You’ve heard the word plank used countless times at the gym, among coworkers and friends, and you’ve even seen it pop up when looking for exercises online. Without warning, planks became a staple of conversations on exercise routines and ab workouts. A plank is holding a specific posture for a period of time. This pose helps engage all your muscles, especially your core, for a full body workout.
What is a Plank?
The traditional plank involves getting on the ground on your hands and knees. Then, stepping both feet back so your weight is now on your hands and toes only; your knees should no longer be on the ground. Gently lower your upper body onto your elbows and forearms instead of your hands. In the complete posture, your weight should rest evenly between your forearms and toes. Every muscle in your core should be engaged, but your neck should not lower and your back should not curve. Keep your hips high but avoid lifting them out of line with the rest of your body. Now hold for as long as you can, or start with thirty seconds and increase each time by ten seconds. See how long you can hold!
Why are Planks Important?
Planks may sound easy, but they are in fact a workout. Planks engage the muscles in your core, glutes, and shoulders without putting excessive strain on your back or joints. When you practice consistently, you will see improvements. During workouts, you might notice that you can hold a plank for longer each time or that you can execute variations that incorporate cardio. Even during your daily routines, you may start to notices some changes in your body. Your posture may be more upright, you may have less lower back pain, and you might feel stronger and more flexible. Planks may improve more than just your physical health. Easing tension in your back, shoulders, and neck can help with stress reactions and your overall sense of well-being. With consistent practice of the proper posture, planks are quick workouts that are worth the effort.
Other Ways to Plank
The plank posture explained above is only one way to plank. Commonly, another form of the plank is remaining on the hands and toes, instead of lowering to the forearms. This engages more muscles in the arms and chest, but does run the risk of injuring the wrists if your weight is not distributed evenly.
Side planks are a common yoga practice, where you are on your side, raise up and balance your weight on one hand (or forearm) and the side of your foot. This one takes a lot of balance and practice, but can help in strengthening your flexibility. Be sure to do both sides for the same amount of time! For those who want more of an arm workout, you can move from a side plank into a full plank, then add a pushup before moving back to a side plank.
Spiderman planks involve either the full plank or the forearm plank. Bring one leg up to your side, bent at the knee, and crunch it close to your ribs before returning your foot to the starting position. For more balance and strength training, try incorporating a stability ball. Start in a plank position on your hands, but put your legs up on a stability ball behind you. The ball should rest against your shins (not your ankles or knees) and it always helps to have a friends around in case you start to wobble.
Remember posture and form is key to ensure you don’t cause damage to your body. When done correctly, planks can be a great addition to any workout or completed at home when you have five minutes to spare.