With dozens of new exercises, theories, techniques, equipment, and classes coming out every single month, it’s easy to overlook the oldies-but-the-goodies.
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Also known as a hover, front hold, abdominal bridge, and a worldwide social media craze, the plank is one of those classic exercises that’s here to stay.
Here are five reasons you should be planking (if you aren’t already!).
1. Planks Support Good Posture
Research has shown that planks strengthen your whole core, from shoulders to hips, engaging more than 20 muscles in one simple pose. This is great news for your posture. Planks are especially good at stabilizing your spine by activating muscles like the important transverse abdominis, according to ACE’s Chief Science Officer Dr.
An associate professor of exercise science at the University of Wisconsin, Cedric X. Bryant. Dr. Glenn Wright, agrees. Wright praises planks because they work the abs isometrically and “maintain the stability of the core muscles, which support proper posture by safeguarding an erect position and proper alignment of the spine.” Proper alignment and spine stabilization can help prevent lordosis (an overextended back, or “swayback”) and posterior pelvic tilt (or “flat back”).
2. Planks Target Hard-To-Reach Muscles
Have you ever thought about how many of the movements a day that require core strength? From tying your shoes to kicking a soccer ball, core strength sustains many of our activities.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine concluded that “abdominal bracing,” which is what you’re doing while in plank position, “is one of the most effective techniques for inducing a higher activation in deep abdominal muscles,” even when compared with more dynamic core exercises.
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Science had similar results: variations of forearm plank were far better at activating important, hard-to-engage core muscles than dynamic exercises. Incorporating exercises like plank into a workout routine “would be optimal in terms of maximizing strength, improving stability, reducing injury, and maintaining mobility.”
3. Planks Strengthen More Than Your Core
In addition to the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, abdominal obliques, pectoral and serratus muscles, quadriceps, sartorius and tensor fasciae latae (all muscles of the core), planks also strengthen your legs, arms, shoulders and hips. Dr. Jinger Gottschall, assistant professor of kinesiology at Penn State University, argues that planks are better than crunches or sit-ups for this reason. Of all the reasons to add planks to your daily routine rather than another core-strengthening exercise, this is one of the most significant.
Did I mention that planks improve your balance? Yet another benefit to this classic move!
4. Planks Are Safe For Most People
At the risk of getting down on sit-ups, they’re not as safe for your back as planks. Dr. Mike Bracko, a sports physiologist, ACSM Fellow, and director of the Institute for Hockey Research in Calgary, argues that a sit-up might herniate a weak disc, while planks keep your spine neutral. As long as it’s done right, of course. To perfect your own plank technique, follow these tips:
- Breathe normally. (Holding your breath will raise your blood pressure and the pressure on your pelvic floor. Not good.)
- Keep your shoulder blades down and back.
- You should feel that your body from shoulder to heel is one long line.
- Tuck your chin slightly.
- Keep your elbows close to your body.
- Keep your hips up and in line with your body.
- Make sure your caboose is not up in the air!
5. Planks Have Endless Variations
If you’re dreading holding still for 30+ seconds every day, don’t fear. Like any classic exercise, planks come in a thousand variations. Each variation emphasizes a slightly different set of muscles, keeping your daily workout fresh and challenging. Planks on your forearms or hands have varying intensities. Side planks use instability and one side of your body more actively. Reverse planks are a world unto themselves. Finally, while the plank is traditionally a static or isometric exercise, many variations call for movement of the arms and legs, turning a plank into a full-body exercise. Between all the variations, you could easily create whole plank workouts!
There are dozens (if not hundreds!) of variations on planks, including (but not limited to): Plank push-ups, plank jacks, scorpion planks, mountain climbers, spiderman planks, side planks and more.
If these dynamic names aren’t enough causes to add planks to your workout every day, I don’t know what could be.
- Gerard, Jim. “Reality Check: Are Planks Really the Best Core Exercise?” Published on the ACE Fitness website at https://www.acefitness.org/prosourcearticle/3680/reality-check-are-planks-really-the-best-core
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