Strongest Core EVAR*: Plank Variations

I mentioned a few of them when I originally detailed plank, but I wanted to do a quick video roundup of various alternatives to a stationary traditional plank.

While I primarily use them for some physical and mental variety — while I like routine, there are days when I crave something different in my sun salutes — I should probably point out that many of these movements assume the practitioner already has a safe and secure plank pose. They’re sometimes described as being “advanced” versions of the pose. I’m not a fan of that phrasing, but they do generally challenge the core stabilizing muscles more than a centered, stationary plank. Also worth noting is that while some offer ways to work into the pose, some explain only a single option. (I tried to find video clips that offered multiple options for the same movement.)

As always, taking time to explore into each pose and evaluate your body’s response is recommended.

Up first, the plank pull:


(Video from KelseyKale via YouTube.)

It’s basically a plank with single arm lifts, including one variation on the knees and one on the feet. Lifting one hand at a time not only works on upper body strength (because the same amount of weight is held by one arm at a time), but it also challenges the muscles that stabilize the spine during limb movement (namely, the transverse abs and the multifidus group).

I like this one a lot for variety, since it’s pretty easy to add into a sun salute, even if I only do one or two repetitions of it per vinyasa. And even if I only lift my hand an inch or so off the floor because that shit is harder than it looks.

And of course after plank pull, there needs to be a plank push. (Well, not needs to be. And I don’t try to put them together in the same sun salute.)


(Video from bodyweightcoach.com via YouTube.)

When I use this, I incorporate it into a sort of double vinyasa inside a sun salute. That is, when I reach down dog after lowering through chaturanga, I lower to child’s pose; then I move forward to the modified chaturanga and into up dog again. I don’t do the full “knees up” variation right now, and I don’t move as fast into the chaturanga as the video demonstrates. Maybe I will some day, but right now, I’m still getting comfortable with the alignment, and I like my wrists unstressed and pain free.

Finally, plank rotations:


(Video from power1kfitness via YouTube.)

Though the clip shows the rotations done from forearm/elbow plank, they can be done from a high plank as well. The only additional thing I have to worry about there is to keep my upper body — especially my wrists, which want to move if the shoulders start to move — facing forward while my hips rotate. For variety, it can be fun to slip these into my practice between high plank and chaturanga, even if I’m only doing 1 or 2 rounds per sun salute. And as the video suggests, when I first started, I didn’t rotate very far off center. (At least on purpose. Shortly after I started, I switched from “hands” plank to elbow plank so that if when I lost my balance, I wouldn’t have so far to fall.) I haven’t tried the modification at the wall (or couch or counter, etc.), but it seems like the same principle as chaturanga at the wall: changing the pose’s relationship to gravity to help out particular muscle groups.

I use these variations mostly for my own amusement, to keep myself from getting bored in my own self-led practices. (I have my habits I like to fall into, and mostly they are good, but sometimes not.) But I also use them when I have the energy and motivation for a physically intense practice but lack the time. These plank variations are usually a nice compromise, as long as I stay aware of my body’s response.

*Not intended to be a factual statement.

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