Fitness professionals call the exercise “plank” by many names, including “table top,” “ab bridge” and “hover.” There are many ways to do the same exercise, and many people have “rediscovered” this classic core builder. Unfortunately, while rehashing this gem, instructors tend to teach a harder version—which doesn’t always mean a better one. Pay attention to proper form, style and finesse, but don’t get caught in drill-like attention to details. Add the BOSU Balance Trainer into the mix and you add an extra measure of fun and challenge.
This exercise is one of my favorites because of the different levels of intensity that are possible. It is also a good choice for instructors who do not want to do dozens of crunches. This is just one way to train the core effectively—keeping it strong and not just “pretty.” Be sure to start with a properly inflated BOSU trainer, platform side up; this makes it easier to manipulate on a hard surface.
With the BOSU trainer in front of you, grab the handles and come up to the plank position, legs extended. Beginners can be on their knees. The head is directly over the center of the platform (over the inflation pin). Keep the back in good alignment, spine in neutral position, bellybutton pulled in. Watch for the key teaching points (see the sidebar). Hold this position for 15–30 seconds.
When participants can do 2–3 sets of the beginner-level move with proper form, make the exercise more challenging by going back into the plank position and then tilting the BOSU trainer forward and back. This will engage more core musculature, especially in the transverse abdominals. As your participants become stronger, you will see a greater range
of horizontal and lateral movement. Progress this move by tilting left and right, engaging the obliques. Carefully watch for good form.
This is the level where finesse comes into play. While in plank, raise one leg off the floor and extend it away from the torso. Slowly draw the knee into the chest, turn it under and move it across the body, extending the leg. Experienced participants will be able to hold this position for a few seconds. Reverse the move, alternate sides and hold for equal counts on both sides.
Sidebar: Key Teaching Points
- Some participants will not be able to engage their core. The lower abdominals will protrude, and participants will complain of low-back fatigue. Guide them to the proper correction.
- Watch for hyperextended elbows, which can put more stress on the shoulders.
- Cue participants not to let the hips drop, as this will compromise the low back.
- If participants experience shortness of breath and/or dizziness, they may be holding their breath. Instruct them to keep breathing while doing the exercise.
- Notice when one side is stronger or weaker than the other, and help make the correction.
- Train smart, not hard!
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