It sounds too good to be true: Strengthen your core, build endurance and define your abs while barely moving a muscle. But the plank does just that. It's the ultimate kick-gut move. In fact, it also engages your shoulders, lats, glutes, arms and legs—just about every muscle group in your body gets toned and tightened.
Which is why every trainer and fitness magazine sings the praises of this move. The problem, it seems, is perception. It looks too easy. But it's brutally effective. Stick with it and you can forget about crunches and sit-ups. The plank will sculpt your midsection while preventing back pain and strain. The key is mastering the correct form.
With your feet together, assume a push up position, resting on your forearms. Keep your spine as straight as possible—your body should be aligned from your ankles to your head.
Tighten your abdomen like you're going to be punched in the stomach, squeeze your glutes and press your elbows into the floor. Be sure not to drop your hips or hunch your back.
Work up to a 60-second hold, focusing on perfect form and repeat as needed.
The plank is also sometimes called a front hold, hover or abdominal bridge.
For: Greater stability, muscle toning and lower ab definition.
Assume the plank position, but widen your stance by planing feet and forearms shoulder-width apart.
Slowly extend your right arm while elevating your left foot six to eight inches off the ground. Hold for three counts and return to the starting position.
Switch sides and continue alternating for 60 seconds. Do three 60-second sets.
For: Abs, obliques and lower back (i.e. love handles).
Lie on your right side, resting on your elbow with both legs extended and feet together.
Lift your hip off of the ground, straightening your spine and hold for 30 seconds.
Lower your hips to the ground to rest and repeat for three sets of 30 seconds on each side.
This feature is brought to you by smartwater—live a life well hydrated. Learn more.