A Harder-Working Plank

In the real world, the human body is regularly called upon to multitask. The simple act of walking up a flight of stairs while carrying packages demonstrates the need for full-body cooperation. It makes a lot of sense to bring that concept of efficiency and functionality into the gym as often as possible.

By adding a rowing action to the plank, the back and arms join a workout that would normally focus on the core and glutes. To get a feel for this advanced movement, try it empty-handed fi rst. Once the basic movement is mastered, grab dumbbells of an appropriate weight and assume the plank position. One row on each side constitutes one repetition. A good starting point might be 8-10 reps per arm for 3 sets each.

Assume the plank position: Make a straight line from the neck to the heels with legs slightly wider than hips to increase stability. The arms should be straight—shoulders, elbows and wrists aligned. Engage the core and glutes, keeping weights on the floor and parallel with the body.

Push down with right hand and raise the left dumbbell skyward in a rowing motion until it is higher than the torso. (Imagine a string pulling the back of the elbow towards the ceiling.) Keep the arm tight to the body during the pull up. Exhale as the dumbbell is lifted, inhale as it returns to the mat. Repeat with the other arm.

To intensify the workout turn each row into a side plank. This variation uses the oblique muscles and requires maintaining a more challenging, static position. When the left elbow is above the torso rotate the shoulders, collar bone and feet in the same direction (following the raised dumbbell) until the body is in a diagonal line from head to heels. Keep the weight tight to the body and hold for three seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat the movement with the other arm.

Final note: The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.

Illustrations by Pepper Rebecca Canese