Plank Power – How to Do a Plank and March Plank Challenge

Plank Power Set

Focus on one word today. Ready?

Plank.

Do you love it or hate it? 

If you hate it, chances are that you don’t practice it enough.

What is it about this word?

In class, all I have to say is  “plaaaaa” and I hear groans from every corner of the room. But then, I look closely at some of you, and I see that game face.

I love that game face!

I know what you’re thinking, ” let’s do this – I got something to prove….to me”.

Whatever your attitude toward the plank, let me tell you something, this exercise (and the various variations), are the bomb!

Let me tell you why.

Did you know that a plank (and here, I’m talking about a regular plank, reverse plank, and side plank), works a ton of muscles?

  • rectus abdominis
  • external/internal obliques
  • hamstrings
  • glutes
  • serratus anterior
  • pecs
  • errector spinae
  • latissimus dorsi
  • deltoids
  • lower trapezius

While in plank you work the entire body as you fight gravity. The heavier the lever (say, legs lifted up), the harder you have to fight. If you’ve been to one of my classes and have experienced the occasional, plank “test”, “ladder” or “tabata”, you know what I’m talking about.

Why do I put you through it?

Because you will get S.T.R.O.N.G. Many of you can already tell – as you start progressing toward more challenging exercises in Pilates, you begin to realize that upper body strength is so important. You also notice the challenge in getting your body to use multiple muscles at the same time.

The plank is a notorious multi-tasker.

Take a regular plank for example. The muscles work in a isometric contraction, meaning they are not changing length, but working super hard to stabilize. Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, spine, legs are all working together to hold you up.

Plank Form

  • hands directly under the shoulders, fingers spread and pressed firmly into the floor 
  • shoulder blades pulled back
  • press one leg back, flex toes back (this is an important step, make sure the leg is strong)
  • press the other leg back, heels close together
  • pull the abs toward the spine, but don’t let your back arch
  • distribute the weight between the back of the heels and the finger tips, activate glutes

March Plank Challenge!

Ok tribe, I’m declaring March, Plank Challenge Month. Prove to yourself you can do this. You’ll do this with me right?

  • Week 1: do a plank every day and time yourself. Don’t have time? C’mon you have time – a plank will take you a minute. Start with 30 seconds and go all out until you can’t anymore. Write down your results. Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below.
  • Week 2: continue to do a plank every day. Yes, Saturdays and Sundays included. Compare to pervious week, you should be killing it by now. Fill me in. 
  • Week 3: do the first 3 minute power set every day. It’s 30 seconds of each plank without resting. I promise you won’t regret it.
    • regular plank
    • side plank
    • other side
    • reverse
  • Week 4: do both 3 minute power sets in a row with a 1 minute rest in between. You will do this one 4 times this week.

Set 1:

    • regular plank
    • side plank
    • other side
    • reverse

Set 2:

    • control front (regular plank, with alternating leg lifts)
    • side plank (add leg lift)
    • other side (add leg lift)
    • reverse plank
  • Last Day of the Month: time to check your progress! This is where you see your hard work pay off.  Hold the plank as long as you can, and time yourself! Leave a comment below and tell  me how you’re doing!

I can’t wait to hear your stories and progress. Get ready. Challenge starts THIS FRIDAY, March 1st.

For those of you not accepting the challenge (you totally should), add this Plank Power Set to your workout 3 times a week.

Are you up for it?

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23 Comments

  1. Ashleigh
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I am in I love planks!
    plank time: 1 min
    I can work on improving my time!

    • Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Ashley that’s great! 1 min is really good. If you stick with the challenge by then end of the month you will be rockin!

  2. Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I am in, Maria! I am going to start tonight – it’s going to be ugly after a slow sick winter, ugh :(

    • Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      So glad you’re joining, Leslie! This is going to be great 😉 Keep us updated here! I’ll start timing myself on the 1st, and post my times.

  3. Jo Braden
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Yeeeeessss! I am in! I love planks!

  4. Madeline
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I am so down for this Maria! But I don’t know all of those planks! I will try googling them…

    • Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      YES! Awesome, Madeline! You just have to do the regular planks for the first two weeks (and time yourself each time). Once you get to the third week and start on the other ones, I’ll have descriptions for you and will tell you what to do. Tomorrow and for the next two week, simple plank, time, done. Let me know how it goes!

      • Madeline
        Posted March 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Nice! OK – thanks for guiding me through this! Plank Power here I come!

  5. Posted March 1, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    OK, kicking off the challenge this morning. Held my plank for 3:30. Arms are still tingling! How do you all do today?

  6. Heidi Balow
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I’m in, I’ll start tonight and have Greg join in too. a great idea, shouldn’t be hard to work into our days.

    • Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Heidi! So great to hear from you, glad you’re joining. Eric is doing it too! He is waiting until after work, but I’m curious to see how he will do. Good luck, and fill us in!

  7. Ashleigh
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Wow 3:30 I am going to have too see if I can beat that time today when I get home.

  8. Eric
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    3 min 50 secs. Got to love that isometric contraction.

  9. Martha Alvarez
    Posted March 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully written, Maria! And what a great challenge you’ve set for all of us. I’m starting late, but will start tonight :) I look forward to sharing my progress when I see you again.

    • Posted March 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Great, Martha! So glad you’re jumping right in! Let me know how it goes for you 😉

  10. Jedidiah Soliz
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Just did 3 and half minute front plank last night! Making progress!
    Goal =7min by the end of month!
    We will see :)

  11. Jedidiah Soliz
    Posted March 31, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I did my final plank today, (March 31st). I hit a 5 minute front plank :) Not quite 7 but it was really hard and I am happy with the progress! Gotta love that burn :)

    • Posted April 1, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Great, Jed! That’s such a huge improvement overall! I was at 6:34 last night, not quite 7 either, but who knows, I might keep at it. Thanks for being such an active participant 😉

      See you at the Cupcake Challenge this weekend.

      • Jedidiah Soliz
        Posted April 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        Nice Maria, good job!! Thanks! I think I will keep it up too. It is such a great ab workout!! Haha, yes, see you at the Cupcakes event! :)

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