People will do just about anything to capture a spot on today’s plethora of reality shows. And for one of the powerhouse shows that draws millions of viewers, American Idol has become known for its outstanding undiscovered singers, as well as unusual or unexpected antics from people who try to make it through to Hollywood. What the heck does that have anything to do with body weight training? Meet “Patty the Pittsburgh Planker.” She showed up with her sister, Samantha Novacek, at an American Idol tryout in 2012, but she wasn’t there to sing.
While Samantha delivered her best vocals to the American Idol judges, Patty delivered her own performance, holding a no-handed plank for her sister’s 60-second version of Faith Hill’s Like We Never Loved Before. “I’m not a singer,” Patty told American Idol Host Ryan Seacrest. “I’m a planker. I’m just planking her to Hollywood.” And it worked, Samantha’s voice impressed the judges and she did get her golden ticket to Hollywood. As for Patty, she had her chance in the spotlight, and even challenged Ryan Seacrest to a plank-off after the audition was over. On the surface, the plank may seem like an insignificant exercise. But it’s actually a calisthenic-based exercise that can help you develop core strength and engage every major muscle group in your body.
In fact, in a study featured in the Health and Fitness Journal published by the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers found that planking exercises were far more effective at engaging the core abdominal muscles than traditional sit-ups.
To figure this out, researchers had a group of healthy people wear electrodes on their abdomen and perform common ab exercises, including exercises encouraged by made-for-TV ab-sculpting gadgets. When the participant group performed planking exercises, the electrodes showed far more muscle activity than old-school sit-ups. Bridges, Pilates stretches, and hip extensions with a stability ball, showed high levels of abdominal muscle activity.
But it was three yoga-based moves, the yoga boat, yoga dolphin plank on a ball, and yoga side plank, that showed the greatest activity to engage muscles that help create the coveted six-pack. Here’s how to execute these three ab-sculpting, body weight moves:
Yeah. It’s a lot like it sounds. In the yoga boat pose, you’ll position your body in a way that looks like a boat, and your core abdominal and back muscles will be doing the heavy lifting. Start from a sitting position with your legs extended and palms down. Lean back slightly and raise your feet off the ground. Lean back a little more, and maintain your balance by holding your hamstrings with your hands. Once balanced, release your hands, and extend your arms with palms facing down. Maintain your balance, and slowing rest your hands behind your head. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and release.
Yoga Dolphin Plank on a Ball
For the Dolphin Plank on a Ball, begin by resting your forearms on a stability ball. Straighten your back and extend your legs. With both legs straight, slowly bend one leg until your knee taps the ground. Then repeat with the other leg, all while supporting your upper body with your forearms, and lower body with your legs. Do 10 to 12 reps for each leg.
Get into side-plank position by placing one hand on the ground, palm down. Straighten your arm and extend your legs, keeping your feet close together. Then raise your other arm vertically in the air. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, and then release.
These core body weight exercise target your abdominal muscles from different angles that require them to work harder to support your body. Engaging these muscles will build core strength and get you one step closer to six-pack abs. But you’ll also get the added benefit of working most major muscle groups in your body, which will pay off when you engage in other body weight exercises. The traditional plank, supported on your forearms and legs with your back straight, is also a highly effecting exercise to build core strength.
Add these exercises your workout routine, and the next time you see your abs in the mirror, take a good look and say, “Plank you very much.”