Wednesday Workout: Plank Power

Hopefully, you know by now that sit-ups are soooo yesterday. They only irritate the hip flexors and don’t do anything whatsoever for the rectus abdominis or the transversus abdominis which are where the real abdominal work needs to be done. Enter hatha yoga poses to save the day (again.) When the grunt-and-sweat method produces nothing but smelly gym clothes, people look around to see who has accomplished what they want to be and look like and copy them. Usually without giving the successful programs and people any credit. Fitness gurus are promoting an ancient yoga pose to build deep abdominal strength instead of multiples of useless sit-ups and crunches.

It’s called the plank pose (Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana, Sanskrit for utthita=extended; chaturanga=four limbs; danda=staff or stick.) Yogis never do crunches. In twenty-five years of practicing hatha yoga, I have never done a sit-up in yoga class, yet I can hold plank pose and all it’s variations a plenty long time. And it burns the twenty-two year-old college athletes in my classes who have lifted weights and chugged protein sludge daily for five years and they can’t hold plank the first time they try it for more than 15 seconds. When they drop to the mat with a thump and a loud grunt, they remember I’m old enough to be their mother and I’m still holding plank and talking about its benefits and beauties and they get irritated. Sixty seconds later, I SLOWLY lower  to my stomach, sit up, smile and begin my brief explanation of the abdominal muscle system and how, while they may have a six-pack in their refrigerators, they will never have a true one on their bellies without working diligently on the transversus abdominis muscle hiding behind their flabby rectus abdominis out front. Once I say “core”, the lights go on and they listen.

What’s so great about forward inclined plank pose? It’s practically the all-around exercise. The only thing it doesn’t offer is a twist for internal organ. Wait, yes it does. The extremely advanced variation where you wrap one arm around your back, bend your leg, and grab your toes behind your back is a twisting variation of plank. It’s probably out of your range at present, but never stop reaching! Plank pose develops the abdominals by calling them into action because when you are balancing on your arms as required in forward plank, the spine’s natural orientation to gravity is negated. Gravity pulls the front of the body and the spine to the earth and our work in plank is to pull those elements up and away from the gravitational pull. The muscular effort required to do this, simple as it sounds, builds strength and stamina in the whole abdominal area. The other reason it works is because the spine is kept straight and this frees the abdominal muscle group to do its job which is to hold you up. Just suck your belly and chest up to your spine and wait. It’ll happen.

Need a milder version that still works the abs? Balance on your forearms instead of your hands. Either way, don’t let your chest or belly sag toward the mat and work up to holding the pose for 60 seconds. What’s fun is trying the exciting variations of plank pose we do in hatha yoga all the time. Reversed inclined plank and side plank have even more options. That’s the neat thing about yoga. There is always a way for anybody of any condition to try any part of it.

Plank a yogi, I mean, thank a yogi for an amazingly simple and challenging pose that produces results.

There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Every other week I will post an idea for relaxation (Monday Meditation,) creative play (Tuesday Tickle,) fitness and exercise (Wednesday Workout,) journaling and misc. (Thursday Thought,) and nutrition (Friday Feast.)

Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Who Dares Wins Publishing,


And check out these great blogs for ideas to keep your writing and publishing healthy and prosperous. Bob Mayer Jenni Holbrook Kristen Lamb Inspiration for Writers, Inc.

Be well, write well.