lanks are one of the few core exercises to activate 100 percent of your core. But for some reason, you won’t see athletes do them. Nor shredded celebrities like Zac Efron and the Rock. You won’t even find someone with a two-pack set of abs who will praise the exercise.
Why? Because planks don’t build functional core strength. Also, they suck.
There’s a reason why brutal ab workouts only last five-minutes while some athletes can hold planks for hours. Once you can hold a plank for 60-seconds or more, the return on investment becomes meager at best.
According to the Daily Burn, many people arch their backs while planking without realizing it. This releases tension from your core and puts awkward stress on your back. Also when your abs begin to tire out, many dip their hips too low into the move. This puts a serious strain on your low back and takes away engagement from the core.
You’re sitting there, no movement at all, waiting for the world to turn — it’s the antithesis of functional. Holding a plank for more than two-minutes is impressive, yes, but it won’t give you that coveted six-pack.
Athletes and gym rats alike have six-packs because they train athletically. They move!
Instead of sitting in one place for minutes at a time, athletes perform scissor-kicks, Russian twists, seated-ab circles, and twisting pistons. Don’t sweat if all of that sounds confusing (or scary). Here are five ab-exercises that kick the plank’s butt and their respected level of difficulty (from 1–10, the plank’s a hard three).
- Twisting Piston (Level of difficulty 8): This is a variation of the plank that takes the exercise to another level. Hold a standard plank and jump your feet to the left side of your body and then out again. Then jump to the right side and out again. Do both in one continuous motion and be explosive.
- Russian Twists (Level of difficulty 5): If you want to work your obliques (side-abs that give you that v-shape look) then do “Russian Twists.” Take a set of dumbbells or weight ball and twist your body from left to right. Squeeze your core and try to keep the weights as steady as you can.
- Scissor-Kicks (Level of difficulty 6): Any high school soccer players will remember this one. Lay down and slightly elevate your legs. Begin to cross your legs back and forth in a scissor-like motion while consciously squeezing your core. If you want an extreme challenge — do sit-ups while you’re scissor-kicking. These are called “Scissor v-ups,” and they burn!
- Reverse Crunch (Level of difficulty 7): Another low-ab killer. Lay back again and elevate those legs — this time bring them towards you in a crunching motion. Bring the legs in and back out — squeezing on each rep, of course.
- Seated Ab-Circles (Level of difficulty 9): One of the hardest ab-exercises in my arsenal. Sit down and extend your legs out. When you’re ready for the pain, elevate them slightly and go in a clockwise direction for 60-seconds and counterclockwise after. You’ll feel the 6-pack being chiseled every second the clock ticks.
Routinize these five exercises trying to do each for 30–60 seconds. Take a few seconds rest in-between exercises and don’t forget to squeeze! Five minutes is all you need for abs if you hit them every day.
My only other recommendation is to pick up an ab-roller which is another awesome alternative to the plank. The ab-roller allows you to squeeze in a few sets of abs without having to sacrifice too much time.
If you can’t part ways with the plank, then at least challenge yourself with the twisting pistons or any of these other variations. Whatever you do, STOP PLANKING!