Planking has quickly become a popular exercise for a reason: it’s simple yet effective as it requires little or no movement. By just balancing on your elbows and toe while properly bracing your abdominals, strength in the back, shoulder, arms, core, and glutes are developed. Planking for five minutes a day lets you have a full body workout, working multiple muscle groups. You can do it home or outdoor, too. For first timers, remaining in the position for two or more minutes can be challenging. To improve your plank time, practice doing the exercise several times by first holding the position for 10 seconds and a little longer as you progress.

It is important to note, though, that the planking position must be maintained with proper form to avoid injury and achieve maximum results. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach then lift your body by relying on your forearms (with your elbows bent 90 degrees beneath your shoulders) and your toes grounded on the floor.
  2. Get your feet close and keep your legs tight to keep pressure on your abdominal muscles.
  3. Don’t relax your buttocks, but at the same time, don’t lift it in the air too much.
  4. Most importantly, your back should be flat, not curved or arched.
  5. Don’t forget to focus on your breathing. This will not only oxygenate your muscles but will also serve as a distraction to help time pass quickly.

If you want to step up your plank game, try these tougher variations:

  1.  Planking with one leg up. Lift one of your legs up in the air while maintaining your position with the other.
  2.  Planking with one arm up. Maintain the position with one arm only.
  3.  Planking with a Swiss/stability ball. Rest your forearms on the ball and keep it from rolling out.
  4.  Side plank. Lie on your side and put your right elbow on your mat. With your left arm on your side or raised, lift  yourself up to form a plank. Repeat for the other side.