Working out your core is one of the toughest and most painful parts of any exercise routine. Putting strain on your torso and getting that unique, deep burn isn't a very appealing prospect to most people — they'd rather be making gains in their arms or chest.
Planking primarily targets your core muscles, like the hip abductors, pelvic floor, lower back, and lower chest. During a plank, all of these structures must work in concert to hold up the body's weight, strengthening the entire group with a single exercise. Although most people only hold the position for between 30 and 60 seconds, this brief moment can feel like a freakin' eternity.
To help all you hopefuls looking to strengthen your core, we've come up with a few proven remedies to get your mind off the anguish. Use these tips to hold a plank for long periods of time, build core strength, and, most importantly, get those abs to pop out.
1. Control your breathing
As you hold a plank, your body will tire out. Your torso will let your brain know it's getting sore via pain receptors. Although it's wise to listen to your body, at times like these, it's better to distract yourself from every little message sent to the brain. A great way to do this is by focusing on your breathing.
Breathing deeply relaxes your body and blocks out distracting thoughts like, "when the hell will this exercise be over?" The next time you decide to shoot for a 45-to-60-second plank, inhale in on a 4-count and exhale for just as long. After just fifteen inhales and exhales, you'll be at the 1-minute mark.
2. Watch a motivational YouTube clip
Working out is meant to break you down physically. It takes mental strength to push through discomfort. That's exactly why so many people hire trainers — for outside motivation that pushes them through those last, crucial minutes of intense training.
If you don't want to shell out cash for a trainer, there are other ways to find the motivation to get into tip-top shape. Many people watch cool motivational YouTube clips to distract the mind and block out the physical pain. Via that smartphone you keep in your pocket at all times, you can quickly view a "moto" clip (like the one below) to get you through those final seconds of your plank.
3. Conduct an intra-modification
As with any other exercise, there are many variations of planks, each designed to focus on the various muscles that make up your core. You can use this information to your abdominal advantage. If you start out in a four-point plank and fatigue sets in, modify the exercise and move into a side plank.
The idea is to build up your strength gradually — go until you can't.
4. Recite a music verse in your head
Everyone likes music. There's no doubt that you've memorized a few verses during all those hours you've logged listening to the radio. So, as you set out to challenge your body via planking, start reciting a 45-to-60-second song verse in your head — not out loud — to get you through the tough, physical static hold.
Your abs will thank you later.
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