If running a marathon is on your horizon, then we want to provide you with everything you need for race day. Beginning with our 18-week training plan, designed to help you build endurance for those 26.2 miles, here is a series of core-strengthening exercises to accompany your training. Since you will be increasing your milage during this18-week period, it's vital that you have a strong back and abdominals to maintain proper running posture. This combination of exercises is specifically designed for runners and will help maximize speed and efficiency.
— Additional reporting by Emily Bibb
The next time you go to do an elbow plank, kick it into high gear — literally — with this elbow plank variation. Adding a donkey kick to a basic plank requires extra strength, as it will challenge your core while toning your booty and hamstring. Here's how:
- Begin in an elbow plank with elbows directly under shoulders, abs engaged toward the spine. Don't let the pelvis sag down or pop up.
- Lift right leg off the ground, bending your knee so the sole of your foot is toward the ceiling. Keep pelvis square to the floor. Don't let your pelvis twist.
- Press your right heel toward the ceiling as high as you can without moving your pelvis or lower back. The motion will not be huge but rather concentrated on the booty and hamstring.
- Lower the bent leg slightly, and repeat for a total of eight to 10 repetitions. Then switch sides.
- Do two sets on each leg.
Consider holding Downward Facing Dog for five long breaths between sets.
A core classic, planks target and tone the entire body in one move. While there are several variations, the traditional plank and the elbow plank are go-to favorites — after all, you can do them anywhere! But what exactly is the difference between the two? Seeking the answer to this frequently asked question, we turned to Lauren Fairbanks, a personal trainer at Equinox.
The Traditional Plank
The mother of all planks, the traditional plank is the basic starting position for all other variations. While it is not as challenging as the elbow plank, it is a great option for beginners or those looking to perfect their form. In addition to your core, the high plank also uses your body weight to sculpt your shoulders and arms. Lauren suggests using the traditional plank as your base for more-challenging moves like shoulder taps or torso rotations because there is "more freedom to do different progressions" in this position.
The Elbow Plank
If you're looking to increase the burn, consider the elbow plank. Compared to the traditional plank, Lauren says that the elbow plank offers more of a challenge because it "recruits more of your core muscles to do the work." To maximize this move, be sure your shoulders are stacked over your elbows and your body is in one straight line. You can even combine the elbow plank and the traditional plank by trying the up-down plank!
The Takeaway . . .
When choosing an ab exercise, you really can't go wrong with planks. They are a functional movement that "train the abs in a way that supports the spine for day-to-day activities," says Lauren. Don't be afraid to experiment with several variations that will have you well on your way to flat abs in no time! Lauren suggests you hold your plank until you break proper form, aiming for a one-minute hold. Essentially, you can personalize planks to your goals and your body. Let us know how it goes!
Regardless of how you choose to sweat, core strength is essential. If you're not sure how strong your midsection really is, Pilates teacher Julie Erickson of Endurance Pilates and Yoga has a tried-and-true test.
Known as Boat Pose in yoga, this ab exercise is a perfect indicator of your core power. Julie explains, "If you're able to properly engage the muscles of your core, you should be able to hold it for minutes. . . . I would say for a runner who hasn't been thinking about it constantly, holding it for 30 seconds would be a good test. If they can't hold it for that long, I would say that their core strength needs a little bit of help."
Once you're ready to test yourself, here's how to perform the exercise properly.
- Begin sitting on your mat. Bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor, balancing on your butt.
- Keep the spine long, and straighten the legs as much as you can without rounding the back.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds, and remember to keep breathing!
Tell me how long you held it in the comments!
You may be bundled up now, but tank top season is quickly approaching! Get ready and and gear up with a workout aimed at targeting your arms and core. Mixing a series of specific arm exercises like bicep curls with a variety of planks, this series will work both your arms and core simultaneously. Get the most from this workout by customizing it to your fitness level, using the dumbbell weight of your choice, and choosing your rest time in between sets. Remember — those racerbacks will be here before you know it!
Almost every workout should end with a little extra core work and some stretching. Our latest Class FitSugar takes you through a standing ab workout, planks, and lying ab work, and we follow up these exercises with some stretches to lengthen all your hardworking muscles. Try this video on its own or after our active warmup and cardio workout, 10-minute lower-body workout, or upper-body video. Taken alone or together, these workouts will help you get fit for 2013.
The key to strong abs is a strong back, so it only seems right to pay it forward. This ab move will strengthen the muscles in your back and help unite your entire core. Whether you're on the ground or on your yoga mat, this versatile move can be done anywhere.
- Start sitting up with your legs together and your hands held behind your knees.
- Pull your naval in as you curve your lower back down toward the floor, and lift your heels up.
- Use your abs to crunch forward 10-15 times.
Extend Your legs
- Straighten your knees as you raise your lower legs so your toes are pointed toward the ceiling.
- Contract your abs in as you crunch forward 10-15 times.
Keep reading to see a more challenging variation after the break!
When it comes to strengthening your middle, planks pull your entire core together. They can be your best friend or your worst enemy: it's a love-hate relationship. To switch up your basic plank incorporate a twisting motion. This variation gives you the same results while also engaging the sides of your core. Hello, obliques!
Start in a Plank
- Begin in a plank position.
- Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your legs are squeezed together. Create one long line from your heels all the way to the crown of your head.
- Hold this basic plank for 10 to 20 seconds to warm up your core before twisting. Make sure your back stays lifted with open shoulder blades to prevent your chest from sinking down.
Lift Your Knees
- Hold your plank position and bend your knees, allowing them to slightly hover over the ground.
- Straighten your lower back by pulling your abs in, in preparation to start the twist.
- In one fluid motion, twist your knees to the right, initiating the movement from your obliques.
- Return to the center, then twist to the left. Do this 10 times on each side.
- For more of a challenge: end the exercise in a traditional plank with your knees extended and hold it for 10 to 20 seconds.
We've always been curious how the Victoria's Secret Angels prep for their annual runway show. Lucky for us, one of our editors was invited to workout with model Erin Heatherton and the Angel's trainer, Justin Gelband. The workout uses light weights, full-body moves, and a series of side planks to target the abs, back, and hips. Take a peek, and tell us your favorite move.