Want a washboard stomach? Then it’s time for one of the best core exercises you can do. Get ready to plank! Planks are one of the most trusted ways to improve your core strength. Not only does a plank help to improve your abs and reduce the dreaded “pooch” or “beer gut,” but it also strengthens surrounding muscles throughout your core, back, shoulders and legs. Talk about a multitasker! And you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to do planks; this makes it easy to add into almost any workout as a result.

5 Steps to The Perfect Plank

While there are plenty of variations and progressions to fit a multitude of fitness levels, let’s start with the basics to ensure that you build a solid foundation. Here are the steps to execute the plank with good form:

1. The Starting Line

Begin with your forearms and toes on the ground. You can modify this move by placing your knees on the ground if need be.

2. Elbow Placement is 100%

Make sure that your elbow is located directly under your armpit and that your spine is creating one continuous line, like a “plank” of wood. You want to avoid dipping your lower back or sticking your hips too high in the air.

Perfect Plank3. SQUEEEEEEZE

Squeeze your glutes and thighs. This is KEY!

4. Engage Your Core

Engage your core (pulling the belly into the spine) and use your back muscles to keep your shoulders retracted, or “down and back.”

5. Keep Your Eyes Ahead of You

Set your laser-focused gaze slightly in front of your fingertips to ensure that your spine is in the proper position. And don’t forget to breathe!

For beginners, you’ll want to start by holding a plank with good form for approximately 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Rest for 45-60 seconds and repeat for a total of 2 to 3 rounds. As you improve, you can progress the plank by straightening your arms directly under your armpits and increasing the length of time and total sets as well.