No Pool? No Gym? No Weights? Body Weight Workout 4/5
So your local pool is shut, and your local sports shop is all out of home training equipment. Sound familiar? In recent weeks steepers, spin bikes, dumbbells, resistance bands and any other home gym equipments have been flying off the shelves at an alarming rate. But, you don’t always need all the latest gear and gadgets to get a good workout, infact, sometimes you don’t need anything at all!
So, before you resort to practicing your technique in the bath; take a look at our guide to 5 body weight only exercises brought to you by one of our very own, Megan, who is a qualified personal trainer and also a qualified swim instructor. These exercises are sure to help keep your fitness coming on swimmingly this year! So over to you Megan…
For a standard plank, you will want to begin in a front support position. The hands should be planted into the ground directly under shoulders and slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The toes should be grounded into the floor. Use the glutes and abs to stabilize your body; you should feel as though you are being pressed between 2 planes of glass. You should be able to feel your legs working too, but be careful not to lock or hyperextend your knees.
Throughout the exercise ensure that your head is in line with your back. Your spine should be neutral, with the eyes looking down and about a foot in front of the hands. the back should be completely flat. It’s very easy, when performing a plank for the back to drop (creating an arch towards the lower back), or for the hips to pike (causing the bottom to ‘stick up’ towards the ceiling). It can therefore be a good idea to do a plank with a friend or partner who can check your form, or somewhere where you can check for yourself (i.e a mirror.)
For beginners, aim to hold the position for around 20 seconds. As you get stronger and more comfortable in the position, you can extend the time (a full minute is a pretty good benchmark). Be careful, when holding for prolonged periods, not to compromise on form, and to maintain steady, even breaths.
REGRESSIONS & PROGRESSIONS
A regression of the standard plank is to perform a knee plank. This involves lowering the knees the the floor (or for comfort a mat or towel) but keeping the hips level and body extended to maintain core engagement. A more difficult regression (not much easier than standard plank) is the forearm plank. This is the plank variation you probably see the most often. Rather than supporting the body on just the hands, place your forearms on the floor. Ensure that your elbows are aligned below the shoulders and keep your arms parallel to your body. The arms should be about shoulder width apart, and it is best practice to have the palms of the hands flat on the floor.
To progress from the standard plank you can attempt a single leg plank variation. Removing one point of contact from the floor removes stability from your plank, and thus increases the demands on the core. To safely perform a single leg plank, once you have achieved plank position, raise one leg towards the ceiling, while keeping the hips level and parallel to the floor. Raise the leg as high as you can without compromising the flat back position. Alternate legs (for example 15 seconds each leg). A progression from a single leg plank is the Superman plank. Here, one leg and the opposite arm are removed from the floor and extended away from the body. This further point of contact being removed again decreases stability and thus increases the demands on the core muscles.
The plank is an ideal all over abdominal and core workout. Why? Because, when performing a plank, all of the major core muscle groups are engaged; including the transverse abdominus (front and side abdominal wall, below the obliques) the rectus abdominus (central abdominal muscles six pack abs), the oblique muscles (at the sides of the abs), and the glutes.
For swimmers, core strength and stability are an absolute must. Unlike in other sports, swimmers have to generate power without pushing off a hard surface, such as a pedal or the ground. The core is therefore crucial for supporting the large groups of muscles that swimmers use to power themselves through the water! A strong core is also a must for improving technique and efficiency in the water. The stronger the core, the easier it is to maintain a strong, streamlined position in the water. The better the body position, the less drag on the swimmer, thus the swimming will be faster and more efficient.
The side plank is an excellent move for focusing on the obliques (the muscles at the side of the body) that are often missed in other abdominal exercises (such as crunches). The side plank is also a great way of strengthening the quadratus lumborum, which is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. Located in the lower back, research suggests that strengthening the QL leads to a much lower risk of back pain and ongoing back problems. The side plank is performed starting on your side with either the palm of the hand or the forearm flat on the floor. Contract the core muscles and raise the hips, until the body is in a straight line from head to feet. Your weight should be balanced on the side of one foot and either your hand or forearm. Ensure that the abdominals are engaged at all times.
Side Star Plank
This is the side plank variation of the single leg or superman plank. Start by coming into your side plank position. The raise the top leg and top arm and extend them until your body makes a position resembling a star. The limbs raised away from the body remove soe stability from your side plank position, thus increasing the demands on the core.
This is a plank that involves some movement, raises the heart rate a little, and works on that explosive power. Start in a standard plank position, on the palms of you hands and your toes. Then ‘jack’ the feet out (in a jumping jack (star jump) action) and jack them back in again. Jacking the feet, while trying to maintain a flat and stable plank position, means that the core muscles have to work harder to stabilise you.
This variation is particularly good for the muscles in the lower back, as well as the hamstrings and glutes. Place your hands on the floor behind you. The palms should be flat, with the fingers spread to assist with balance and stability. The hands should be positioned both slightly behind and slightly wider than your hips. Press the palms of the hands into the floor and push up with the hips and torso to raise the body. The body should align from the head to the toes, with straight legs, and the eyes looking towards the ceiling.