It may not look like much, but the plank is the single best core-strengthening exercise on earth. You see, in plank position, the muscles of the upper and lower body are activated to resist the force of gravity pushing down on your entire backside.
In case you’ve forgotten, “core strength” refers to the muscles of your abs and back and their ability to support your spine, and keep your body stable and balanced. A strong core basically supports every physical movement you make. It’s the body’s center of power, the stronger your core, the easier your life will be. This means, riding your bike, running, picking up your kid or a watermelon, surviving that killer boot camp class, or simply getting out of bed.
Wondering how your core measures up? I was, so I found a test for us all to take. The senior athletics coach with the United Kingdom’s National Governing body for Track and Field developed it. It’s a good one! Give it a try — it only takes three minutes.
The Core Muscle Strength and Stability Test
The objective of this evaluation is to monitor the development and improvements of core strength.
To prepare for the assessment you will need a:
- Flat surface
- Watch or clock with second counter
Conducting the Test:
- Place the watch or clock where you can easily see it.
- Start in the forearm plank position (elbows on the ground, shoulders over elbows, back flat like a plank, abs contracted). Hold for 60 seconds.
- Lift your right arm off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
- Return your right arm to the ground and lift the left arm off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
- Return your left arm to the ground and lift the right leg off the ground . Hold for 15 seconds.
- Return your right leg to the ground and lift the left leg off the ground . Hold for 15 seconds.
- Lift your left leg and right arm off the ground . Hold for 15 seconds.
- Return your left leg and right arm to the ground. Lift your right leg and left arm off the ground . Hold for 15 seconds
- Return to the forearm plank position (elbows on the ground). Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Good Core Strength – If you can complete the test fully, you have good core strength.
Poor Core Strength – If you cannot complete the test fully, your core strength needs improvement. If you are unable to complete the test, practice the routine three or four times each week until you improve. By comparing your results over time, you will note improvements or declines in core strength.
In case you’re wondering, I took the test. It was fun (sort of), but unfortunately I didn’t pass in full. Darn! Guess I need to get to work.
Along with the featured athletes you've been hearing from on the Chi Blog, each Athleta store sponsors a local athlete. Since her 20s, KELLEY HEYE, Athleta's San Francisco store athlete, spent most of her professional career as a cranky advertising executive who weighed up to 220 pounds. In her 30s and 40s she managed to drop a large amount of weight, keep it off, become an elite bicycle racer, certified cycling coach, artisan cheese maker and fitness fanatic. You can subscribe to her blog and connect with her on Facebook, and Twitter. Learn more about Kelley and connect with her through our San Francisco store »