How to Use Positive Stress To Get Tougher, Build Hardiness, and Cultivate Grit with Hormetic Training
Science now agrees: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
It’s a little something called hormesis. Here’s what it means… Continued
Mark Wildman is a one-of-a-kind fitness coach who does his own thing and gets his clients exceptional results using an unconventional, science-based approach to training.
Mark is also a 220 pound self-proclaimed “farm boy with no dance skills” who is terrified of heights, and yet, he specializes in aerial training, which isn’t exactly known to attract big guys with no dance skills.
Hint: he’s one of those guys who is proactive about facing his fears. You’d like him.
After I spoke with him for nearly 90 minutes yesterday afternoon, I can tell you Mark is a master of his trade who is definitely making a unique contribution to the world of fitness. You will learn a lot from him in this interview..
“If somebody is swinging a machete at your head, you really should be mentally present.” – Mark Wildman
So, as you can see, Mark is a pretty cool guy who specializes in a wide variety of disciplines.
10 Different Ways to Make Plank Exercises More Challenging to Keep You Engaged, Prevent Boredom, and Help You Get Stronger in Less Time
Planks are one of the best all-around core strengthening exercises. And everyone knows that the simplest way to make planks harder is to hold them for longer.
But increasing the duration of a plank is only one way to progress in this exercise. And while there are some unique benefits to holding a plank for a long time, the strength benefits are significantly diminished after 30-60 seconds or so.
Plus, holding a plank for minutes at a time can get boring, and isn’t always the best use of your training time.
So, here are 10 ways to make planks harder (and more interesting!):
1. Elevate your feet.
You can simply elevate your feet on a low step, bench or chair. Or, place them flat against a wall for an additional challenge (i.e. pressing into the wall with a mid-foot balance).
2. Increase the leverage challenge.
Slide your elbows forward or walk your feet back (e.g. like an RKC plank) to increase the leverage challenge. Try to hold a plank with your nose positioned directly between your elbows.
3. Focus on the squeeze.
Instead of just “balancing” for as long as you can manage, increase the intensity of your planks by focusing on the isometric contraction during your exhales. So, when you exhale, contract the entire corset of muscles around your core, draw your belly in toward your spine, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, contract your glutes and thighs, and pack your shoulders down on your ribs. Hold this hard contraction throughout the duration of a slow exhale, and then relax during the inhale.
4. Add external resistance.
Simply put, add more weight. You can wear a weight vest or a backpack, put some free weights on your mid-back (e.g. barbell plates or a dumbbell), have a partner put some pressure on your back, or wrap a band around your shoulders or lower back.
5. Perform a moving plank.
But aren’t planks supposed to be static? Who says you can’t add a little movement to a difficult pose for strength and conditioning purposes?
You can perform a super-slow mountain climber (e.g. 15-30 seconds per repetition), a lateral pushup walk, the alligator crawl, or a bodysaw plank, among others.
Here’s an example of the Bodysaw, which is a fairly difficult plank exercise…
Or, step things up a notch and perform a ballistic plank…
6. Increase the stability challenge.
You can place your hands or feet on an exercise ball or a suspension trainer (e.g. rings, TRX, etc.). Or do both. The greater the challenge to maintain stability, the harder the exercise will be.
7. Decrease your base of support and/or raise your center of gravity.
You can raise your center of gravity by performing your planks with your arms straight (i.e. elbows locked) so that your torso is higher off the ground. You can also decrease your base of support (to increase the balance/stability challenge) by moving your hands, elbows, and/or feet closer together (or crossing one ankle over the other). Or, you could simply lift one or more limbs off the ground.
Speaking of which…
8. Lift a limb or two.
You can raise an arm or a leg off of the floor. Or, you can raise one of each (do opposites, e.g. right arm, left leg), which is known as the bird dog plank.
9. Add rotation with a twisting plank variation.
Who says planks have to always be in a neutral position? Loading the spine in non-neutral position is a controversial subject. And it should go without saying that if you have had back problems or recent injuries, that you should proceed with caution when it comes to adding resistance to positions that deviate from a neutral spine – especially involving rotation. I should also add that you’ll obviously need the requisite amount of mobility and stability at your spine to perform these safely. So, when in doubt, proceed with caution. That said, performed properly, a twisting plank can be a great way to strengthen your core in a new position and in different degrees of freedom.
Here are 5 twisting plank exercises…
Note: you can Click Here for more info on twisting planks.
10. Go longer with a non-stop circuit.
Instead of performing a plank, resting, and then performing another plank, try performing a plank circuit by switching to a new position whenever you get tired.
Here’s an example of a plank circuit, where I demonstrate twenty different plank exercises…
Tip: You can combine many of these strategies. For example, elevate your feet by placing them flat against a wall, slide your elbows forward (RKC plank), wear a light weight vest, and perform a slow and controlled mountain climber with a strong isometric contraction (i.e. squeeze!).
Planks do your body good, and hard planks do your body best. So, challenge yourself with a few of these strategies the next time you train.
Here’s a video I filmed to demonstrate these plank progessions…
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Health-First Fitness Coach
P.P.S. One last tip: if you do a lot of plank training, make sure you’re also training your posterior chain with exercises like the shoulder bridge plank and other bridging exercises, and hip thrusts, among others.
Up for a Challenge?
Try out this advanced plank workout which incorporates several of the strategies mentioned above.
Note: you can Click Here for my free 30-day plank training program, which I created for all skill levels.
- The Right Way to do the Plank Exercise (Detailed How-To Tutorial)
- How to do a Plank: Proper Plank Form (Quick Tutorial)
- 30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs (Complete Plank Training Program For All Skill Levels)
- The 5 Minute Plank For Core Strength, Stability, and Rock-Hard Abs (Plank Challenge)
- How to do the Side Plank Exercise for the Best Results
- Training Tips From The 3+ Hour Plank World Record Holder
- The Ballistic Plank Exercise for Rock-Hard Abs
- The Elbow Plank VS Pushup Position Plank
- 5 Twisting Plank Exercises You’ve Never Tried Before
- How Long to Hold a Plank
Improve Your Squat Depth, Mobility, and Flexibility With These Squat Mobility Exercises and Stretches to get a Full ROM, Pain-Free and Strain-Free, Rock-Bottom, ATG Squat
For some reason, most people have trouble achieving a deep squat – let alone being able to rest comfortably in this position.
Even though the squat is a natural human movement (and a very rudimentary one, at that!), the combination of deep ankle, knee, and hip flexion has become a very difficult position for most people to attain. The good news is that with a little practice, most people can dramatically improve their squat range of motion over a few weeks time.
So, whether you just want to get a little deeper in your squat range of motion, or achieve a full, rock-bottom, ATG squat, this post will teach you how to improve your squat flexibility and increase your squat depth with some simple exercises so that you can squat as deep as your structure will allow – and be able to do it comfortably, without straining.
Let’s start with some short-term solutions…
Start Here: 5 Exercise Hacks For Deep Squats
The video below will provide a few squat fixes along with an introduction to some mobility and flexibility exercises to help you achieve a deep squat. If you experience good results from the exercises, be sure to look into the longer list of mobility exercises in the additional videos below.
5 Quick-Fixes for a Deeper Squat: Continued
What Strength Coaches & Researchers Say You Should Be Able to Squat: Including Official And Unofficial Strength Standards For Weightlifters, Athletes, And Ordinary Folks, Average Test Results, The Latest World Records, And More! (Plus Some Free Resources to Help You Squat More!)
How much weight you can squat is one of the best indicators of your overall fitness and strength level. This article will show how you measure up to the various standards, and also help you set an ambitious goal for yourself.
This article will cover strength standards for the following squat exercises:
- bodyweight squats
- goblet squats
- barbell back squats
- barbell front squats
- barbell overhead squats