The plank is one of the simplest exercises that you can do – even babies can do them easily!
What IS a plank?
A plank is a simple, but effective core exercise that helps you build stability and strength throughout your entire body. Planks are classed as a ‘functional exercise’ because the benefits they bring translate into ‘real-world’ activities – just one of the reasons why some Navy personnel advocate replacing the sit-up in the Navy’s physical-readiness test with the plank.
When undertaken regularly, planking sessions make real life tasks easier because they don’t focus on single muscles, but are designed to utilize several groups of muscles all at once – exactly how our body is designed to function. The plank is achievable in a number of different methods, but the main goal of the plank exercise will have you with your body perpendicular to the ground, stomach facing down, elevating your torso off the ground with either your elbows or hands....similar to being stuck in an extended push-up pose without actually moving your body weight up or down.
Your Core Strength Will Improve and You’ll Tone Up That Tummy
Forget counting crunches every day – they aren’t all that efficient when it comes to getting a flat and toned stomach anyway. As mentioned above, a recent editorial in Navy Times, an independent publication that covers the U.S. Navy, also referred to sit-ups ‘an outdated exercise today viewed as a key cause of lower back injuries’.
Instead, planks are the way to go! A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that the plank provides 100% activation of your six-pack muscles whereas crunches only engage 64%.
You’ll Strengthen Your Back and Reduce Back Pain
While some exercises to work the core can actually weaken and potentially injure the back (such as sit-ups or crunches), the plank will actually help to strengthen it. In particular, the upper back muscles become stronger.
What’s more, the plank is carried out whilst maintaining a neutral spine, eliminating the constant strain caused by flexing and extending of the spinal column.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) “because the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, it is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain”.
Your Posture and Balance Will Improve
Planks are help to improve your posture , which is incredibly important for a number of things.
-Good posture prevents your body from developing injuries by improper weight distribution, which can affect everything from major exercise routines to small movements like bending over.
-Proper posture displays confidence and self-assurance.
Your flexibility Will Improve and You'll Be More Coordinated
One of the best benefits of planking doesn’t come from actual muscle growth, but from its ability to help you train your muscles to be more stable. The body uses its core muscles to help maintain balance. This is obvious when you’re running, biking, exercising in any way – or during active leisure activities like dancing. Many people think that their extremities are responsible for their balance, and they are, in part – but the majority of your stabilization comes from your core.
You Will Improve Your Metabolism
Planking burns more calories, when done every day, than other core exercises like sit ups. More importantly, planks help strengthen massive muscle groups in your body. Having strong muscles means you burn more calories, even when you’re at rest. This makes planks crucial for people who work in offices or other jobs that aren’t very active.
And the one other benefit that might surprise you...Your mood will improve... What? Planks can even have benefits on your state of mind?
Yes, You’ll Be Happier and Less Stressed
Virtually every exercise has the potential to give you a mood boost, and planks are no exception. Planks are unique, however, in that they target the groups of muscles that are frequently strained and knotted, and contribute massively to stress in the human body.
The tension release, and stretch that planks provide is uplifting for your spirit and help you improve your mind state.
Performing endurance feats like planking also carry with them a very trying mental aspect. Many people say that half of a workout is in your mind, and the plank is great proof of this – many people can hold a plank for much longer than they believe that they can, but they give up too soon. Doing regular plank training, and continuing to motivate yourself to hold a full plank, can have incredible benefits for your focus and concentration. If you’re able to hold focus during an intense exercise like a plank, imagine how easy it will be for you to focus on other tasks!
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So...How To Do a Plank Correctly?
To perform a basic plank, you should:
-Get into a press up position. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms.
-Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Make sure your hips, head and shoulders don’t drop.
-Engage your core by pulling your belly into your spine.
-Hold this position for 15 to 60 seconds depending on what you are able for. (Remember, it’s better to maintain proper form for a shorter period of time than to hold improper form for a long time. Eventually, you can work up to holding for longer periods.)
-Rest for approximately one minute and repeat three to five more times.
This video is a good resource for beginners as it shows what a perfect basic plank looks like, and troubleshoots common mistakes: