Powerful Planks – How to Improve Body Strength with Planks

Dec 5, 2013 //

Its really too bad that planks are often underrated and underestimated as far as core exercises go.  The truth about planks is that they are fantastic for almost every reason an exercise should be! They can improve lifting capacity, recover from spinal injury, strengthen abs, and enhance performance on the pitch. Here’s what you should know about the power of the plank!

To begin with, we should know what a plank is and how to do one, as well as what it isn’t, so we don’t waste time with incorrect techniques.

What Are Planks and How to Do Them?

It’s not quite as easy to strengthen your body with planks, as propping yourself up on your elbows and toes and balancing until you’re blinded by pain. To execute a plank properly, lie down on your stomach and use your elbows to support your upper body. Retract your shoulder blades and pull them tight to your ribcage. Squeeze your glutes and straighten your legs. Avoid looking up or down and keep your neck in a neutral position.

Start by learning when your pelvis is in a neutral position. An easy way to determine this to rock your pelvis back and forth while assuming a simple plank position until you find a position such that you are able to squeeze your glutes maximally.

Now try to lock your pelvis with your ribcage and torso. This means trying to create a sturdy link between your upper body and your lower body. A plank is a total body exercise that incorporates tension and co-contractive forces. It may be thought of as an exertion of near-maximal contractile strength from multiple areas of the body (including your shoulders, abdominals, glutes, spinal stabilizers and quads).

To really milk the motion, tighten your abs and exhale. As you breathe out, you will be able to create an even tighter brace and activate the internal core muscles. Take in tiny breaths as you inhale so that you can exhale properly without compromising your posture. Recent research shows that the bracing action involved in a plank activates the internal obliques preferentially, as opposed to the rectus abdominus (a core muscle that is most often targeted by other core-exercsies). Utilizing these deep core muscles is what helps to keep the spine in shape and secure.

What Planks Are Not

A poorly executed plank is mainly caused by poor spinal positioning, whereby your butt either protrudes upward or your back is rounded. In the case of your butt sticking out more than it should, the low back musculature and the hip flexors kick in instead of the core muscles. When your back is rounded you can increase abdominal stability without increasing muscle activity and thus prolong the ability to remain in plank position.

Planking for Lifting

Increasing maximal lift capacity is also a bonus benefit of the plank. Increased strength may come from an increased rate of neural firing to the core muscles, increased awareness of core firing, or even because of warming up the core muscles completely and thoroughly.

Planking for Mobility

Agility and speed have a lot to do with core balance and stability. Fortunately, so do planks.  If the lower back is unstable, the body will have to compromise stability from another part., such as the hips. As mentioned earlier, this will affect the neutrality of the pelvis and prevent the plank from being optimally effective. This is why most, if not all, athletes take planks seriously. Whether they’re used for warming up or for in between drills, they are effective.

So, the next time you think of a plank as nothing more than a boring static exercise where all you have to do is hang out and hold out for as long as possible, think again!

Mashal Hussain

Mashal H. is a personal trainer and older adult specialist from Alberta. As an avid fitness enthusiast, she pursued a B.Sc in Kinesiology from McGill University, and after acquiring her Masters in Business Administration has been working towards expanding the realm of fitness in her local environment. She works towards developing and promoting soccer at a grassroots level and coaches youth squads at her club. Being an athlete herself, she keeps up to date with the fitness world and todays best practices to stay healthy, strong, and happy.

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