One of the core’s most important jobs is to maintain stability as forces try to act on it—to keep you stable, upright, and in a good position even as you get pushed and pulled and poked and prodded from all angles. While most people think of doing sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts, and bicycles when they want to build their core strength, one of the most effective exercises for developing a stronger core is the standard plank.
But planks get boring. And sometimes, a basic plank isn’t providing the right amount of stimulus to the right spots for your goals. That’s when you turn to plank variations that make the exercise more interesting, target different tissues, and force different adaptations.
The core does not only exist to contract or bend over and over again, to twist and rotate, but also to resist rotational force. We need strong cores in order to maintain a stable torso while putting in work, whether it’s lifting heavy things, carrying a heavy load, or transferring power from our hips while throwing a punch or a ball. Having that stable, strong core with the capacity to resist the influence of outside forces working to make it rotate or twist or bend is just as important as having the capacity to perform a million situps.
You’ve probably seen a BOSU exercise ball at the gym. It’s that piece of equipment hanging out by the free weights that looks like half of an inflated beach ball about two feet in diameter attached to a flat disc. You know the one. But do you know what to do with it? Have you ever incorporated a BOSU ball into your workout?
The BOSU ball is actually one of the more versatile items in the gym. This one apparatus can train the upper body, lower body, core, balance and stability, and it even provides a great cardio option if you know how to use it to get your heart rate up. When you’re traveling, if all the meager hotel gym has is a BOSU ball and a mat, it’s easy to devise a total body workout that will have you sweating.
Get started with this list of 12 simple exercises you can do with just a BOSU ball and your body weight, plus variations to make them easier or more challenging according to your fitness level. As always, check with your physician if you have concerns about starting a new exercise program. Folks who struggle with their balance may want to ask a trainer or coach to help get them started.
June is National Get Outdoors Month. Here at MDA, we’re spending the next couple weeks teeing you up to have your best summer yet in the great outdoors with posts to inspire you to get into nature.
Today we’re talking about how to train for backpacking. Let’s start with the most obvious question: what IS backpacking? Backpacking is simply multi-day hiking where you carry all your gear on your back.
Say you’re going out for a day hike carrying water, food, and basic survival gear, but you return to your car the same day you set out. That’s not backpacking.
If you’re trekking across the country, but someone else is sherpaing your gear from one sleeping spot to the next, that’s not backpacking either.
In a nutshell, backpacking is essentially a long hike with more gear and more details to think about because you’ll be spending at least one night—but possibly many more—camping out. I think of backpacking as a kind of endurance sport. As with any endurance sport, you want to train for your event. You probably wouldn’t enter a half-marathon this coming weekend with minimal or no training. You could, but it would hurt a lot less, and your chance of success would be significantly greater, if you took the time to train. Same goes for backpacking.
The good news is, if you already have a solid fitness base, you are well on your way. Now you just need to tailor your training to get ready for your backpacking expedition.
The plank feels like the simplest movement. Heck, it’s not even a movement, really: it’s holding a still position without movement. It expressly forbids movement. And yet it’s the simple exercises where things can really go wrong.
The plank is simple but not easy. When you’re in the plank position, every fiber of your being is resisting the pull of gravity. You must engage and tighten every inch of musculature in your body to resist collapse. To maintain coherence throughout the line your body forms. During a plank, you are quite literally holding the line against the most omnipresent force in the known universe.
At least in a push-up, you’re moving. You have something else to focus on. For a plank, a lot of the difficulty is mental. You’re just there in the same position, getting more and more tired with each passing moment. You have to sit with the pain.
Okay, so what’s the basic plank form?
With gyms closed for the foreseeable future, now is the perfect time to expand your home workout. This simple, relatively inexpensive DIY parallettes project sets you up for a wide variety of dip bar exercises. Learn how to make your own parallettes with instructions, a materials list and a follow-along video with Primal Health Coach Brian. This post also includes a breakdown of a dip bar workout for beginners to get you started.
What are Parallettes?
Parallettes or planche bars can support an impressive range of exercises, ranging from beginner to advanced. Sometimes these bars are referred to as pushup bars or calisthenics dip bars, however, those tend to be a bit longer and lower to the ground. Though often associated with gymnasts, parallettes can be invaluable tool for expanding anyone’s range of bodyweight exercises.