Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what you're grateful for. Family. Friends. Rock-solid abs. OK, so maybe not everyone can reflect on that last one. But we're here to help with that.
Introducing our first four-week "Thanks and Planks" challenge, an opportunity to build strength and stamina by holding the perfect plank a little longer each week. And even if your abs aren't completely bullet-proof by Thanksgiving, at least you can justify an extra serving of mashed potatoes.
Week 1: By November 1Goal: Hold for 30 seconds
Theme: Remember the benefits
This week, remind yourself why you're planking in the first place. According to Tom Dodsworth, MA, ACE-CPT, exercise trainer at Sharp HealthCare, planking is one of the best strength-building exercises. "When performed correctly, planks are a functionally superior movement for strengthening the core, glutes, low back and upper body, while providing support to the spine and pelvis," he says.
Week 2: By November 8Goal: Hold for 1 minute
Theme: Perfect your plank
The shortest distance to a proper plank is a straight line. So this week, set yourself up in front of the mirror to make sure you're doing it right.
- Keep your ears in line with your shoulders
- Line up your elbows under your shoulders
- Squeeze your backside, but don't lock your knees
- Keep your pelvis in a neutral position
- Keep your shoulders, hips and heels in line
- Keep your ankles at 90 degrees
Visit our planking infographic for a visual illustration.
Week 3: By November 15Goal: Hold for 90 seconds
Theme: Shake up your plank
Trying different types of planks will keep you from getting tired of the same exercise, while working a variety of muscles. Start with the standard straight or forearm plank. Then shake things up by trying a side plank, a reverse plank, a one-legged plank or a plank where you lift one arm and leg out in turn. Just don't forget to lose the straight line as you go.
Week 4: By ThanksgivingGoal: Hold for 2 minutes
Theme: Align your body and mind
Practicing mindfulness has endless benefits to your everyday routine. But practicing mindfulness while exercising can help you work harder and last longer. "I have a trick for keeping your mind occupied while planking," says Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare. "I like to list things I'm thankful for. I stop focusing on the workout, and it helps me feel more grounded and positive throughout my day."
Ready to join the challenge? Tag @sharphealthcare on social media and use the hashtag #planksandthankschallenge.