Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
If you’ve ever done a bear plank, you know how challenging the exercise can be on your core, glutes, hips, shoulders, and triceps. That’s especially true for anyone who works all day sitting at a desk. But the static plank hold is just the start. I often suggest that my older clients who want more of a challenge try the bear plank row to level up. The variation is ideal to test your total-body strength even more by adding two more components. You'll work your shoulders and lats by adding the row—but the real beauty is that it adds the dimension of anti-rotation to push your core more than you'd think. I especially love programming the exercise for my older clients, since it will challenge them in a way they're not used to working.
To set up for the bear plank row, grab two light dumbbells or kettlebells. Get down on your hands and knees and place your hands on the dumbbells, which should be directly below your shoulders. Your knees should be directly underneath your hips. Your back should be in a neutral position with no rounding or curving. While squeezing your abs and glutes, lift your knees off the ground so your shins and are parallel to the floor. From this starting position, row one weight up and squeeze at the top for a moment, then return it back to the starting position. Repeat the same movement with the other arm. That’s on rep.
As you’re rowing, it’s essential to squeeze your core and glutes as much as possible, along with your back. That helps to maintain balance and stability as the lifting action is constantly throwing you off balance. There should be no torso movement when you preform the bear plank row, so resist the urge to rotate your rowing shoulder upward to yank the dumbbell up. Row the dumbbell with your body firm. If you find your shoulders rotating, drop the weight or do it with just body weight.
In addition to testing your upper body strength, the bear plank row will also test your lower body strength. As you work through reps and begin to tire, your quads may give out, which might mean your butt starts to rise higher toward the ceiling. If you start to rise up, take a break and rest your quads.
This maneuver can be difficult to master without compensating, so don't be afraid to start using just your body weight. If you can move from one side to the other without shifting, add in the weights. Start with 4 sets of 8 reps per side.
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