Shay Mitchell isn’t shy about her workouts. The actor-slash-model regularly posts Instagram Stories that candidly chronicle her training. From assisted pull-ups to burpees, battle ropes, lunges, and mountain climbers (plus many more), it’s clear that Mitchell relies on a variety of moves to stay strong.
Now, thanks to new Instagram Story series that Mitchell posted on Monday, we can add another exercise to that impressive—and impressively long—list: banded plank hand walks.
Here’s a look at the move:
And from another angle:
This advanced plank variation is a total-body strengthening move with extra emphasis on your upper half.
“This is a full-body move, but the main focus is very much the deltoids [shoulders] and core,” Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells SELF.
Within the core, these planks work the rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think “abs”) and obliques (muscles on the sides of your stomach), as well as your latissimus dorsi (or lats, the wide muscles of your upper back), triceps, pectoralis major (a thin, fan-shaped muscle in the chest), pectoralis minor (a thin, triangular muscle in the upper chest), and the stabilizing muscles in your hips, DiSalvo adds.
With each hand walk, “you’re abducting (or opening) your shoulder,” says DiSalvo, and the deltoids are the prime movers that drive this abduction.
In addition to intense shoulder strengthening, this move can also help stabilize your shoulders as it focuses on proper positioning of the joint, says DiSalvo. “There’s also a little bit of a coordination component, too, because you have to maintain a plank, and at the same time, do resisted abduction with your arm,” he adds.
The resistance band increases the strengthening benefits for your shoulders.
If you take a careful look at the screenshots, you’ll see Mitchell has a thin resistance band looped around her wrists as she performs these walks. This added element ups the challenge of this move, particularly for the shoulders and core.
“Adding a band on top of this move provides an extra progression through added resistance,” James Brewer, NYC-based certified personal trainer and certified Spin and TRX instructor, tells SELF.
Anytime you add a band, you’re using a training method referred to as "accommodating resistance," explains DiSalvo. What that essentially means is that the further you move the banded section of your body from the starting position, the more resistance you will feel. In this specific exercise, as you move your banded hands out and away from your body, you’re challenging your ability to maintain quality shoulder torque and tension in your core.
The band will also help “fire up your deltoids,” says DiSalvo, which makes it easier for you to focus on engaging this specific muscle that should be the main driver in this exercise.
It’s also an anti-rotation movement for your lower half.
With each arm movement, you are removing one of your four points of contact with the ground, explains DiSalvo. That means you have to stabilize yourself on just three points of contact-—a more difficult feat—until your arm lands on the ground again.
During these moments of reduced stability, you need to create and maintain tension in your core, glutes, and legs in order to keep your lower half fixed in place, explains DiSalvo. This component makes the movement an “anti-rotation” exercise, a class of movements that involve contracting your core and holding it completely still while keeping the rest of your body within just one singular plane, or direction, of motion.
“Anti-rotation movements are very good for anyone who wants to generate more power from their core and also perfect their form,” Andrew Schuth, certified personal trainer with Los Angeles–based studio Burn 60, previously told SELF. The anti-rotation element in these banded hand plank walks will help you do just that.
Here’s how to do the move:
- Grab a light- to medium-strength resistance band and loop it around your wrists.
- Get on all fours and press up into high plank with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, arms extended, hands flat on the floor, wrists directly under your shoulders, and your core, glutes, and quads engaged.
- Pay extra attention to your hand and elbow positioning here, says DiSalvo. You want to turn your thumbs toward each other and apply pressure evenly through your hands. Point your elbows directly behind you, with your elbow creases pointing directly forward. With these cues in mind, you should feel your shoulders engage. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your core, hips, and lower half as still as possible, lift your right hand off the ground and move it to the right about 6 inches. Place it on the ground and pause for a moment.
- Lift your right hand off the ground again and move it back to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
- Repeat with the left arm. This is 2 reps.
- Do 20 reps, alternating sides.
It's important to make sure that you are externally rotating your shoulders, says DiSalvo, which you can do by following the hand and elbow cues described above. By doing so, you will recruit your lats and create the needed torque through your shoulders to do this move correctly. You’ll also avoid over-stressing your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
If you feel your hips raising up as you move your arms, slow your pace and think about bracing your core to stabilize your lower half, says Brewer. If you cannot keep your hips relatively still while moving your arms, regress to a standard plank to build up the needed core strength to master this more advanced variation. Also: Go easy on the pace. “Take your time to suck in your abs, press your belly button straight down, and perform these move with slow control,” says Brewer.
On that note, keep in mind the goal of this exercise is endurance, adds DiSalvo. “It’s not about how big of a band you can use, but rather about creating a nice burn in your shoulders by using a light- to moderate-weight resistance band over the course of many reps.” Because it takes a while to warm up your shoulders, start with a light resistance band, he adds, and switch to a medium-strength resistance band about halfway through. That said, if you can easily do 20 consecutive reps on each side with perfect form, you can increase the difficulty of this move by using a stronger resistance band.
This exercise would be especially great if tacked onto a calisthenics-focused workout, says DiSalvo, because that type of workout typically doesn’t hit the shoulders directly.
You can also do this move as part of longer plank series, says Brewer. Grab a second resistance band and loop it around your ankles. Do 30 seconds of banded plank hand walks to your right side, then 30 seconds of plank jacks (keeping your upper body completely still as you work your glutes and legs), then 30 seconds of banded plank hand walks to your left side, then another 30 seconds of plank jacks, for an all-around, efficient, total-body circuit.