Plank Basics. The plank is one of the most effective exercises to tone your stomach and strengthen your lower back. Even holding a plank for a minute will make you feel the burn. Form is very important for a great workout and to save yourself from injury, make sure your body is in a straight line and your head & neck are even with your shoulders. Proper form will give you the best workout and results.

Set a reasonable starting goal. It’s ok to work your way up to your plank goal. Success with planks is all about form. Think about how long you can hold a plank with proper form. If you can do a plank for 15 seconds before you lose your form, Great! Hold for 15 seconds, rest for 15 seconds and start again. 5 minutes worth of planks may take you 10 minutes to accomplish when you add in rest periods. Remember, slow and steady wins this race.

Practice doing it right. You’ll get much better if you practice every day, no matter what. Keep your form and really focus on your movements. Here are more great variations for plank workouts:

:30 elbow plank, :30 side plank (alternate sides); rest. Repeat 4 times. Finish with 1 minute basic plank.
:30 elbow plank, :30 specialty plank; rest. Repeat 5 times. Specialty planks can include:
Plank jacks: do a small “jumping jack” with your legs in and out. Keep your butt out of the air. Out goes out about to shoulder width apart.
Plank single leg lifts: alternate lifting legs up and down. Up should go up just about a foot’s distance off the floor.
Knee to elbow: alternate bringing knees in to your elbow.
Raised leg (hold leg): Alternate holding one leg up for a period of time, about 10-30 seconds each leg.
Plank step-outs: alternate stepping feet out to about shoulder width.
Do whatever it takes to keep your goal happening. I’ll admit, it’s not easy to do this goal. For 5 minutes every day, I feel a little bit like I’m going to die. Planks are tough stuff! But these tips have really helped. I’ve been practicing every day and been counting slowly to 10 with each :30 set. And guess what – it’s making those seconds go by much faster. I’d also suggest listening to music. I find 2 great songs for my daily 6 minute workout (5 minutes of planks and two :30 sets of rest. You can do this and it will be worth it!

Change it up. The more you vary your routine, the more you keep your body alert. This will really help to make the most of each 5 minute workout. Add weights, add kicks, move up to basic plank instead of elbow planks. Look for great ideas to keep your workout interesting so you stay motivated.

Celebrate your success. Do you know what has been the most exciting thing about this 5 minute workout? The sense of accomplishment I feel every day when I’m done. Every day – just 5 minutes is all I need! My celebration? I am using my kids’ superhero stickers as a daily tally on my calendar to see my success. And it’s really important to me to get every sticker. (I do the same thing for running – love my star stickers 4x a week!). Find something that works for you – maybe it’s a hot shower, maybe it’s a new song for your playlist or maybe it’s new shoes – if it works for you, then it works.

You can get the flat stomach you’ve always wanted. Yes, it will take work, but you have time and you can do this. Start with what you can do – if it’s 15 seconds or 1 minute or 5 minutes – you can make it happen and giving yourself a pat on the back may be just what you need.
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