Many times as CrossFit coaches we are asked, “Should I be doing anything on my off days?” And honestly it depends on the person. If you have the time or the energy the answer is yes. But something that everyone could do at home every day is training their core and the best way to train it is with a plank.
The plank is a great core exercise because it uses an isometric hold to keep you in the proper position. The benefits of this range from shaping up your midline for the beach in the summer time to building the proper strength you need to max out your front squat or hold a hollow position on a muscle up.
The best part about the plank is how easy is to progress this movement. Just as you would add five pounds to your 3×5 Back Squat sets each week you can add time to your plank holds each week. The key to developing a great plank is by starting out small and over time building to some really long holds.
The way I write up my plank hold program looks like this:
Day 1: Max in Forearm Plank
Day 2: 3 sets x 50% hold time (from max plank hold)
Day 3: 3 sets x 40% hold time with a variation to the plank (see end of post for variations)
Weeks 2 & 3:
- Repeat week 1. But increase the sets on Days 2 & 3 by one set each week. (so week 2 you will do 4 sets and week 3 you will do 5 sets.)
- The goal is on the “Max Plank Hold” to increase your total time by 5-10 seconds from the previous week.
- On the variation plank chose a different, maybe more difficult version, of the plank and hold it for that time. You can change these up each week.
Day 1: Max in Forearm Plank*
Day 2: 3 sets x 60% hold time
Day 3: 3 sets x 50% hold time with a variation to the plank
Weeks 5 & 6:
- Repeat week 4. But increase the sets on Days 2 & 3 by one set each week.
- Again the goal is on the “Max Plank Hold” to increase your total time by 5-10 seconds from the previous week. By this time you should be getting some pretty long holds in.
- Now the percentage of the hold times on days 2 & 3 have increased as well.
Day 1: Max in Forearm Plank*
Day 2: 3 sets x 70% hold time
Day 3: 3 sets x 60% hold time with a variation to the plank
Weeks 7 & 8:
- Repeat week 5. But increase the sets on Days 2 & 3 by one set each week.
- Again the goal is on the “Max Plank Hold” to increase your total time by 5-10 seconds from the previous week. Your holds here are going to be pretty long and frankly kind of boring, but there is light at the end of the tunnel!
- Again, the percentage times on Days 2 & 3 have increased and each week the sets will as well. These will start to become super challenging!
After 8 weeks you start back over, but this time instead of using the Forearm Plank start back with a new plank version and start the cycle all over again.
The plank is probably the best way to strengthen your core, get your midsection summer ready and increase your capacity in other movements. None of these days should take very long and most days you can knock them out right away with no issue. But please understand that this is a process and will take some time. If you can commit a few minutes three times a week this simple program will provide you 100x the benefits.
Here are a few videos of the classic forearm plank and a few others.
Variations in your planks can be adding weight, lifting a leg up, lifting an arm or lifting a leg and an arm. Mix it up on your days with a variation.
Push-up Position Plank:
Side Star Plank: