Kansas State University


Find Your Fit

Author: GT Mette-Njuldnir

Plank or nah?

One of the most common core exercises is the plank. It can be a great exercise because it involves a lot more core strength than any single ab muscle alone can provide.

The plank recruits muscles from the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, and several muscles in the back. It even places stress on the legs, shoulders, and arms, making it a full body exercise.

If you do it right. So how do you know if your form is good? What if you can plank for over a minute? (Read more below)

Pictured on top is a picture of a plank with bad form, and how most individuals I’ve seen doing a plank preform the exercise, especially when fatigue sets in.

The problem is the lower back is sagging, even though the body as a whole is relatively straight. To fix this, try to posteriorly tilt your pelvis. This means tilting the front of your hips up while tilting the back of your hips down, like tucking your tail bone.

This position decreases the exaggeration of curvature in the lower back, as seen in the middle picture. This keeps you in a safer position, and greatly increases the involvement of your lower abs.

If you can maintain that position with some ease, move your body into a long lever position. Do this by scooting your elbows forward of your shoulders a few inches as shown in the bottom picture.

This is a very challenging position to hold. The greater the challenge the greater the reward. If you have already mastered planks with pelvic tilt, move on to the long lever position while maintaining the tilt and low back integrity.

Check out the study below for more information on how this exercise really effects abdominal and core contraction.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Tiryaki-Sonmez, G., Willardson, J. M., & Fontana, F. (2014). An electromyographic comparison of a modified version of the plank with a long lever and posterior tilt versus the traditional plank exercise. Sports biomechanics13(3), 296-306.


~GT the PT

How should exercises differ when training for weight loss versus muscle gain?

The information you have and the decisions you make, have a significant impact on your efficiency. The information many people have is that you should do aerobic training (cardio) for weight loss and lift weights for muscle gain. However, this information is probably not the best to get you to your goals the most quickly.


First, as a personal trainer, typically when people are looking to lose weight, what they really want is to lose fat, and of course the weight that comes with that loss of fat or visa versa. I will continue this with the thought of fat loss as opposed to general weight loss, although they are often closely related.


Cardiovascular exercise, also called cardio for short, can really be anything that increases your heart rate above resting levels. Doing 30-60 minutes of cardio per day can be a great way to stay healthy and burn calories. The down fall is your body does not continue to burn an excess mount of calories as a consequence of this type of exercise.


So how can we burn extra calories while not working out?


This is where resistance training or weight lifting can come in handy. When heavy loads are moved, the muscles tend to become sore. This is from slightly damaging the muscles. When damage occurs in the body, the body automatically finds a way to try and repair. The body will use protein to help fix the damaged muscles. This requires a lot of extra work that you don’t even realize is going on.


Where there is extra work, there are extra calories being burned.  Assuming you’re not overeating, and you are getting adequate protein on a day to day basis, a combination of cardio and weightlifting training is the best way to get great results for losing or maintaining weight, while also shedding fat and maintaining lean muscle mass.


How about for people who only want to build muscle, and don’t care about losing any fat?


Resistance training should be the main focus of your program, especially if you have. Difficult time gaining weight or muscle. Cardio training is still an important aspect for health. Keep in mind that being lean does not mean you are always healthy and being overweight does not always mean you are unhealthy.


Performing some form of cardio exercise on a regular basis is still a good idea. I recommend at least 20 minutes 3 times a week. Or to be most efficient, incorporate large muscle, compound movements such as deadlift, squat, bench press, seated rows, and others that can keep your heart rate slightly elevated throughout the workout.


~GT the PT

How much exercise is the RIGHT amount of exercise

A lot of us live busy lives, and keeping a schedule is a real task. As a personal trainer, I hear a lot about time being a barrier to physical activity. I also hear a lot about the goals of each individual, weight loss, muscle gain, general health, or however you slice it.

The question then becomes, how can we maximize our results for our health and goals, while minimizing the amount of time spent in the gym?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends obtaining 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity, or a mix of the two (1). Activities like brisk walking or very light resistance training would be considered moderate physical activity, while things like running at an incline and lifting heavy weights are considered vigorous.

The great thing is when we talk about health, you can also get your physical activity outside of the gym, walking or jogging through a park, hiking, or even household chores like vacuuming are all considered forms of physical activity as well.

Remember, the more aggressive your goal however, the more work you have to put it on both diet and physical activity.

As a personal trainer, I typically recommend people to start with 20 minutes three times per week doing something that gets you breathing heavy, hiking, cycling, or whatever you can enjoy. Try watching a show or listening to music while you exercise if it helps keep you motivated. Additionally, try resistance training twice per week for about 30 minutes. This will put you about 20 minute under the recommended guidelines, but a great place to start.

As you progress along your journey, try increasing the intensity as you tolerate it. For my advanced clients, I recommend being active daily, but intense workouts that combine both cardiovascular training and resistance training allow you to really minimize your time exercising while maintaining all you have achieved!


ACSM Reference: Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., … & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation116(9), 1081.