Core strength is one of the most common areas of concerns that physical therapists get asked about. Weak core muscles contribute to a number of different movement challenges so working on strength in this area is almost always beneficial.
A plank is one of the best exercises to target all areas of the core – it has actually been shown to work more muscles than sit-ups! Additionally, this exercise position also works the arms and hips, so a true “full body” workout is possible! One of the things we like most about this position is the variety of ways it can be completed. We use this often in our practice while working with kids, here are a few of the ways we like to mix it up:
- Shoulder Taps: We love this variation because it adds a coordination component into the core strengthening component! Starting in a basic plank, tap one hand to your opposite shoulder then switch.
- Side Plank: This variation really helps to work the side body muscles which can often be overlooked and/or underused in kids. Start in a basic plank, reach one hand up to the sky then rotate body towards that side and stack feet on top of each other. To make this a bit easier, stagger feet so that the top foot is resting on the floor in front of the bottom foot. The bottom knee can also rest on the floor – this is a great variation for younger kids!
- Plank jacks: This variation is a great way to get in a little cardio work while strengthening! Start in a basic plank, jump both feet out, then jump back in. To make this one a bit easier, try tapping one foot out to the side, back to the middle, then switch.
- Leg lifts: Adding in a leg lift helps to work the hip muscles a bit more. There are a couple of ways to do this one: lift one leg and hold for a set amount of time (10-20 seconds) or lift one leg, put right back down, then lift other leg.
Starting form/alignment is key to keep in mind with all of these variations. Keeping hands under shoulders and hips aligned with your upper body will ensure you get the most bang for your buck strengthening-wise and also reduces possible risk of discomfort or injury!
Notice how each of these variations works a different part of the body a bit more! Which variation is the easiest for your kiddo? Which one appears to be the most challenging? This can be a whole-family work out – completing these with your kid will help you get in a bit of core work for your day and can also be more motivating!