1. congrats for working on your fitness Griff.
2. Core work is key. Planks are a great start.
3. The wrists thing - the fact that your wrist joint cannot currently support your upper body weight is an indication you need to work on that - maybe do hand-planks on an incline like a chair, and the forearm planks as described. The joints do become much stronger (and they need to= that's what Mark means when he talks about healthy stressors).
Still gotta do it man, everything hurts at the beginning, that's part of getting stronger. Do the forearm version (I never even knew planks were done any other way until this thread, you elevate yourself too much on your hands for your core to do any work) but you have to get your wrists up to speed so get on your knees and apply gentle pressure to your wrists by playing with how much weight you place on them and do this for time. 30 seconds every day or every couple of hours, this is important.
If that doesn't work, then maybe do some googling/asking about how to strengthen your wrists first. I have one wonky wrist, but I can work around it. I'm sure there are exercises you can do to strengthen them (I'm thinking of forearm exercises like the one - I can't remember the name... not enough coffee yet! - where you hold a db or bb in your hand(s) and simply rotate the wrists up and down (i.e. not in a circle)... seems that might help strengthen the wrists, but maybe I'm off base on that one
Maybe as Al Kavadlo? He seems to be incredibly well-versed on all things fitness/strength!
As has been mentioned, doing a plank on a high angle is easier for your abs than doing them on the ground, which is why the elbow plank is harder on the core muscles. I would suggest starting on an angle with short holds (5-10 seconds) and gradually building to longer holds from there over the course of several weeks. The only way to get better is to push yourself through the discomfort.
I did a blog about planks and side planks a while back that might be helpful for some of you (though probably not so much for the OP - sorry, Griff).
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I have the opposite problem with planks: toes. They need to be able to take your weight while bending back, and one big toe *really* doesn't like doing that. I think the two joints were damaged by a bunion or something - anyway, putting my weight on it in plank or push-up position hurts beyond tolerable, so I end up trying to carry most of my weight on the other leg, and everything goes south from there.
Anyone managed to heal this kind of toe thing?
The plank is a useful exercise but IMO is not as effective as an injury-proofing exercise as most coaches will have you think. Maintaining posture is often a result of static/isometric strength in the core (which should rightly include every muscle of the torso and not just abs, obliques and lower back). Therefore, an exercise that improves your ability to maintain this strength is good. This makes the plank a good exercise.
However, most of us encounter injury and general postural weakness during standing positions. The mechanics and musculo-skeletal demands of a standing posture and the plank are quite different. And, in practical terms, being able to maintain a strong postural position whilst moving is normally of paramount importance.
I would recommend supplementing with standing rotations, suitcase and regular deadlifts and OH squats.
Not knocking the plank as a starting point but it needs to be seen as part of an overall plan.
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If Griff is having a main issues with wrist strength, let's forget about plank variations and target the wrists to start getting them up to strength. I suggest winding/unwinding exercises. This is something you can make with spare objects around your home.
Here's a video (I didn't make it) of what I'm talking about. At 3:30 is the exercise I'm referring to.
The best idea, I think, to building strength in your wrists with this exercise is to tie an old milk jug by the handle to the end of the rope instead of a dumbbell. As you get stronger, fill the jug with more water until your wrists are strong enough to handle the planks/push-ups, etc.
As has been said, discomfort is normal when you are exercising, especially a new exercise. Stick with it and you will be rewarded!