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Ditch the sit-ups. Planks are in.

I've noticed a trend lately. Planks, planks and more variations of planks seem to be surfacing. Rumor has it sit-ups have developed a bad reputation. I read an article in the Daily Mail

confirming that the U.S. Army is phasing out sit-ups from their physical fitness. Why the change of perspective on this traditional exercise we've always known to strengthen our abs?

I've talked to several trainers and did some research online, so let me save you time and get right to the point. Sit-ups and even crunches are hard on your back. The motion pushes your curved spine against the floor which can lead to lower back pain. Some believe that the motion can also squeeze the discs in the spine which can press on nerves, cause pain and lead to a hernia. Enough said, right?

So why are planks better? One plank position usually has several benefits on your body. Many more than a sit-up would provide. Planks force better balance of your front, side and back muscles. It's like a 3 for 1 deal. It also works your entire core and activates your shoulder, glutes, and legs.

Let's give it a try with 3 "Go-to" plank variations below. What is your favorite plank? Have any variations you'd like to share? If so, send us a picture or video.

Jess's 3 "Go-to" Plank Variations

Form takes priority over how long you hold each position and how often you repeat sets. If this is new to you, start with the first variation before moving onto the others.

#1. Basic Planks

Hold each position 10 - 15 seconds or more if you can. I typically do 3 Sets of 15 seconds. First set: 15 seconds on the elbows, 15 seconds on the hands, then rest. Then again for two more sets. ​

#2. Leg Lifts

Hold each position for about 10 - 15 seconds and repeat. I do 3 sets of holding these positions for 10 seconds. First set: Elbow plank for 10 seconds, lift right leg and hold for another 10 seconds, then lift left leg for 10 seconds, and rest. I repeat an additional two sets.

#3. Side Planks

This is more of a slow continuous motion. Start in the up position (lower left picture) and hold second or two, move to the down position (lower right picture) holding for a second or two, then up again, etc. Repeat for as many sets as you can. Don't forget to flip and work your other side.

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