Build Core with Ease – The Leaning Plank Series: The Swiss Army Knife of Exercise Part 3 of 3

October 24, 2018  by Dr. Suki Munsell

The Swiss Army Knife was my trusted tool for many years when backpacking through wilderness areas, and years later when I cruised through the Bahamas. The handy scissors, tweezers, knife, screwdrivers, and awl were my favorites. Now I rely on the Leaning Plank Series as a handy tool to swiftly get my body into balanced alignment. Here are the many benefits you can expect.
8 Benefits of the Leaning Plank Series:

1. Practice anytime or anywhere you find a railing, bench or table top.

2. Adapt the exercises to your age and fitness needs.

3. Build or re-build posture using the fixed railing for support.

4. Adjust your degree of lean and effort to maintain control and build safely.

5. Stretch and strengthen the muscles of your core, back, legs, and shoulders.

6. Reset balanced muscular recruitment.

7. Improve spinal alignment.

8. Release tension, inner and outer.

Unfamiliar with the series? You’ll have a chance to catch up today.


1. Stand with Awareness – Home Base

-Stand tall and relax your body and breathing.

-Feel your arms growing longer at your sides as your shoulder relax.

-Close your eyes and notice on the inhale how your body expands with air and on the exhale, you release.

-Imagine your center pole like an elegant column, relaxed yet strong.

-Open your eyes gazing softly while stay connected to your inner sensations.

2. Activate your Core

-Step to the railing and press down your hands as you lift through your torso.

-Notice your core tightening as you press down.

-Keep your shoulders relaxed and elbows heavy to isolate core postural muscles.

-Release on an exhale and you settle into your legs.

-Press and release several times using full exhale and inhale cycles.

-Gradually build up to 10-20 repetitions.

3. Stand with Core Awareness

-Come to stillness, close your eyes.

-Notice how you feel in your posture and core.

Repeat exercises 4-7 from Part 1 & Part 2


4. Plank with Chest Press

5. Flat Back to Arch and Curl

6. Spinal Twist to Right and Left Sides

7. Calf and Hip Stretches

8. Right and Left Lateral Stretches

-Step towards the railing. Turn your left side to the railing. Hold the railing with your left hand.

-Inhale and raise your right arm. Lengthen both sides of your body and bow your body to the right.

-Cross your right ankle over your left to deepen your hip and and thigh stretch.

-Exhale as you arc your right arm overhead to the left.

-Repeat for three breath cycles.

-Reach tall overhead and uncross your legs as you return your body to vertical.

-Face the railing and notice how you feel.

-Repeat on the other side.

9. Passive Hip Stretch

-Inhale and loop your fingers over the railing, extend your arms and curl your spine to face the ground.

-Exhale as you drop your hips away from the railing to passively stretch your spine. This is a strong stretch so modify as needed.

-If comfortable, exhale and squat more deeply by holding below the railing.

-Maintain your position for three full breath cycles.

-Use the railing to assist rolling up. Exhale and use your arms to bring your weight over your legs and roll up.

-Stand tall and notice your results.

10. Calf Stretch and Strengthen in Plank Position

-Position yourself within arm’s reach of the railing for support if needed.

-On an inhale, roll onto the balls of your feet. Lift your heels while standing tall through your torso.

-On an exhale lower your heels and relax your calf muscles. Stretch tall through your torso and back of your legs.

-To improve your balance, practice with your arms at your sides.

-To build greater core strength and stretch your calves, stand in a strong plank position as you lift and lower your heels.

–Keep your shoulders back, down and engaged at all times.

Gradually build up to 10-30 calf raises.

-Stand tall and notice your results.

11. Core Builder – Prancing Pony

–Standing in a plank position, tip your pelvis under slightly to engage your core muscles.

Alternate lifting and lowering each heel, just a few inches from the ground. Feel the activation in your core. Repeat 10 times.

-Alternate lifting and lowering each heel bringing your knee closer towards your chest. Pick up speed as if prancing.

-Coordinate with your breathing.

-Build up to 10-30 repetitions.

-Push away from the railing. Stand tall and notice your results.

12a. The Long Shirt Pull, Roll Down

-Stand four feet away from the railing. Breathe relaxed.

-Center your weight on both feet, right to left, front to back.

-Begin a sequential roll down with your knees slightly bent.

-Exhale, release your neck and let your head hang. Notice its weight.

-Release your shoulders downward, arms hanging heavy and long.

-Release your chest and roll down each vertebrae.

-Flex deeply at your hips. Breathe wide in your back to release tension. Rest your forearms on your thighs if needed.

-If comfortable, release your arms toward the ground. Inhale and exhale fully for 3 breath cycles.

12b. The Long Shirt Pull, Roll Up to Center

-To roll up, center your weight on both feet, right to left, front to back, inside to outside.

-Cross your wrists in front of you to establish your center line.

-Center your weight over your legs. Breathing relaxed, uncurl your spine letting your head hang heavy.

-Drag your relaxed arms up the center line of your body. Imagine pulling off a long shirt – your old body – and pulling on a new one.

-Sequentially align your hips over your legs, then your ribcage, shoulders and finally your head and neck.

-Keep your head level as you gaze at the horizon and you reach your arms overhead lifting tall through your torso.

-Lower your arms to your sides, in your peripheral vision, palms face forward to resettle your shoulders.

-When your pinkies reach the sides of your thighs, turn your wrists and relax your hands.

-Close your eyes and notice what you feel.

Your homework is to:

Make friends with a railing or other stable surface.

Repeat the series frequently so that, in just a few minutes, you achieve a rapid reset of balanced posture.

Create new stretches for your needs. How can you stretch your shins, hamstrings, deltoids, and more?  Make this your series.

Find serenity in strength, silence in centering, and presence in your new posture.

The Leaning Plank Series is a living, dynamic set the concept of which I learned from my teacher, Anna Halprin. Spread the gift. Share with your mate, exercise buddies, parents and kids.

Be in touch. I love hearing about your new exercises, your results, or your questions. Connect with me at drsuki@dynamicvitality.com.