Did you know that there are several studies that have come out that have said planks should only be done for a max of 15 seconds? If you’re doing a plank 100% correctly (which most people are not) you’ll max out your core muscles in 15-seconds. After 15 seconds, bring your knees to the ground for :02, then back up for :15, for 15-second increments.
The main reason planks are done incorrectly? An ineffectively braced core. When the core’s not braced, you’re basically just hanging out in your joints while in a plank, letting the abs take the day off.
Last Friday I attended an all-day TRX training course to become Level 2 certified (and to teach TRX BLOCKS, which is sort of like a TRX’s version of Les Mills’ classes…but more on that on another day.) (I became TRX Level 1 certified in December – finally)
These things are my JAM, you guys. I don’t try and hide my geeky-ness about loving to learn everything I can about fitness. Put me in a room with someone who knows way more than I do, who’s going to share their knowledge with me?! I’m in heaven.
Anyway, what I want to share with you today doesn’t really have anything to do specifically with TRX, but rather, all workouts and all exercise pretty much done anytime – bracing your core.
Cue eye roll here – How many times have you heard the phrase “brace your core” or “engage the abs?” I get tired of saying it over and over and over, and I’m sure others get tired of hearing it repeatedly. Well, I’m here to tell you one more time haha BUT – I’m going to bet you haven’t heard it explained like this.
While our TRX Master Trainer was telling us about how basically every exercise is a plank, she went over a drill on how to truly brace our cores. And I’m going to share it with you, because I thought it was a really cool drill worth sharing.
But first, let’s talk a minute about why it’s important to brace the core while doing almost every exercise:
- Proximal stability leads to distal mobility. This one’s most important, as it not only leads to more efficient movement, but it also prevents injury. If your core (abs, low back, and lumbo-pelvic area) is stable, other joints, like your hips, shoulders, knees, etc. will be able to move better.
- Enhances alignment. This one kind of stems off of #1, but if your core is truly braced, while doing, say, a squat, then your hips are much more likely to stay aligned throughout the movement.
- Prevents low back pain. One of the core’s main functions is anti-extension. If our core’s not engaged while doing big, multi-joint exercises (or even just a plank)
5 Ways to Truly Brace Your Core (all at the same time)
1. Crouch forward contracting your abs. Now extend backward, like you’re stretching your abs. Now try and do both at the same time. Don’t move much, right? Your body’s fighting to flex and extend at the same time, and the result is anti-extension and anti-flextion (psst…that means a stable core! )
2. Bend over laterally to one side. Now bend laterally over to the other side. Now try and do both at the same time. Again, you’ll look like you’re just standing straight, but everything will be completely engaged and totally braced.
3. Rotate/twist and look over one shoulder. Now rotate/twist and look over the other shoulder. Now try and do both at the same time. This is an example of the anti-rotation function of core stability
4. Act as if someone is going to punch you in the stomach. This NOT the same as drawing the belly button in toward the spine or “sucking in” the stomach.
5. Finally, squeeze your glutes like you’ve got the winning lotto ticket between your buttcheeks and someone’s trying to take it! (weird, I know – never claimed to be normal.)
Now, do all of these 5 steps at the same time while performing your plank. Still not tough enough for you? Now pretend there’s magnets on your elbows and feet, and they’re drawing toward each other. If you’re doing ALL these things, you should be shaking like a leaf by 15 seconds
What’s your go-to ab exercise?