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So, I have been doing workout routine for a while now. IDK exactly how effective it is, but it certainly seems effective for me and I like it because each exercise is something I can scale up(by either adding weight or changing my form in some way) as I get stronger and its nice and simple.

For example, 15 pushups may seem easy, but I do them very slowly on the way down with a close grip and for now, that is definitely challenging enough.

To understand why I do the exercises I do, you should understand that I am working out at home. I have a bar/weights but no bench, so currently, I am only using the bar for the deadlifts, and I can hold the weights them selves like a kettle bell for squats.

3 circuits of:
    2 minute plank
    15 pushups
    15 squats
    pullups/chinups
    deadlifts
3 days a week

My problem is with the planks.

I am at the point now where I can consistently hold the planks with my arms touching each other and elbows a bit in front of me ( I read this is harder variation due to additional stability work from the abs) for 2 mins on all 3 circuits.

I don't think the planks are benefiting me as much anymore, now that I can do them easier, and I don't want to just try to keep holding them longer, because I don't think that would benefit me as much as switching the exercise or doing a harder variation.

So, I am looking for advice on what my next step should be.

should I:

A.) keep holding the planks for longer and longer

B.) do some new variation (maybe one legg or something IDK)

C.) start a new exercise (maybe dragon flags or something, those look fun)

  • Do you do side planks? Also, you can throw a weight plate on your back and do planks, or do moving plank variations. – JohnP Sep 19 '14 at 16:43
  • never heard of side planks before, i'll look into them now though. What do you mean by moving variations? I though it was meant to be a static exercise. – Luke Sep 19 '14 at 18:38
  • Body stays in place but you can lift a leg, leg and hand, etc. For example, google side star plank and you get a few different variations of a side plank with one arm and leg moving. – JohnP Sep 19 '14 at 20:18
3

I'd recommend doing abdominal rollouts:

kneeling ab rollout

If you have the space you do them with a barbell (provided the weights can freely rotate), or you can pickup an "ab roller' like the one shown above. They are quite cheap (I picked mine up for ~$5), light and compact.

Once kneeling rollouts become too easy, its a matter of progressing to standing rollouts:

standing ab rollout

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  • The variations shown in these pictures are quite advanced! I personally, wouldn't recommend these. Please check my answer for the link to a video, containing lot of progressions. – claws Apr 13 '15 at 23:19
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Planks are isometric exercises, great for warming up & an important skill to build for future (more advanced) exercises. They challenge your bodies ability to recruit muscles in combination to stabilise your body/form - for efficiency I limit my isometric exercises to 1:30 end goal. I add ~5 second increments each session to gradually progress the load.

Front planks can be progressed with one leg variation, then opposing arm & leg variation, next step up is elevated feet, then use a wall and your body tension to elevate yourself - at this point I'd consider your front plank progression about done, just maintain and start rolling.

Side planks are good - give them a google.

So are back bends/arches & back bridges - google as well.

Hollow Body Hold is great for compression work, the 'mesh' of muscle that sits below your abdominals - google.

Note: Stay at front planks & side planks whilst you catch your hollow body and back bridges up, muscular imbalances are dangerous.

Also unrelated to your question but I would round out your routine with some rows & dips.

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3

I strongly recommend reading this article regarding the right way to perform planks. Here are some relevant quotes:

A plank should be a very intense, full body contraction that lasts only 8-10 seconds, not some bastardized version of a yoga pose you sustain for 10 minutes.

....

Most people treat the plank more as a marathon, seeing how long they can hold a position, most of the time topping out at a minute or three, all while exhibiting the same amount of intensity needed to casually flip through a magazine conveniently placed under their nose during the exercise.

If you can do anything other than focus on not blacking out while performing a plank, you're doing them wrong.

....

To do a solid plank, lie down on the ground on your stomach and support your upper body with your elbows. Squeeze your shoulders in a kind of reverse shrug, pulling them tight to your ribs. Then, flex your glutes and straighten your knees as hard as possible, and lever up into a position where you feel you have balanced tension everywhere.

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  • Please quote the relevant parts in your answer. If the link dies, your answer will be useless in the future. – Alec Nov 17 '15 at 12:41
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Another answer recommends Abdominal Roll-outs. I'd not recommend you to directly jump to the Abdominal Rollout exerceses shown in that answer. Its an advanced exercise.

My recommendation is start with physio ball or Exercise Ball ab exercises and then proceed to Ab roll out workout. Even in ab roll workout start with the most versions and work your way up to advanced exercises in a duration of 3-4 months.

This video shows you all the progressions. The speaker in that video was a Profesional Physiotherapist for baseball team, mets and he knows how to avoid injuries:

The Ultimate Ab Rollout Progression (BEGINNER TO ADVANCED!)

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Progression in planks can take the form of added resistance, like you would with other muscles. AKA, add load. Weighted planks. Or weighted reverse planks. http://www.allthingsgym.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Weighted-Reverse-Plank-Chinese-Weightlifting.jpg

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1

The next step is probably dynamic planks. There's a number of them, some of which can be seen here, but the idea is that you're working on maintaining core stability while moving in various directions. For example:

Plank with hip flexion

Here's an exercise that combines the regular plank position with extending the hips up and down in sort of a combination of Cobra and Downward Dog poses from yoga.

Plank with left and right lateral flexion

Or, in this one, you're working on moving the hips left and right without moving your hands and toes.


There are about 13 of these variations at the article I linked, but essentially, the idea is to learn to engage your core as you through positions rather than training it in a static position. I personally hold my plank for a minute and a half, and then move through these variations, as I feel the static strength is also important, plus I feel like I get more benefit by fatiguing those muscles first with static position, then stretching them out with dynamic movement.

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