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3 Plank Exercises for Tight, Flat Abs…

What if we told you that by doing just one move, you could tighten your abs, firm up your booty, and strengthen your arms? No, it’s not too good to be true. The one move that can do it all is the plank. It’s one of the best overall core conditioners around, and unlike crunches, it keeps your spine protected in a neutral position. Plus, it’s difficult to exhaust the number of planking possibilities. “There are dozens of ways to modify the plank so you’ll never get bored,” says exercise physiologist Martica Heaner, Ph.D., author of Cross-Training for Dummies and other fitness books.

What muscles are worked in a plank?

Planks are pretty much a catch-all for working different muscles. “When you do a plank, you not only engage all of the muscles in your core, but also your glutes, thighs, and shoulders — it really is a total body exercise,” Heaner says. Yes, planks can help you score a stellar six-pack, but they’ll also strengthen the rest of your body in the process.

What are the benefits of plank exercises?

Again, the plank targets multiple muscles at once, and it targets them quite effectively, too. Holding the static plank position extends your muscles’ time under tension, which is key to triggering muscle growth. But ultimately, planking reinforces your core’s primary job: Stabilizing the spine. When you strengthen the armada of muscles that support and stabilize your spine (i.e., your core), you reduce the amount of stress placed on it. “Stability exercises like planks are the key [to protecting your back],” says Heaner. Crunches and sit-ups might do a fine job of working your abs, but planks, when done correctly, train all sides of your core, from the front to the back.

Planks also limit the amount of stress placed on the spine. “Crunches and sit-ups mobilize and bend the spine, and in doing so, they compress the discs in between the vertebrae,” Heaner says. “While some people can handle this, it can be too much stress on spinal structures for some.”

How to do a plank:

There a few different kinds of planks, including the forearm plank, side plank, and full plank (sometimes known as a straight-arm plank). Here’s how to properly do a full plank:

Assume a push-up position. Make sure your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core by drawing your belly button into the spine to lock your body into a straight line from your head to heels. ( To achieve this perfect position, sometimes it helps to imagine that someone is about to punch you in the gut.)

To do a forearm plank, assume a push-up position, but place your weight on your forearms instead of your hands, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Then, follow the rest of the items on the checklist above.

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to do a plank.