Fitness for women over 40 is different than what they experience in their 20s and 30s. Your body changes and so do your priorities. Planks are a gem of an exercise for a stronger core, especially after age 40.
It is not uncommon for women over 40 with weak core muscles to have back and posture problems, which can, in turn, lead to digestion problems. Performing planks correctly requires multiple muscle groups.
One of our most important fitness goals over age 40 is to involve as many muscle groups as possible so that we can kick up our metabolism.
When it comes to fitness for women over 40, we need to make sure our exercise sessions are true metabolism boosters. A plank does more than just strengthen your core. If done with maximal effort and in true form, you will be burning significant energy stores.
A true plank requires the hips, lower back, and shoulders as well as the abdominal muscles to work together.
A strong core is a natural brace for your spine and minimizes the risk for back issues. Planking also improves shoulder stability. Maintaining and improving shoulder stability is important as we age because we naturally lose strength due to changing hormones, and the result can be poor posture and shoulder ailments.
Who doesn’t want to be able to carry her best purses and pop her own luggage into the overhead compartment on flights?
The following is a mental checklist of how to cue your mind-muscle connection to get the most benefit out of planks.
Hint: start at the bottom and work up, and don’t be shy about speaking these prompts out loud. Begin by assuming a rigid body position, forearms* on floor or hands* or forearms on a ball.
- Pull your heels away from your head elongate the back of your body, and feel a stretch in your calves
- Pull your knees up by contracting your thighs hard
- Squeeze glute cheeks hard
- Visualize your hips being neutral avoid spiking the butt up or sagging the low back
- Brace your abdomen hard …as if you are about to get punched, and pull your ribs down
- Pack your shoulders down with your ribs and away from your ears tightly (Don’t wear your shoulders like earrings)
- Avoid pushing the floor away by pushing through your shoulders. (This mistake is very common in long hold plank attempts)
- Hold tight with a conscious effort: contract all muscles as you imagine you are balancing a heavy bar along your spine.
If you can hold this for longer than 20 seconds, you are not engaging all your muscles with maximum effort.????
Try doing multiple sets of 20 second holds with 15-20 second rests**.
Begin with three sets and work up to six. Do these 3-4 times per week as part of your warm-up or as a finisher. We use them as part of our warm up, and the ladies are always amazed at the increase in heart pump from multiple short highly focused planks.
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*For a forearm plank position shoulders directly over elbows, so that your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor.
*For a hands-on floor or ball plank, position shoulders directly over hands so that your arms are perpendicular to the floor.
** My favorite interval app for workouts is the Tabata Pro. It is available on IOS and Android.
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