential that you remain¬†ramrod-straight throughout the exercise. As soon as you feel your hips start to dip even the slightest bit, drop down to your knees and rest. You only need to do this for about 10 or 15 seconds to get a great core and upper body workout.

Here’s what it looks like:

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