Plank variations have several benefits, one being that they are a brilliant compound exercise, working most of the muscles in your body. Unlike crunches, they don’t put any pressure on your lower back, so you’ll often find planks in most of the best ab workouts out there.
Plank toe taps are an excellent plank variation as they activate the external and internal oblique muscles, the rectus abdominis (the top layer of your abdominals, often referred to as the ‘six pack’), and the transverse abdominis (the deep core muscles).
They also use the upper and lower body, and your deep stabilizer muscles, making them a great bodyweight exercise to add to your strength routine.
But what would happen if you did 90 plank toe taps a day for a week? To find out more, I unrolled my exercise mat and got tapping. As a reminder, 90 repetitions of anything is a lot, and if you’re new to exercise, or returning to exercise following an injury, it’s a good idea to ask a Personal Trainer to check your form before adding reps.
Read on to find out what happened.
How to do a plank toe tap
Plank toe taps are also referred to as plank toe touches — they’re the same move, with different names, but here’s how to make sure you’re doing them correctly:
- Start in a high plank position, with your hands shoulder-width apart, your palms flat on the floor, and your feet hip-width apart. There should be a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Make sure you keep your back straight by thinking about sucking your belly button into your spine.
- Engage your core, and lift your hips while keeping the rest of your body still. Think about moving into a downward dog position.
- As your hips lift, lift your right hand off the floor and tap your left foot. Make sure your back is still straight as you do this.
- Moving slowly and with control, return to your high plank position. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.
I did 90 plank toe taps a day for a week — here’s what happened
What would 90 plank toe taps a day do to my body? Here’s my training diary from the week:
As with all of these week-long challenges, I started day one with endless enthusiasm, deciding to do all 90 in a go, ripping off the bandaid. This tactic worked, but by the halfway mark, I was feeling the exercise in my shoulders. This is a full-body plank variation — unlike holding a high plank for 60 seconds, the movement involved in plank toe taps engages your upper and lower body.
90 reps later, I could feel I’d worked my core hard. However watching my form back (I often video myself on day one of these challenges), I noticed as I got tired I was pushing from my shoulders, not my hips. The movement in this exercise should come from the lower body, so I decided to slow things down and do three sets of 30 reps for the rest of the week.
Day 2 and 3
On days two and three of this challenge, I continued to move through the reps slowly and with control. I could feel the movement more in my abs as I added in a pause at the top of the movement, or the ‘tap’ part of the exercise.
I found my shoulders were aching by the end of day three — a sign I probably need to add more arm workouts into my marathon training schedule.
Like the yoga sessions I often skip when I’m mid-marathon training cycle, I found the plank toe taps were a great way to focus on my flexibility before I went out for a run. As a runner, I often suffer from tight hamstrings, and the 90 toe taps a day felt like they were helping stretch out my hamstrings and lower back.
Days 5 and 6
As with all of these challenges, I was well and truly sick of plank toe taps by day five. I carried on regardless, remembering to think about sucking my core in as I moved. Of course, a strong core is far more than just an aesthetic goal — it can help you run faster, lift heavier, and relieve back pain.
Studies have found that holding a plank can build a stronger torso and pelvic muscles, so despite the boredom, I remembered that hopefully, all these planks would help me PR at the London Marathon in a few weeks.
At last, the end was in sight! On the final day of the challenge, I upped the ante, adding an extra 10 reps to go out on a bang. I could feel the exercise in my core, but on reflection, this one wasn’t as hard as when I did 100 dead bugs a day for a week.
Of course, seven days isn’t long enough to see any visible changes in the body. If visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to work on getting a low body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters.
Either way, I’ll be using plank toe taps as part of my running warm-up in the future.