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Although front and side planks are often identified as abdominal exercises, they work your entire core including abs, hips and back. A good beginner goal for planks is to hold the position for at least 10 seconds, and then slowly increase the duration as you build strength and endurance. Planks are quite challenging and maintaining proper form is extremely important, so if you're just starting out and can't quite meet your 10-second goal with proper form yet, try planking on your forearms and bent knees, instead of the usual forearms-and-feet plank position. The bent-knee modification places less stress on your core, making this exercise doable -- although still challenging -- for beginners.
Modified Front Plank
Position yourself on your hands and knees. If you're uncomfortable with your knees on the bare floor, place a yoga mat, thin pillow or other padding under your knees.
Walk your hands slowly forward until your body forms a straight line from head to knees. Your hips should neither pike above, nor sag below, the line of your body.
Lower yourself to your elbows, resting your forearms flat on the floor. Your elbows should be positioned directly below your shoulders.
Hold the position for as long as you can, breathing normally and squeezing your abs to keep your body straight. If you reach a point where you can't keep your hips in line with the rest of your body, it's time to take a break.
Modified Side Plank
Position yourself on your right side, resting on your right forearm with your shoulders and hips stacked vertically.
Bend your knees. Squeeze your abs to lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to knees. Adjust your arm position, if necessary, so your elbow remains directly below your shoulders.
Continue breathing normally -- don't hold your breath -- as you stay in this position for as long as possible. Focus on being fully aware of your hip position. If you can do your side planks in front of a mirror, it'll be much easier to catch and correct yourself if your hips sag or lift out of line with your body.