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Spice Up Your Core Workout With Add-On Sets

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PLANK EXERCISE
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When it comes to working out, boredom is the kiss of death. It is hard enough to make yourself train at the best of times -- and almost impossible when you feel like yawning!

Core workouts can be particularly yawn-worthy. Front planks, crunches, bike kicks... snore. The great news is, your workout doesn't have to put you to sleep! Mix things up with add-on sets.

How add-on sets work
First pick a "base" exercise and a "rest" exercise. The rest exercise isn't easy, it just isn't a core exercise. In the below example I have used a front plank as my base exercise (other options include a side plank or a V hold) and a squat hold as my rest exercise (other options include a plié hold or cardio exercises such as jumping jacks or high knees).

To do the workout you simply alternate the base exercise with the rest exercise. Each time you do the base move you add on an exercise. Confused? Don't worry, I have outlined my current favourite add-on set below.

A few things before you begin

1. Before you attempt this workout, master a basic plank.

Basic plank: Balance on your hands and toes. Your shoulders, hips and feet should form a straight line. Your bum should not be up in the air. Your lower back should not be arched. If I put a foam roller lengthwise along your back, the roller should touch the back of your skull, your upper back and your sacrum (back of your pelvis). There should be a small space between the roll and both your lower back and your cervical spine. Keep your core engaged the entire time; pull your belly button towards your spine and your lower abdominals wide to your hip bones like you are pulling taffy.

2. Once you can hold a basic plank for 30 seconds, attempt add-ons one through four of the series below.

3. Continue to work on your basic plank. Attempt the full workout only when you can hold a front plank with perfect form and no lower back pain for one minute.

4. Once you can do the full routine with perfect form, hold weights when you squat and try doing two repetitions of each add-on. Progress until you can do three repetitions of each exercise.

The routine

Start standing. Bend over. Place your hands on the ground in front of you. Walk your hands forward until your body forms a plank. Hold for five seconds. This is your "base exercise."

Now, walk your hands backwards and -- without standing all the way up -- hold a squat. Keep your chest out, back flat, core engaged, knees in line with your middle toes and lower back neutral.

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This is your "rest" exercise. After each add on, hold a squat for five seconds. Then walk forward into your plank and start the sequence again.

Add-on 1: Walk-outs

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After holding the basic plank for five seconds, add on walk-outs. In a plank position "walk" your right hand in front of you, then your left. To finish, place your right hand back to its starting position underneath you, then your left. Repeat starting with your left hand.
Walk your hands backwards. Hold your low squat for five seconds.

Add-on 2: Shoulder taps

Walk forward into a plank. Hold for five seconds. Do one walk-out starting with each hand. Then add on "shoulder taps." Keep your hips stable as you touch your right hand to your left shoulder. Then touch your left hand to your right shoulder.

Walk your hands backwards. Hold your low squat for five seconds.

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Add on 3: Leg extensions

Repeat the above sequence. Then, add on one "leg extension" on each leg. Holding your plank -- core engaged and pelvis stable -- engage your right bum muscle to lift you right leg off of the floor. Hold for five seconds and then repeat with your left leg.

Walk your hands backwards. Hold your low squat for five seconds.

Add on 4: Leg abductions

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Repeat the above sequence. Then do one "leg abduction" with each leg. Holding your plank -- core engaged and pelvis stable -- engage your right bum muscle to lift your right leg off of the floor and out to the side. Hold for five seconds and then repeat with your left leg.

Hold your low squat for five seconds.

Add on 5: Knee tucks

Repeat the sequence thus far, then do one knee tuck with each leg. To do a knee tuck, hold your plank as you bring one knee into your chest. Count to five, then repeat with other leg.

Walk your hands backwards. Hold your low squat for five seconds.

Add on 6: Diagonal knee tucks

Surprise! You get to do the whole sequence again -- yeah! Then add on one diagonal knee tuck on each leg. In your plank bring one knee towards your opposite shoulder. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with your other leg.

Walk your hands backwards. Hold your low squat for five seconds.

Add on 7: Lateral knee taps

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This is your final add on. Repeat the entire sequence (while smiling if you can), then do one lateral knee tap with each leg. To do a lateral knee tap, stay in your plank while you bring your right knee towards your right elbow. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with other knee.

Congrats! You survived!

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