Want to improve your core strength, but don’t think you have enough time? If you’re unsure of which exercises will get the job done efficiently, you’re not alone. Confusion on how to exercise, or how much time to spend working out, can cause you to neglect your core muscles altogether.
Luckily, well-designed micro-exercise routines are gaining popularity. These exercises provide an effective way to do small bouts of exercise that add up to big results.
Why Your Core Is Key
Core workouts are vital for building a foundation of strength and stability. Your core provides support for more advanced exercises. Without a solid core routine, underlying weaknesses can make you more prone to injury.
Performing a consistent and effective core workout is paramount for your functional fitness. Core muscles include both the deep and shallow muscles of the trunk. A strong core:
- Stabilizes the spinal column
- Aligns the body
- Enhances body movement
- Improves balance
- Improves functional fitness
When the core muscles are not exercised on a regular basis, they can become weak, which increases the risk of:
- Poor posture
- Compressed posterior joints of the lumbar spine
- Low back pain or discomfort
- Excessive anterior/posterior leaning of the pelvis
- Muscle tension and tightness
Core exercises optimize muscle strength and stability. A strong core prevents injuries to the knees, hip joints, and lumbar spine. Core muscle stability helps relieve back pain by supporting proper posture.
The Benefits of Planks
Developing a strong core will provide a better workout experience. It will round out your fitness program and help you maintain good form throughout each movement. You may already be familiar with some common core exercises, including crunches and bridges.
One of the best ways to strengthen your core is through planks. Studies show that planks produce excellent core muscle activation, which supports the recommendation of planks for both trained athletes and inexperienced exercisers.
This 5-Minute Daily Plank Workout offers a quick, quality exercise program that includes a variety of plank holds. The following exercises will strengthen your core in just minutes per day. Here’s how to get started.
5-Minute Daily Plank Workout
Perform a quick warm-up before you begin. A one-minute walk/jog in place, followed by a light stretch, should be sufficient. Use the moves below to get started on strengthening your core. To reach a full five minutes, perform each of the following plank exercises twice in a row.
Straight Arm Plank
Start in a push-up position on the floor with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders. Maintain straight arms, with toes tucked. Keep your core tight and body straight from head to toe. Avoid sagging at the hips or dipping your head.
Breathe through this exercise for 30 seconds.
To make this exercise easier, perform the plank from your knees instead of your toes. You can also hold the exercise for a shorter amount of time if needed. It’s OK if it takes time to build up to the recommended exercise time. Focus on progress, not perfection.
Sit on an exercise mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Place your palms, fingers spread wide, on the floor slightly behind you. They should be positioned outside of your hips. Press into your palms while lifting your hips and torso toward the ceiling.
Look up to the ceiling, point your toes, and keep your arms and legs straight. Keep your entire body engaged to form a straight line from your head to your heels. Tighten your core and focus on pulling your belly button back towards your spine.
Hold this position for 30 seconds.
To modify the reverse plank, perform the exercise while resting on your forearms. Keep elbows at a 90-degree angle.
Forearm Side Plank
Lay down on your right side on an exercise mat with your legs extended (right leg will be placed directly on the left leg, feet stacked). Place your right elbow directly under your shoulder resting on the forearm (at a 90-degree angle).
Keep your head and spine neutral. Your right hip and knee will remain in contact with the floor. Engage your core to lift your hips and knees off the floor.
Hold this plank for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side to complete the set.
Perform this side plank exercise with slightly bent legs. Keep your knees in contact with the floor to make this move easier.
Start in the plank position, with your forearms on an exercise mat. Maintain a tight core and begin pressing your hips toward the ceiling. Remain on your forearms, and gently press your heels toward the floor (think of an upside-down “V” shape).
Hold the position briefly, and lower your hips to return to the plank position. Push up onto your hands. Move your body into a downward dog yoga position (hips raised again toward the ceiling) while maintaining a tight core and a straight back.
Stretch your heels and chest toward the floor simultaneously. Slowly return to the plank position on your forearms.
Repeat exercise for 30 seconds.
You can also perform this exercise from your knees.
A Word From Verywell
Building a strong core is essential for achieving total body strength and stability. Core exercises reduce your risk of injury, relieve lower back pain, and promote proper posture. Planks are an effective way to stimulate your core muscles and gain maximum benefits from your time spent working out.
Believe it or not, it is possible to strengthen your core in just five minutes per day, and quick exercise programs are beneficial for squeezing in a functional workout. If you can’t get through the entire workout as outlined, don’t sweat it. Just do what you can, and build up your strength over time.
Always consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other exercise program.