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When the вЂњChicago TribuneвЂќ asked three master trainers and fitness instructors to name the simplest and most effective exercises for getting in shape, the plank and pushup topped the list. These straightforward body-weight exercises work the arms and encourage core control, endurance and flexibility. The pushup plank - also known as the вЂњplank-to-pushupвЂќ or вЂњplank-pushup comboвЂќ - combines the two exercises to provide the benefits of both.
Begin in the plank position, with your palms flat on the ground, forearms supporting your upper body so your arms form a 90-degree angle at the elbow, and your toes supporting your lower body. Keep your forearms shoulder-width apart, your spine straight and your eyes and fingers pointed straight ahead. Transition into the standard pushup position one arm at a time, straightening your arm while keeping your spine straight and arms shoulder-width apart. Return to the plank position one arm at a time to complete one repetition. Perform three or four sets sets of eight to 12 repetitions of the pushup plank. On each rep, alternate the arm you move first.
Muscles Targeted and Benefits
This combo exercise targets the triceps, chest, shoulders and abdominal muscles. Additionally, the exercise benefits the lower back, hip flexors and stabilizers and encourages a strong core. The pushup plank builds arm strength and increases shoulder mobility. If done in timed intervals, such as 20- or 30-second bursts, the pushup planks offers an intense cardio workout.
Warm up with a full-body loosening exercise, such as jogging or jumping rope, before your workout. When performing the pushup plank, keep your abdominal muscles tight and breathe regularly throughout the exercise. To maintain proper form, think of a straight line that extends from the back of your head to your ankles. Use an exercise mat under your arms to increase comfort and stability.
For increased challenge, hold the plank and pushup positions for about 10 to 30 seconds on each rep. To further build arm strength, try performing two or three pushups once you've transitioned into the pushup position before returning to the plank position. Transition into a close-hand placement for pushups that target shoulders, or form a diamond with your pointer fingers and thumbs for pushups that work the triceps. Balancing your body on your knees rather than your toes offers a less challenging variation of the exercise.