In between managing a hugely successful fashion line, being a mum, uploading new videos to her YouTube channel and working with Augustinus Bader on her beauty range, it would seem very unlikely that Victoria Beckham would find the time to exercise. But she somehow does - at a price though. She has to wake up super early to fit it in, spending two hours from 5.30am or 6am working up a sweat so she can still make the school run. A particularly versatile move that features in her plans? The far-reaching plank.
She told the Guardian that she does "loads of planks" to strengthen her core, once she's done a 45-minute, 7km run on the treadmill (watching TV boxsets and documentaries to keep her motivated) and done her toning and conditioning exercises, targeting her legs and arms, with a trainer.
The plank, when done correctly, can help you develop not just better ab definition but improve posture, balance and range of movement. However, done badly, it can cause back pain and neck strain.
How to nail the basic forearm plank
Form is what matters most. When it comes to doing a standard plank on your forearms: “Keep your body straight with your shoulder blades drawn back and down, abs braced and glutes tight,” says personal trainer David Higgins, author of The Hollywood Body Plan . Rest on your elbows and toes, look down towards the mat and hold the position for two minutes, he says.
If two minutes is too long for you though, build it up gradually. Start with 10 seconds. Planks are also great done as sets. After resting for anywhere between five and 10 seconds, hold your plank again, aiming for three sets in total. Don’t force yourself to hold the moves to the point where it feels uncomfortable on the lower back though.
Upgrade your plank: inspiration from our favourite experts
There are a number of ways to switch up your plank for a greater challenge. Here are some of our favourite upgrades on Instagram.
London Fitness Guy's bodyweight plank challenge
Personal trainer James Stirling, AKA The London Fitness Guy, challenged his 355,000 followers to try this bouncy, bodyweight plank challenge, comprising of elbow to hand planks, mountain climber planks, plank press-ups and jumps and shoulder taps, ending with an inexplicably energetic burpee jump all set to Temperature by Sean Paul. Fellow personal trainer Caroline's Circuits took on the challenge and looked equally impressive.
“For these, as you come high up on your toes, the shoulders must pass the wrist and hips high as the feet slide back to add in a chaturanga... and work to make it as seamless as possible,” says Cathy.
Shona Vertue - how to do a side plank
“If you sag into your shoulder, it will a) be impossible to lift your hips off and b) hurt your shoulder and c) won’t really work your obliques. Probably just your back,” says Shona in this really useful video. “Instead, try to elongate your body away from your elbow, rather than collapsing towards it.” She recommends hollowing your back to prevent potential arching and therefore, injury.
Lisa Lanceford - elbow to hand planks
This core workout targets a range of different stomach muscles in one go and comprises of: three sets of 20 elbow to hand planks, three sets of 20 side planks with leg lifts, three sets of 12 hand to feet ball passes and an invisible stair climb with pull ups.
Kayla Itsines - how to do an incline plank
Doing a plank on an unstable surface such as a fitball, adds an extra level of difficulty to the move. Try holding it for 30 seconds.
Joe Wicks - side plank pulses
This pretty meaty abs circuit features 15 hanging knee raises, 15 crunches, 15 ab roll outs, 15 side plank pulses, 15 reverse crunches, 20 slow mountain climbers and 15 kettlebell standing side crunches. Not one for the faint-hearted.
Stefanie Williams - dumbbell lift plank
To up the difficulty ante even more, add weights to your plank. Aim for 12 reps.
MORE GLOSS: Five ab exercises that actually work