There’s next to nothing when testing board variations in Tom’s Guide, but the Commando boards are some of the best we’ve tested. Also referred to as moving axes, up-down axes, military axes AND walking boards, the move twists muscle groups from head to toe.
To perform command planks, simply move from a high plank position to your forearms and back again without swinging, raising or lowering your hips. Easier said than done, but if you get your shape perfect, the move brings many benefits.
Below, we explain how to make dashboards with the correct form and the most common mistakes you’ll come across when trying them. We also discuss the benefits of command planks and why the core exercise is so effective at strengthening your core muscles. Plus, here are the best yoga mats to do planks on.
Commando Boards: Benefits
Commando Planks target and strengthen your core, shoulders, back, chest, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Most people notice more emphasis on the shoulders than other variations.
Fixed planks use an isometric contraction, meaning the muscles are under tension without flexing or extending, but the commando plank adds upper body movement to further challenge the muscles. The mix of isotonic and isometric exercise means that some muscles will engage to stabilize your body (like your core muscles), while others (in your arms) will lengthen and shorten.
A commando plank is technically a compound exercise, targeting various muscle groups and could improve posture by strengthening the muscles around the spine along with the other core muscles. You can learn more about the plank exercise and the muscles worked here.
Another benefit of commando planks is their ability to raise your heart rate, making them a great addition to high-intensity cardiovascular workouts. You can try the move anywhere without equipment or weights, meaning the plank variation is as efficient as it is effective.
Find out what happened when I did 90 commando boards every day for a week.
How to do the Commando Plank
Here’s how to do this plank variation correctly.
- Start in a plank position on the mat with elbows extended, shoulders over wrists and hips in line with shoulders
- Squeeze as many muscles as possible and gently suck in from your navel towards your spine
- Lower your left elbow to the mat under your left shoulder, then your right
- Pause in a forearm plank position, then press up and place your left palm on the mat under your left shoulder, followed by your right
- Repeat and switch leading arm each time. Lower your knees for extra support if needed.
Command tables: common mistakes
Commando planks help strengthen the lower back, glutes and hamstrings, encouraging better posture and protecting the spine. But getting them wrong could lead to injury. These are the most common mistakes we see.
Commando planks require stability, coordination and balance as you move one side of your body at a time. Whether you’re new to the exercise or have racked up hundreds of reps, keep an eye on your hips. They should always be perpendicular to the mat, not swinging from side to side. Avoid dropping your hips below shoulder height or pushing your glutes toward the ceiling.
Lack of muscle engagement
Planks and their many variations aren’t just basic exercises. Practice squeezing as many muscles as possible, including your core, glutes, legs, back, chest, and shoulders.
If you struggle, try making a head-to-toe mental checklist and gently tighten each muscle group as you bring awareness to them. We spoke to calisthenics coach Jase Robinson, who created this calisthenics workout, and he mentions the compound contraction — contracting your muscles simultaneously — using the three Bs: back, belly, and glutes.
By focusing on the conscious contraction of the larger muscle groups, you should also be able to subconsciously contract the smaller muscles.
Holding your breath
When engaging in a hard exercise (especially an isometric movement like a plank), people tend to hold their breath. Instead, try to use diaphragmatic breathing, which is expansive rather than restrictive breathing. Your abdominal muscles help your diaphragm, and the dome muscle technically counts as part of your core muscle network.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the expansive breathing method is supposed to help strengthen the diaphragm, reduce blood pressure and promote relaxation.
Commando Board: Variations
You might lift one leg in the air at a time to challenge your balance or focus on building reps. If you schedule them as part of a resistance session, start with 6-8 reps and 2-3 sets, then gradually increase the reps over time.
If you’re comfortable with the exercise and want to mix it up, practice hitting your rep max within a set time limit as part of a high-intensity session. For added resistance, place a weight on your midback or try a weight vest.
I recommend a weighted vest to make bodyweight exercises more difficult, but avoid adding them to aerobic exercises, as they put extra load on your joints. If you’re having trouble with activities under load, consider leaving it alone.
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