Planks are in the top 10 of the best abdominal exercises to do, according to to the American Council on Exercise. There's no doubt about it that planks have become a go-to strength exercise which has great benefits for the whole body. If you have not yet harnessed the power of the plank then it is time to find out what's so great about them!
What is a plank?
A plank is what is known as an isometric exercise, which means that during contraction you do not change the angle of the joint or the muscle length. It is a static exercise where you are basically maintaining one position which is supporting your body weight against the resistance of the floor. You are then using your hands, your forearms and your elbows to hold your body up, as well as your toes.
How do you do a plank?
You don't need any special equipment to plank but to feel the full benefits you need to make sure that you are in prime-plank position and then keep in that pose for a certain period of time. Planks are not difficult to achieve, but they can be challenging to hold. Follow these steps on how to plank:
- Lie on a mat and then get your body in the same position as a push-up, with straight arms and legs, up on your toes.
- Bend the arms so that the forearms are resting on the mat, keeping your shoulders over your elbows and your palms flat to the mat. You might want to clasp your hands together and rotate the elbows out a little to make the pose less arduous.
- Make sure the legs are straight and that you tuck the pelvis in. The back needs to be straight and avoid hunching the shoulders. Keep a straight line with the spine, neck and head too.
- Hold the position.
Why do I want to plank?
Get into a plank pose and you will soon realize that it's quite a challenging exercise but keep doing your planks and you will definitely see some progression as you build strength. If you are wondering what's so appealing about planks then consider these benefits:
- Core strengthening - Using your bodyweight, planks get right to your core and as you probably know, a lot of training today is all about those important core muscles which support and stabilize the body. Without a strong core your functional movements are going to suffer and you are not going to be able to perform physically as well as you might. Strength in the core radiates out to the rest of the body.
- Strength training - It's not just your core that benefits but actually your upper body as well as stabilizing muscles in your lower body. You are benefitting the muscles along the front of the body, as well as the abdominals. Planks can be a great way to get over strength training plateaus, when you are not progressing and you are stuck in a rut with a routine. Planks improve the energy flow from the upper to lower body and this in turn, has a re-energizing impact.
- Balance, posture and stability - By strengthening the core, you are essentially helping support the spine and alignment. This can really improve posture by adding balance too in the hips. Planks are a great way to deal with any postural problems such as a flat back or pelvic tilt. When you have weakness in the abdominals and core muscles, this can lead to posture problems as this impacts the position of the back, which again has a knock-on effect on your whole body, even when you are standing still!
- Flexibility - Planks refresh the body and stretch every muscle. You will feel this stretch across your shoulders and your mid-section, not to mention your hamstrings as you push your legs up and keep them in an extended position. Even your feet will feel the stretch. This leads to increased flexibility as planks release muscular tension and ease stress within the body. It is for this reason that planks are used as a rehabilitative exercise too, when strength, stability and flexibility really need a boost.
What's more is that planks are enjoyable and the more you do them the more you will want to improve and beat your last performance. You can add a fun competitive spirit into your planks that keeps motivation levels high with an intense yet thoroughly satisfying plank!
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