One of my favourite abdominal exercise, which can be done in so many different ways and works the entire body, is the prone straight arm plank.  Exercises that use this posture are found in so many different ways of moving, such as in a downward dog in yoga, a push-up, a burpee, a mountain climber, and any movement where you are drawing your knees in towards your chest.  It strengthens your lower core, your upper core, your scapular stabilizers, your hip flexors, your legs and your spine.  It creates length in your glutes and hamstrings as well as your lats.  But the problem with the movement is it is done incorrectly more than done right and it pains me when I see somebody doing it, or worse yet being taught how to do it, wrong.

I want to teach you how to do this correctly so you can reap the rewards of a tight belly while you indulge over the holiday season so I am going to break the movement down into steps and build on each one.

The first thing you need to work on is your lower belly strength.  If you don’t have this then anytime you are in the straight arm plank position you are risking straining your back.  If you have ever done a yoga or a Pilates class then you have probably heard your instructor use the cue “pull your abdominals in and up”.  But what does that really mean?  Let me explain. I want you to get on all fours, knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.  Take a deep breath in and let your abdominals (tummy) fall towards the floor.  You will know if you are doing it right if your stomach looks like you are 5 months pregnant.  Next, exhale and start to draw you abs back up by thinking about pulling your belly button to your spine.  And as you draw the belly in, try and move your belly button up the front of your body (kind of like what stopping your pee feels like).  Repeat this a few times.

Next, slide both legs back and lift up onto your toes, so you are now in a straight arm plank position.  I want you to really press your hands into the floor like you are trying to push it away from you and tighten up your quads.  As you hold this position, inhale into the back of your ribs and feel your upper back expand, then exhale pulling your belly button in and up just like you were doing before.   

Once you have this perfected I want you to start shifting your body weight forward and back, by pushing your body forward and pulling back from your toes and ankles.  Inhale into your upper back as you press yourself forward, bringing your shoulders in front of your hands, then exhale and draw your belly button in and up while you pull your heels back over the balls of your feet.  Another tip is as you move forward think about trying to slide your hands back and as you pull back think about pushing your hands forward.

If you mastered the last movement then you can start to play around with it.  You can bring one knee in as you move forward, you can lift your hips up as you press back (finding the lift from the low belly).  You can place your feet on a ball and pull both knees forward, or you can pull your toes forward while pressing your hips up.  You can even add in a push-up anywhere here. But remember, whatever you are doing it should always go back to the very first exercise and the feeling that all of your power and your support is coming from your deep belly.  That sensation of pulling your belly button into your spine and the feeling of stopping your pee. 

If you have any questions about how to do your favourite exercise right email me at [email protected]