Kayla Itsines Shared a "Game-Changing" Tip for Your Next Plank Workout
It's all about your breathing, baby.
When it comes to workout moves, there's no question about the effectiveness of planks — whether you love 'em or hate 'em, the full-body exercise fires up the muscles in your core, lower body, and upper body, helping to strengthen your posture even when you're off the mat. But if you find holding this static pose to be, well, a snoozefest, SWEAT trainer Kayla Itsines just shared a tip that's so simple, you'll wonder how you never came up with it yourself.
In an Instagram post, Itsines said she's been getting tons of questions from her SWEAT fitness community on how to "level up" their workouts — especially those that involve planks. "This tip is GAME CHANGING for your planks!" Itsines continued in the caption. "I learned this after I had Arna and have been using it ever since. 🙌" (Related: Kayla Itsines Launched a New Zero-Equipment Program to Make Your At-Home Workouts As Simple As Possible)
In a video accompanying the post, Itsines demonstrated her plank tip, which is all about focusing on the breath. Once you're in your plank position, she explained, "breathe in through your nose, and when you blow out through your mouth, I want you to do it so hard."
If you look carefully at the video, you can see Itsines' abs tense up as she breathes out through her mouth. "My core is so engaged, it's so on, and I just keep doing that: in through your nose, out through your mouth," she explained. "As you do that, you can watch your stomach, your core, engage and tense, and it makes planks go so much faster, and it's so much more effective."
Of course, most people are naturally inclined to hold their breath during super tough workout moves such as planks. But staying mindful of your breathing can not only help you keep your cool on (and off) the mat, it can also help provide the oxygen your muscles need to safely carry you through your sweat session. "The conventional wisdom for how to engage your core is 'flex your abs as if someone is about to punch you in the gut,'" Joshua Carter, owner of Fit Body Boot Camp, previously told Shape. "That's not a bad piece of advice, but there's one problem. When people find themselves in a stressful or sudden situation — like anticipating a punch — they tend to stop breathing. That can actually cancel out a lot of the benefits of engaging your core."
Belly breathing, on the other hand, which involves actively breathing deeply into your stomach (as opposed to shallow breathing through your chest) as Itsines suggested in her video, helps increase oxygen flow to your entire body — meaning that seemingly never-ending plank will feel more bearable and more effective. (There are also breathing techniques for runners to make those miles feel easier.)
Ready to try this tip yourself? Put it to the test in our ultimate 30-day plank challenge.