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This One Exercise Will Strengthen Your Core — STAT

Nora Tobin
NASM-certified Personal Trainer By Nora Tobin
NASM-certified Personal Trainer
Nora Tobin is a NASM-certified personal trainer living in Santa Barbara, California. She created the Fulfillment in 3 program and is a health and wellness partner to Marriott International Luxury Brands
The One Core-Strengthening Exercise We All Should Be Doing

Planks are one of the most effective exercises out there. They can ignite your metabolism, improve circulation to the brain, and help the body and mind reach peak performance. That said, many people do them incorrectly or do the same type of plank over and over again—and really, where's the fun in that?

That's why I designed this four-minute plank routine that you can do anywhere and everywhere—it requires no space, and if you do it often enough, your core will be solid in no time.

Why we should all be doing planks.

Planks engage the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, and glutes. This is important because each muscle group serves a different purpose, and together they protect your body from injury.

The transverse abdominis increases abdominal pressure so you can lift more weight, which is needed to increase your strength. The rectus abdominis improves performance in sports that require jumping, while the obliques are responsible for side-bending and waist-twisting moves. The glutes take pressure off the back and reduces risk of injury (looking at you, folks with lower-back pain). Any type of plank will boost energy and improve productivity—and in this quick workout, I give you four different plank variations to try.


The 4-minute plank workout.

The workout is simple: Do four different types of planks in four minutes. I've varied the types of planks included and explained what proper form looks like for each of them.

The circuit looks like this:

  • 1 minute regular forearm plank
  • 1 minute side plank (30 seconds on right, 30 seconds on left)
  • 1 minute straight-arm plank
  • 1 minute straight-arm plank with shoulder touches

Never done these before? Check out my step-by-step instructions for how to do each below!

Forearm Plank

  • Come onto your forearms with legs extended straight back.
  • Clasp hands and bring elbows directly under your shoulders.
  • Come up onto the balls of your feet, forming a straight line from head to heels.
  • Draw belly button toward your spine. Engage quads and glutes the entire time.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.

Side Plank

  • Come onto your right forearm with elbow under shoulder and feet stacked.
  • Lift your hips as high you can, forming a straight line from head to heels.
  • Extend your left arm directly over shoulder, and press right hand into the mat.
  • Keep core engaged the entire time.
  • Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Straight-Arm Plank

  • Place your hands under your shoulders and come up onto the balls of your feet.
  • Keep your arms fully extended, and gaze toward the floor.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and draw your belly button toward your spine.
  • Keep your quads and glutes engaged the entire time.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.

Straight-Arm Plank With Shoulder Touch

*This is the same as the straight-arm plank above, just adding alternating shoulder touches!

  • Place your hands under your shoulders and come up onto the balls of your feet.
  • Bring your feet wider than mat width.
  • Keep your arms extended straight, and gaze toward the floor.
  • While keeping your hips still, bring your right hand up to touch left shoulder.
  • Return to center, and bring left hand up to touch right shoulder.
  • Continue to alternate, keeping your torso and legs as still as possible.
  • Do this for 60 seconds straight.

Craving more? Here are five easy exercises to slip into your day or a 15-minute workout that will help you sleep like a rock. 

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