Class #4278

All The Planks

55 min - Class


Karen Sanzo uses props to help you improve your planks in this episode of Power of Props with Karen. She opens with encouraging words before going into detailed tutorials and anatomy, then puts it all together in a sequence she frequently uses that consists of gently mobilizing the spine and feeding the front, side, and back body. Finding a connected plank creates trunk forces that will build core awareness so that you can more easily access advanced exercises. She uses a Reformer Box for some movements, but you can use an ottoman or other lower surface.
What You'll Need: Mat, Wall, Table Chair, Reformer Box

About This Video

Dec 10, 2020
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How do we help? How do we create a saner world or a saner situation or job situation, wherever we may be? How do we work with our actions and our speech and our minds in a way that opens up the space rather than close it down? In other words, how do we create space for other people and ourselves to connect with our own wisdom? How do we create a space where we can find out how to become more a part of this world we are living in and less separate and isolated and less afraid?

How do we do that? It all starts with loving kindness for oneself, which in turn becomes loving kindness for others. Today's session is all the planks. And the first part of the session's gonna be more tutorial-like, and some explanations with some anatomy and some things like that. Then at the end, we'll put it together into a format that I actually teach several of my patients, several of my clients, to go through in preparation for more advanced series.

So what I'd like to start with is an understanding of the side of the body, because when we think of the word plank, or when we first hear it, oftentimes we think of a very traditional plank position hands and knees, arms out. But we're gonna start with a side plank. We're gonna start with waking up the obliques in the torso that include your external obliques, your internal obliques, also the quadratus lumborum and the side of the hip muscles. If you don't know what all those muscles are, don't worry, just follow along and we'll create it here. We're gonna start first against the wall.

And the reason why I'm using the wall and standing is I'm gonna create an angle in my torso. And I'm gonna look at my hand, and attempt to have my hand come directly out of my shoulder, and just have my other arm down by my side. Two legs are squeezing together. What I want you to notice here is that as I push my hand into the wall, I'm also pulling my hand down to the floor. Because that isometric pull of my arm down to the floor will create a side connection here on the underside of my torso.

What I want you to be aware of here is we're not going to side bend like this, or make a rainbow like that. Because first to create the stability of the spine, we want to have very little movement in the lateral flection position. So as a different type of exercise for mobility, that might change. But what we're talking about today, initially, are all the plankings. So again, I'm holding this.

My arm is getting tired. My shoulder is getting tired. The underside of my torso is fully engaged. Take my arm out to the side, like a T. Holding it there, pushing my two arms away from each other.

Take my top leg, lift it up. Now in this position right here, I am fully engaged in all sides of my torso on the left, which is my underside, and my side buttocks on the right. The leg comes down. We'll bring the arm down. We come in.

It's more important to hold that load for several sets of like 10 to 15 seconds, rather than try to side bend 25 times or something like that. Getting the load creates the force for the plank. Here we go again. Hand on the wall, step myself out. Depending on how far you step, it's fine.

Do you know that you could also do this leaning against the ladder barrel, if the ladder barrel were to be here? And then it would take the shoulder directly out of it, if somebody had a shoulder issue. So again, in this position here, I'm gonna work really hard to be level on both sides of my torso. I'm gonna hold this here. And now I'm gonna stagger my legs, taking my right leg in front, and pressing both my arms away.

I'm gonna take my plank to a front plank. But I'm not gonna let the pelvis be the boss. I'm gonna let my torso do the oblique action up here, so it looks like this. I take my arm. I start to rotate my thoracic spine.

You'll see my thoracic spine is leading. Then to the plank on both of my hands against the wall. I push my hands down to the floor to create that flection force in front of my torso. I'm going to the other side, moving my hand to the middle, much like I would do on the mat. Turning my torso to the other side, being very mindful that I'm not side bending my torso.

I hold this here. I push my hand against the wall, down, the crown of my head long. No tucking. Everything is all lifted and lengthened. I'm coming back to the full plank.

Don't underestimate the power of this leading with the thorax. There's not much trunk rotation. I'm trying to get one of my anterior oblique slings to help me rotate my thorax forward. And then here I am here into my plank. Bringing it back up from there.

Now that might be really easy for you and you're practicing, but as you get tired in another plank, don't hesitate to come back to this one. Still builds up the trunk in the same way. Again, in a planking series, we're not moving the spine. We're holding the forces on the spine. How do we progress this?

Well, we can come down to a chair. And then we could also come to the box. I'm gonna demonstrate it there because I think it's really important now that you see I can come to my forearm here. I'm gonna take my hand, now that I'm here, I'm gonna take my top arm and I'm gonna put it on the cap of my shoulder. So that as I come up into this side plank with my front leg in front, I'm actually kind of pulling on this arm here.

This would be the basic, then to the side. Then up, we hold right here. We stack the arms. I have a slippery chair. And then maybe we lift the top leg up, maybe we don't.

I'm not. And then I bring myself all the way down and rest there. That starts to prepare us for sidekick kneeling and the mat work. We're going to do this same plank again, and we'll rotate it around to the front plank, and then a side plank on the other side. My chair is a little bit slippery.

That's okay. If I slip it's okay. But you could put a sticky mat on there or something. Okay. So, from here, I'm gonna bring myself out to the plank, top leg in front. Taking my top arm, I'm gonna twist my chest, not dropping my head, but twisting my chest.

Both arms meet in the middle. Woo, I get that front plank feeling. I turn my torso. Oopsie. I was starting to lead with the pelvis being boss. But it's the thorax that's the boss, the thorax.

And then I hold my other arm up. I hold, maybe you can lift the top leg, maybe not. I take myself, leading with my thorax, down to the chair again. Holding right here, bringing myself all the way down. Turning around.

So, in that exercise there, torso leading the movement to change from side plank to front plank. Not really rotating the lumbar spine, but changing the forces on the trunk, maintaining the pushing down with your arms. So I'm gonna move this chair outta the way. And then, just to show you one more. We have our box here.

So maybe you have a box, or you can, sometimes I like to do a lot of box work next to the reformer, so it gives people some mat work. So coming to the forearm. Hands on the hip. I can take my top hand, put it on that shoulder. I come up.

I hold here. I press down on my arm, taking my arm up to the ceiling, pressing down with my bottom arm, up with my top arm. I can stack the legs. Maybe I can lift it. Whew. Maybe I can.

But I can't, 'cause it dips me in the pelvis, and I wanna keep the force, you can hear it in my voice. And then I come in, and then I come down. Okay, then we're gonna do that on the floor. Okay, so on the floor now. On the floor, forearm down.

Top hand on the shoulder, pulling it down. I'm gonna start this exercise here. Now, what's important here is this is the best position, well, other than standing, that I like to call spine sparing, which means it's not gonna put a lot of force on the spine. But you wanna be sure that your thighs are a little bit in front of you so that your hips are flexed. Okay?

So that when you come up, you're actually using a hip hinge. So you lift up by pressing the bottom knee down. Lift up into your side plank, and then push your pelvis forward. Pushing your pelvis forward doesn't mean you arch your back. It means you fully engage your thighs.

And then the arm comes up. Maybe I can take my top leg out, but I'm still pressing my bottom knee down to get the lateral side of my bottom knee. I come back in, I lower down, I rest right there. So in that position, you can really feel the pressing down of that bottom knee to get the lateral side of the hip. Oftentimes in a side plank, many people who don't have a lot of strength in their upper body, they think, "Oh, my upper body's weak.

I'm never gonna do this," but you have to build it. It takes time. It takes patience. Remember, it's part of the practice. I've said that for a long time. Now let's take this side plank and turn it to the front, and then turn it to the other side.

So I come down. Knees are bent, hips flexed forward. And I took a good 30 to 45 seconds while I was rambling there, in between here, to rest. My top hand goes right here on my shoulder. I press down with my knees, lift up, push my pelvis forward.

I'm gonna hold right there. Now on this one, I'm just gonna take my upper shoulder blade, and start to twist my torso down, and then bring it back up. So I'm keeping this straight line all the way down, rotating my trunk a smidge around the access. So I'm not gonna turn all the way to my front body, but I'm going to keep the pelvis not the boss. So my upper trunk starts to twist, and now I feel this anterior oblique sling.

And then I come back up, and then I rest down. I'm gonna do one on the other side, just because I was demonstrating there. Force of habit there. So now, on this forearm plank, forearm is down. Knees are bent. Top arm up.

And then I'm gonna put it right on top of the cap of the shoulder and push it down. Lift up, push the pelvis forward, staying long. Top leg out, bottom leg out. Now my side plank is a long plank. And now I can start to twist my upper torso, not the pelvis.

And I'll pause with both arms in this forearm position right here. Now in this position, I'm pulling my forearms towards my pelvis. And then I'm gonna, oopsie. Look at me lead with the pelvis. I need to lead with the trunk.

We're gonna do all the rollings in one of these series. Hold right here. This arm goes up. Maybe you stack the legs, maybe you don't. Most important thing is try to keep your trunk level.

Coming down. And then come down, and then bring yourself back up. All right. So that builds our side plank. Whew, I feel myself out of breath a little bit.

So, as we build that, part of the challenge, let me catch my breath. Part of the challenges in this plank is to then breathe in the plank shape, whether it's side, front, or back, and we'll get to all of those, and to challenge that full stability component of the core with the breath. Because sometimes breathing, like inhalation in and of itself, you know, is an extension force. So what we wanna be careful of in a plank is to breathe, and to throw our spine into extension. So as we hold these planks in all these different positions, we're gonna practice with the breath.

And we'll put that into play in the last part of this session here, where I take you through several exercises and kind of incorporate them in, and talk to the spine and things like that. Never, ever underestimate the power of the breathing fundamentals and their importance in spinal stability and core strength. All right? So we did side plank, we did a little bit of front plank, but we haven't done back plank. So I'm gonna come back up to standing.

And now, let's look at back plank for a second. Against the wall, I'm gonna move this out of the way here. So, you know, the wall is a prop, just like the chair. And sometimes regressions can be seen as a prop of some sort. Because a regression, to me, is how I better access the exercise, both for myself, depending on where I am on any given day, and for my clients.

So, I'm gonna take my legs a little further away from the wall. My arms in this arm back position. You know, a back plank starts with a good neutral bridge. Right? So we know that that's a fundamental. So now as I press my arms against the wall, look, if I bend my elbows, it really makes me push my entire upper arm against the wall.

If my palms can come down, fine. If your hands do this, then your forearms and elbows are tight, okay? So we're gonna push yourself against the wall. And then as I push against the wall, I'm gonna start to lift my chest. My head's gonna stay there for a second.

And then I'm gonna breathe in without changing the shape of my spine. And then blow out without changing the shape of my spine. And then bring myself back. Simple? Maybe. Easy? Not so much.

Staying connected? Yes. Okay, so to get the motor units going, oh my goodness, this is turning into a little student lecture here but, to get our motor units going we need good visualization. We need good input to the muscles. Arms press, legs tight. Press your arms into the wall. Push the wall away.

Pull your belly up. Push the wall away some more. Push the wall away some more. Push the wall away some more. My head is now up off of the wall. Now my whole back body is engaged.

Whew. Then my head comes back. Then my trunk comes back. Never resist learning a back plank against the wall. I encourage it. Press the arms, tighten the thighs.

One more time. I'm gonna press my arms. Keep my back body connected. Reach my fingers into the wall. I'm gonna lift my chest so much.

Here comes my head. Just a smidge. I tighten my legs. Head goes back. Ribs go back.

Front goes back. We rest right there. Okay? So that's a really good way to get the back plank. We've already talked about the front plank. Just a quick review.

Just real quick, 'cause the chair's not here. I can take my front plank out further. I can lower raise my heels. But what's the connection I'm trying to make here? Frontline connection, hands push to the floor, that way.

So that that creates the front of the trunk, as I raise my heels up and down. I can do a knee lift. I can do a leg lift. I can do a leg kick. We've already done the thorax rotation to each side.

Okay? So all those can be against the wall. Building on that idea now of a front plank on the chair, we see a lot of fun things that come with things like mountain climbers, you know, where you use the disc and sliding in and out. Those are great exercises. You could actually do those disc exercises leveled up. Okay? So that you're not fully face down.

And that way, they're still a challenge, but they're successful to a level where it needs to be. So I don't have discs here, and I have a sticky mat on the ground. But the next thing I want to talk about is the front plank. So in this front plank position, the weight-bearing is through my radius bone, which is above my thumb. So you don't wanna let your arm go out like this because that's, you can't cue yourself out of that.

So you have to push down, and pull your front belly up. Now in this position here, say I got tired. Watch. I can put my feet down. I can still pull my belly in. I'm still relatively in neutral, I hope.

As I pull this chair towards me, I create a frontline connection. So, to raise your plank is a better modification than to sag your plank. Okay? So don't think that this is level. So it's better to raise your plank, meaning take these front ribs up towards your back ribs, not into a rounded cat shape, but to a holding position here. Then I can take that whole shape and take it forward over my shoulders without sagging into an extension force of the spine.

Because this front plank is about the front of your trunk. Well, it's about your whole trunk, but you're creating this connection through your arms and your shoulders. And then we come back, and then come up. So, in that front plank position, real important to stay connected with your arms to the trunk, much like you were pulling your arms down. So going on from here to challenge this, keeping in my front plank, my feet are out, I'm gonna separate them apart.

Makes my pelvis feel just a little bit better. And now I'm gonna hold this, and I'm gonna take one knee in and hold it. So now it has hip flection, challenging my spine to do this, round, but I'm not gonna do that. Then it comes back. Reengage front plank, other leg comes in, not rounding the spine, goes back out.

Other knee comes in, hold, and goes back out. Left knee comes in, hold, and goes back out. And then stop from there. And that would come into your mountain climber, or your legs running in, up and down to each other. Now we have seen in the past an exercise where the knee comes into the chest and the spine does round.

That's fine. And that's just a trunk flection action. Okay? But what we wanna create first is this understanding of the importance of the plank and the spine to relatively monitor and stay in control. I use that term loosely. Okay. So, front.

We did the side on the elbow because the chair was slippery. And now back. So now in this back plank position, sure my microphone is good. So, this chair right here is a little narrow for my hips here. I mean, I can sit on and stuff.

So I'm gonna take my hands, I don't know if you can see, I'm gonna put 'em on the edge of the chair. Okay? So that my hands are pressing down. Remembering that the back plank is about your back, and it's about how your arms connect to your back. Okay so, I'm gonna take my hands and press them down into the sides of the chair. I'm barely gonna let my butt slide off.

Now in this position here, it's my arms pressing down, deep pressing my shoulder blades. Elbows are straight. My triceps are working. My lats are working. My shoulder depressors are working.

I hold. My feet are pressing down. I don't move my head. And then I sit back on the chair, and rest right there. So, you can guess how the progression will go from here. So, I press down.

My belly is connected. My front ribs aren't arched. I start to crawl myself out. Now, this is what wants to happen, but I have to depress my shoulders and lift the chest, reach my toes to engage my glutes and my thighs, and I hold this. I am not lifting a leg because I am happy right here with all the connections that I have.

And then I come back and I have a seat and sit down. Whew. And then you can lift a leg. That turns into leg pull face up. So, in this back plank with a chair elevated, it lets me feel my arms better, almost harder to lift the legs. When I'm on the ground and I keep my back plank pieces engaged and happy, might be easier to lift the leg.

I don't know. Is the goal to lift the legs? It could be, if your spine knows how to manage the load in unilateral work, because we want safety for that spine at all costs. All right. So now, I'm gonna take this chair out of the way. I'm gonna take this box out.

Now we'll go from here. So, you might've seen something like this on a reformer or something, in a chair, the tricep press and all these things here, but the most important thing right here, as I barely slide my bottom off of the box, I'm gonna keep my shoulder blades depressed, gonna barely uchie off, and I'm gonna hold. Now, as I dip down, that's my shoulder blade shrugging. And then I'm gonna un-shrug them, or activate them, pushing my feet out, lifting my butt, squeezing my blades. When my arms are behind my back my blades get to squeeze together.

And then I come back. I step down. I bring myself back on the box. Okay? So really important to create that back plank. We do leg pull face down in a front plank position. We do leg pull face up in a back position.

We have all sorts of fancy challenges on the reformer, and stuff like that. So now I'm gonna use the box in a different type of planking. Still planking. So now I'm gonna do, remember the back plank against the wall with the legs straight? Well, now we're gonna do the back plank, or a bridge if you will, same idea.

I'm gonna make sure that my heels are on the box. So, in this position here, I'm gonna flex my feet and push down. I'm just gonna lift up enough so that it lifts up my chest. And then I'm gonna like, crease my hips and come down. I'm not going to do an articulatory bridge right here. Okay?

So I'm gonna do a tight, a tight thigh, pressing down on my legs and down on my arms and down on my upper humerus bones, as I lift up. I'm gonna hold right here. Back body exercise, not pushing my spine real high, but opening my chest, and then lower down. The top phase of the exercise called parakeet, or feet on the bar, would be the same thing. As the legs come out and up, you lift the pelvis.

Oftentimes we do this. We just, we push, we push the pelvis, and we think that that, well, I don't think it ever looks like that, but anyway, you understand what I'm saying. So one more time. Press your feet with me, either on a chair or on the box. Doesn't matter how high you lift, but it matters that your navel's pulled in, your front ribs to your back ribs are in a nice connected position, and then we lower ourself all the way down.

All right. Now. If we have a regression of planks, then we have a progression of planks. So, now we're gonna use the box as a lever for our feet. Mm-hmm. So now I'm gonna take this against the wall.

Be sure it doesn't move. And now in my plank, I'm gonna be on my, oh, let me take this second here and show you what I mean by the hand business, okay? So here's my two arms out in front. If I flex my palms backwards, wrist extension, right? And I put them down on the mat.

Okay, a lot of times what happens is, we wanna try to turn this arm way far out, and it makes too much kind of mobility here. And so we need to have this radius bone, which is the bone right under your thumb. And that's where that weight-bearing needs to take it. You know how when we stand on our feet and we say how important that big toe joint is? Well, it's the same thing in the hand.

You want the weight to be under your thumb, and like, your first finger there. Okay. Lotta wrist information going down here. But for now, that's enough of that. So what you wanna be sure and monitor here is that you don't get like this. You see how that's kind of a collapsed shoulder, and a elbow bent.

So you really wanna push that floor away. And you wanna stay with your blades happily on your back. So we'll start here. So, my hands are gonna be a little bit further in front of me so that when I come up, my body weight will indeed be over my hands. So keeping my hands here, I'm gonna take a foot up on the box here, and the other foot up on the box.

And so now in this position, you'll notice here that now, whew, this is a lotta work for my upper body. I'm gonna hold and breathe, maintaining, 'member the modification is, I can lift my bottom a little bit and still stay corely connected, versus sagging. I'm not even gonna demonstrate sagging, because it's too dangerous. And then I'm gonna come down, and then come down. Now, in this position, you can also do knee to chest and knee press out.

Okay, let's just give it a try. If your feet are on a chair and the chair is high, be careful for your hands, okay? If you wanna come off the prop or the chair and just be on the floor, that of course is fine. I take turns starting with a different leg. Before I lift up this bottom leg, I best be corely connected, and then I lift it.

Then I can pull one knee, pull the other knee. Pull one knee, pull the other knee, come down, come down, and pause. You'll notice that in between these planks, I'm not like rounding my spine or extending my spine because I'm building a planking awareness, and I don't kinda want to erase it. I don't really know if there's a such a thing, but I ascribe to that. And I think that in the case of this tutorial, it's real important that we work the planking forces.

Okay? And I like to create that stability first. Sideways. Oh my gosh. Now, in this sideways plank, with my, it's actually called a Copenhagen plank, with my top leg on the box, it's gonna be the A-D ductor of the top leg. This is really hard. Give a shout out to, oh I probably shouldn't shout out to anybody.

Okay. Anyway, I know who's gonna really like this one. Okay so, you'll notice here that I'm kind of not in a plank yet. So as I press down and lift up, now I gotta take the bottom leg and lift it up, and then put it down. Whew. I'm gonna take my top arm up. Okay. I'm gonna hold it here.

Actually, I gotta move this shoulder 'cause it's a little too far underneath me. So I start with the arm a little bit away, so that when I come up, my shoulder is indeed over the arm. Please, please, please, don't ever come into a side plank by pushing down with your front arm, because then you lose the ability to get into the plank. So let's take this arm, let's put it on this shoulder. We've already been here before.

Pressing down this leg on the box, I lift up. I take my bottom leg, I lift it up. Hold for five, four, three, two, one. Whew, I'm counting that fast. Don't drop your chin.

Chest in line with the spine. Lift five, four, three, two, one. Oh my goodness. Plop. Not easy. (laughs) Okay. Any variation you wanna do from there, side body awareness, plank.

Let's do it on the other side. You can see it from the back. Not a bad idea. Feel free to tell me if I'm uneven. But hey, we're goin' for the force here.

May the force be with you. Right? All these good forces on the spine. I'm gonna take my top arm, I'm gonna cup it around my shoulder. Oh, this is already gonna be harder, I can feel it. I need to press down with my top leg.

Oh. Oh, ah. Rest. I'm gonna do one more. Don't dip, Karen. Don't dip. Mm. Ooh, let's just lift a foot up, and then a knee.

Whew. And then rest right there. Okay so, you can lift something up, or you can take pressure off of something if it won't lift up all the way, to just create and maintain those forces within your torso. Again, just to regroup, I think it's so important that we create this side body awareness in our torsos earlier on in our pilots repertoire. Because, by the time we get to an advanced exercise like side bend or seated twist, the arms haven't had a lotta weight-bearing and stuff. So let's be sure, through our fundamentals, we create the opportunity to create a front plank, a side plank, and a back plank.

And, probably could, you know, develop tons more to get all through that. So, that's what I have on my planking, because everything else, like the leg pull, the pulse pulls, and the kick kick, and the lifting of legs, those are all advancements and progressions that come from the place of understanding your shoulder and your blade placement and things like that. So what I'd like to do now, for the last 20 minutes or so, is take you through a little program. I was gonna do this at the very beginning, but I'm gonna do it at the end since we've already talked about our planks. And, so this will create a nice little connection through your body.

It's something I have, that I do on a regular basis. Keeps my spine happy, keeps my trunk happy. All right. So I'm gonna move all this out of the way. And you're gonna move all your props out of the way as well. Okay.

So, here we go. We're gonna start this exercise now. We're leaving the idea of planks. We've created our plank understandings and stuff. So when I talk about the position of your shoulders and your wrists, you're already there.

So in this program now, this is a morning program for me. Okay? I do cat-cow, but I want you to listen to something. So this cat-cow is not necessarily a stretching exercise. Okay? It's more of a motion exercise, meaning that you want your body, and this viscous fluid in your spine, to be able to go in all these different directions.

I do this about six to eight times. My knees are pretty much under my pelvis, and I'm not trying to get a big tuck or a big hump in my back. I'm just going through this activity to tell my spine that it's okay to flex and extend. I never take it, if it's a morning of pain, I never take it to a point of pain. My arms are fully engaged.

I'm weight-bearing into my shins. I'm weight-bearing under the thumbs through my radius bone. I pause. Now, the next exercise is I take my knees apart on the mat. And with my knees apart on the mat, I'm not gonna cat and cow.

I'm just going to mobilize hips back and return. Now mobilizing hips back doesn't mean that I get to dump my trunk. Dump my trunk, I don't think I've ever said that. So as I take my hips back and forth, I'm getting this mobility deep. Do you see how this is almost a squat position?

Or, you know, when you're at the edge of the tower and you're sitting back, and then come forward. Then I maybe will go over to one diagonal. And then the other diagonal. I'm gonna do two more. I'm not overemphasizing an extended spine, but I'm overemphasizing core connection as I rock my pelvis back and forth without rounding the spine.

Okay? Then I'm gonna come up to my knees. And, you all know by now that one of these starts to be my favorite. So I'm gonna, basically, you know, the lunge. And then I'm gonna take my other knee down, and then come down. I'm gonna do this several times, taking turns with one of my legs, making a notice of which leg is happier, just to notice, not being mad at it.

And do this three to four times. Trying not to lean too far forward, because your ability to keep this corely connected while you stand up and down is really important. So after I do that for my hips, gonna turn over onto my back and lie down, preparing now for anterior core exercises. Now, we're gonna get to the bird dog, okay, which is a face-down position. But what I want you to do here, is I want you to think of this exercise, some people call it a dead bug, core connected, neutral spine, knees are not past 90.

We've done other classes where we change things up a bit, and that's fine. But for right now, my thighs are pretty much directly over my hips. Hands to the ceiling with a fist. So I'm gonna call this bird dog in supine. Also, we call it opposite arm and leg reach, and then return.

Opposite arm and leg reach, return. Now, opposite arm and leg reach at a diagonal, and then return. Opposite arm and leg reach at a diagonal, and return. Opposite arm and leg reach at a diagonal, make a circle with the opposite arm and leg, as we challenge this anterior trunk connection. Then return.

On the other side, opposite arm reach at a diagonal. Make that fist. It informs your arm. Reach through that heel. It informs the leg.

We come back, the knees come in, the feet come down. Try not to curl your spine. Arms down. Bridging up in a neutral bridge. Sorry, got my wire here. In this neutral bridge. When I come down, it's like a karate chop at the hip.

It just comes down. Arms down, lift up, come down. So I'm looking to lift almost my entire spine up to my thorax. So I'm not gonna drop my chin, but I'm gonna raise my chest. I'm gonna hold this here.

And then I'm gonna drop down. Anterior trunk connection, alternating arms and legs. Now, I get to create trunk flection against load. I do my cervical neck, meaning my deep neck flexors. I look down towards my chest, towards my knees.

I keep that, and then I curl the trunk. And I'm gonna stay here for three breaths. This of course would become the hundred beats, and we would challenge the breath. But just for the sake of what I currently do, I just want you to see how hard it is to hold and breathe. And then when you come down, put your chest down and then the back of your throat, and then your eyes look up at the ceiling.

Inhale again. Chin nods, deep neck flexors. Then I hold that. And then my trunk curls up over my ribs. My ribs are kind of corely connected to my pelvis.

I lift the legs up, corely connected. I hold here. Whew, I'm quivering. (breathing deeply) Lower down. Lower chest.

Lower face. Lower trunk. Now, the anterior line of that flection connection is going to turn into the abdominal series. We'll do a couple of each. Okay so, here we go.

Neck. Trunk. Legs. Reach, reach. (breathing deeply) Trying to keep the trunk held inflection, pause.

Reach, circle, hug. So it's more important here to lift your upper body than it is to pull that lower body, to maintain this connection. I mean, we can certainly pull the lower body, and we certainly do that in other exercises, but for today, we're really working this upper trunk curl flection connection. Lower down, rest. Whew. Okay, so that's our frontline.

So now, turning over. Okay, so now we're going to do, actually I think I'm gonna do my sideline. So I did trunk, and now here's where we're gonna bring in the side plank. Knees are in front, hand on the shoulder. Okay. And again, this is a morning routine, so I don't tend to do the most advanced version or 80 million repetitions, only takes about 20 minutes.

I'm gonna press up, pull my pelvis creases forward, opposite arm to the ceiling. And then we're gonna hold while we breathe three times. Inhale. (breathing deeply) Just a little message about mirrors. It's okay to check yourself in a mirror, occasionally.

But if you check yourself too much, you'll always rely on that, and then you won't be able to get the feeling. Okay so, it's okay to check yourself sideways in the mirror. I'm not gonna go to bat over that. But occasionally it's important to not do that. Okay. So we'll go to the other side.

Okay. So here we are, lifting, pressing the knees down. The hip creases here. Your pelvis lifts up, the hip creases go forward. The top arm goes up. Kind of make it directly in line with your shoulder.

And then take three breaths. (breathes deeply) And you can try to breathe in for five counts. (breathes deeply) And then, bring yourself all the way down. Alrighty, so now, and you could do that a couple more times, and you know, count, get the breaths in. But again, we're just repeating that pattern of what it means to be in that plank position.

Okay. So, in this here, I think I'm gonna turn around. Let me move this box, 'cause I think that changes like, what you can see. Okay. So in this position here. Actually, I think I'm gonna go back and do a couple more of these hip things because these actually have been kind of instrumental to me, because when I thought I was in neutral for the longest time I was so tucked. So now this is feeling a lot better to me over the years.

And even as I sit more during some times. Okay, so here we are, we're in this quadruped position, which is also a plank, okay. So we start with our opposite, let's just start with one leg. So let's take one leg out. Okay. We know this.

You'll either either really like this exercise or hate it. Okay. But let's change it to love. So, let's lift the leg and reach through the heel. Okay? And fire up your glute and your thigh without lifting it up a mile. So that you keep your core and don't dump into extension.

Then you take your other arm out. I'm gonna make up fist because that informs my whole upper back to stay up. To not hump, okay, and not extend. Whew, and just stay. That is one of my favorite exercises.

Other leg goes out, pressing down the shin, being mindful that we're trying not to dip the pelvis. We've already created this front body connection. So we're gonna reach the opposite leg out, pressing that heel long. Take your opposite arm out, make a fist. You'll notice that I'm neither looking up to the sky, or looking down, letting my head fall.

My two arms are active. My two legs are active. My core is active. I come all the way down. Now, just like we did with the supine opposite arm and leg, here we have bird dog, opposite arm and leg.

We hold, we fist. We reach the heel. We go on a diagonal. We make some shape, an oval, a circle, triangle. Seriously, write your name.

It is hard to keep the core connected while those two extremities do something else. That will also help build your plank. Opposite leg. Opposite arm with a punch, engage that arm. Engage your upper back.

So, it's your two extremities reaching away. Spine is long and strong. Then they go out to the, whoa, out to the sides, and then they circle. I'm gonna do a square. Trying to breathe deeply, even though it sounds like I'm shallow breathing.

And then we come down, and then we rest here. Now from this position, I'm gonna take my arms out in front of me, curl the toes. And now my body is fully ready to just come forward, stretch my legs, without over-changing anything. Now, as I wanna lift up, I can lift up as a rest, if you will. Okay? So my head is still in line between my arms.

And then when I come back down to plank, I'm not gonna move my arms in or out. I'm just gonna hold this plank. Not gonna sag. I'm just gonna hold. And then I'm gonna push up.

If you wanna turn this into some other exercise, you can, but we're not changing our arms. We're not changing the shape of the spine. We're just moving the hips. I can also move my hips this way, this way, this way. And then come down, sit yourself back, and bring yourself up.

So now, in that plank position in the front, we can go into opposite arm and leg reach in the full plank. I'm gonna give it a try. Don't know if it's gonna work today. So, but I'm happy with the way my back feels. I'm happy with the way my trunk feels for sure.

And I'm gonna try to lift both knees simultaneously. So even if you do this one leg out, other leg out, challenge yourself periodically. Leave your hands in place. Hop those two knees up, and pause. Okay.

One. Okay. That was a little bit. Two. Okay, three. There we go. Gotta get that, mm.

I'm gonna go back to just one, because I feel it better in my trunk when I do just one at a time. So that is a little sequence that I like to do in the morning. I'll be honest, two or three times a week. Again, getting the spine mobile, not necessarily going to your extremes of cat and cow. Then feeding the front body, feeding the side body, feeding the back body.

Oh, I forgot the final exercise. Feeding the back body is full back plank. Oh my goodness. This is hard. Okay so, I'm gonna sag for a second, and then I'm gonna come out of it.

My palms are gonna face forward, because that's the position that they need to be in. I lift the chest. (inhales deeply) I squeeze my shoulder blades, and then I fire up my bottom. I'm not gonna over-lift my butt because I'll get out of my core. So I'm gonna hold. If I lift my chest higher, my face can look up.

And then I come down, and release. (inhales) One more time. Here we go. So it's like the hip hinge, right? It's like the kneeling hip hinge. So I'm gonna leave my chest, leave my core, and then depress my blades to lift my chest.

Tighten up my legs, my knees, my thighs, my glutes to lift up, three breaths. (breathes deeply) Last one. And then come down. All right, I had fun teaching some planks, and then tying them together in the very end. I hope you enjoyed it as well. Be loving and kindful to yourself first, that will transpose to others.


Key Connections: The Power of Props


Amy S
Karen, thank you for your series of live videos.   You bring a smile to my day and my body:) 
Hi Karen where did you purchase your skeleton from please ?
Melissa R
Thank you! I think this is the best instruction I have ever received on planks! Look forward to trying more of your classes! Appreciated your reading as well.  
This is a wonderful and thorough class to inform my teaching of planks. Thank you so much! I always appreciate your classes.
Thank you Karen, I really like your simple and clear explanations. Very inspiring!
Loved this!  Thank you!
I loved the circles with spinal balance and dead bug!
Excellent teaching & cueing!

Sara M
Nice progressions to building planks. Really enjoyed.
Mary thanks Karen , you have got  great experience.
Many thanks, I like to much this video
Great progression
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