Plank with opposite arm and leg lift

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Plank with opposite arm and leg lift

The plank and its numerous variations work almost every muscle in the body, with the brunt being on the midsection. It challenges the core in a very unique way. Unlike most exercises that require some type motion (flexion or extension), the basic plank uses the core muscles as they were intended by Mother Nature: to stabilize the body.

There are several variations to the basic plank exercise. Plank with opposite arm and leg lift is just one of these variations. Simply holding a plank position is a tough workout for your core. However, plank with opposite arm and leg lift triples the difficulty by asking you to hold that position with one arm raised in front of your body and the opposite leg raised from the behind at the same time.

If your core is not suffi­ciently strong, your body will definitely start shaking after a few seconds of holding this advanced plank position. Do not worry, because the trembling will go away as you get stronger. You just have to practice more.

Why is this type of plank so challenging?

When you lift one arm or one leg off the floor, you’ve shifted your center of gravity, which offers a real and perhaps even dramatic challenge to your deep stabilizing muscles. The challenge from gravity is now asymmetrical, requiring a different strategy for coordinating those muscles, and requiring more strength on the side that’s lost one of its support structures.

You’ll also introduce a very basic dynamic component at this stage, since you’ll be changing the leg or arm that’s elevated while keeping your spine in its neutral zone. In the most advanced variation at this level, you’ll lift one arm and the opposite side leg simultaneously, giving you just two points of support.

Exercise Instructions: How to perform plank with opposite arm and leg lift?

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Get down on the ground on your hands and feet. Spread your fingers wide, pointing forward, and both arms symmetrical. Maintain your body straight, with the hips one inch above the line linking your feet and shoulders. Engage your abdominals at all times.

Plank with opposite arm and leg lift

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Get your balance first, then breathe in and lift your left arm and right leg at the same time. Keep them straight and parallel with the ground. If you lose your balance temporarily, hold the position until you regain it. Perform this exercise slowly, or you will lose your balance more often. Hold the top position for two seconds, and then switch sides in controlled manner. Repeat 20 times.

Plank with opposite arm and leg lift: Tips & Key Points

  • Keep your trunk steady throughout the entire movement.
  • Avoid swaying sideways and prevent spinal or hip rotation.

Muscles engaged

The plank with opposite arm and leg lift is much harder than it looks. It is an excellent strengthener of your core, shoulders and hips. Additionally, it improves your balance, coordination, and pa­tience. More specifically:

Strengthening your core does not mean that you just train your abdominals to get them to look pretty. The core means everything in the center of your body, such as the abdominals, obliques, and the lower back. You can strengthen each muscle group separately, but ultimately, the best and most functional way to strengthen your core is to do exercises that work everything in unity. Also, in many sports, all your body parts move at the same time.

Enhance core functionality and strength

We all want to have a nice lean midsection with defined abs. While the appearance of lean abs is appealing to the eye, the strength and functionality of the core is even more important. A strong core will allow transferring the power from your legs and hips to your upper body and arms; you will be hitting your shots in many sports with better balance and as a result with more precision and power. A strong core allows the joints, such as hips, knees, and shoulders, to load and work in harmony, and as a result, you will become a more powerful player, whatever your sport is.

Exercise Variations

There are a ton of plank variations that you can try out. Some of them are more intense and require greater strength and dexterity.

Plank progression: Reduced base of support

You would definitely not want to perform a plank for the first time by simultaneously lifting one arm and one leg off the floor. First, master a simple plank with all limbs in contact with the floor, and then advance to the next level plank – plank with arm extension and plank with only one leg extension. Only then you are well prepared to try performing plank with opposite arm and leg lift (lifting arm and opposite leg simultaneously).

(a) Progression exercise 1: Plank with leg lift

  • From the plank position, lift one leg so the toes are at least a few inches off the floor.
  • You can hold in that position for an entire set—60 to 90 seconds—and then do the second set with the other leg raised, or switch legs halfway through each set.

(b) Progression exercise 2: Plank with arm lift

  • You probably want to set up with your feet wider apart.
  • Lift one arm out in front of or diagonal to your torso.
  • Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch arms, and continue for 60 to 90 seconds.

This variation presents the first really big step up in difficulty. Doing a plank with one leg in the air isn’t that much harder than the basic exercise, but as soon as you lift an arm off the floor you’ll feel a complete shift in the way your core muscles work to balance your body.

Further reading

Top 10 plank exercise problems & mistakes. Find out how to solve most common problems you might encounter while performing this excellent core exercise for the first time.

Closing Thoughts

Planks may be one of the most popular core exercises of recent years. The reason for this is that not only does planking work your core but it also hits every muscle from your shoulders to your calves. To add difficulty, you can simultaneously lift your arm and the opposite leg. The opposite arm and leg lift requires very good rotational stability of the core.

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