When you think of exercise, you often think about lifting weights, moving around and cardiovascular fitness. Exercise also consists of functional resistance training and holding your body positions. Functional resistance training has as many benefits as other forms of exercise. Let’s see what benefits you can gain from doing the plank exercise.
What Is a Plank Exercise?
Some exercises are a combination of being easy and difficult at the same time. The plank exercise falls into this category of fitness. It’s easy in the sense that nearly anyone can put themselves in the position of the movement. The difficulty comes about when you factor the duration of holding the position.
Your objective with the plank exercise is to hold the static position for the chosen amount of time. The intention is for you to hold your body in a state of resistance to draw from your strength and stability. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? The challenge comes from having to maintain the proper form for the duration as occurs with other simple movements used to improve fitness.
Be careful of doing planks if you have back pain or other injuries. If you’re just starting out, try holding the plank position for several seconds only, slowly working your way up to where you can hold it longer. In addition, be careful to avoid these common plank mistakes:
You want to maintain a straight, horizontal “table top” position when doing your plank. You don’t want to allow your head, hips, or shoulders to drop out of alignment. You don’t want to bring your hands too close together, which could cause internal rotation and instability at your shoulder joint. You want to be sure not to hold your breath and to breathe as smoothly and event throughout the exercise.
How to Perform the Plank Exercise
In understanding this movement that improves your core strength and stability, you want to have the proper form while performing the plank exercise. To start, you place your forearms and toes on the floor, as you extend your body flat across the floor. Keep your feet placed shoulder-width apart and your arms at 90 degrees also shoulder-width apart. Maintain your knees and hips so they're extended, keeping your spine neutrally aligned.
Keeping your head down without stressing your neck, your torso will be erect as you deliberately tighten your core and butt. With all this intentional focus on tightening these areas, it’s important not to lose track of your breathing. Remember to take in calm, deep breaths as you hold the plank position. Through your steady breathing, you will notice your body getting into stronger alignment.
Performing the plank exercise is a matter of holding the position for the prescribed amount of time. You can start off with as much as 10 or 15 seconds. Then you build up from there with 5 more seconds each time after you feel you can comfortably hold the prescribed amount. Do what feels manageable for you, but enough that you will start to feel muscle fatigue as you’re finishing.
Once you achieve mastery with the plank exercise, you can try the straight-arm plank. This is the most similar variation to the beginner plank exercise that improves your core strength and stability. Through various progressions of the difficulty and the intensity of the plank exercise, you can increase its benefits.
Benefits of the Plank Exercise
Doing exercise provides you with physical benefits, but you don’t want to overlook the benefits it has on your mood. While every exercise can contribute to giving you a mood boost, a plank exercise is one of the easiest to drop down and do at any time. If you exercise regularly, you’ve likely experienced that it gives you a pleasant sense of well-being. Regular exercise allows you more energy throughout the day and you’ll feel more relaxed and positive about your life.
In particular, the plank exercise is helpful because it tightens and stretches muscles groups. Then when you’re finished, your muscles will feel looser and more relaxed rather than remaining stiff throughout the day. You can count on the release of tension from planks to lift your spirits. Wouldn’t you like to add another healthy habit to boost your mood?
Do you wonder why your stomach doesn't get toned the way you want it to? There’s quite a roster of exercises for you to choose from when you want to target your abdominal muscles. Why not do a movement like a plank exercise that has multiple benefits for other body parts while it helps you tighten and sculpt your stomach? Sounds like a win/win movement for your whole body, with your abdominal muscles coming out on top.
The plank position will help build your inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for your visible toned stomach muscles. As your abdominal muscles become stronger and your mid-section tightens, your toned stomach muscles will continue to reveal themselves. In addition to shedding fat to see those six-pack abs, make it a regular habit to get yourself into plank position.
Enhances Bone and Joint Health
Doing your plank position allows you to engage in physical activities while reducing any painful side effects that can arise from some exercises like jumping and running. Not every body is meant to be bending joints and throwing bones in dynamic bursts of movement. What movements do you think would best suit your bone and joint health?
Researchers have concluded that extension and isometric exercises are more appropriate for bone and joint health, especially for those with osteoporosis. When you perform a plank exercise, you allow your body to create new living bone tissue. By doing this regularly, the result will be healthier and stronger bones. Physical activity such as this will also promote circulation in your joints, allowing your bones to work together in a smoother fashion.
Reduces Back Pain
The plank position helps reduce back pain because it strengthens your core and your back muscles at the same time. These two areas must be equally tightened and strengthened for them to function and for you to avoid any strain or injury in either area. They must work together and remain balanced when working each area separately for itself.
It’s good for your back that the plank exercise requires minimal movement, yet it contracts all layers of the abdominal fascia. Planking regularly will train your abdominal muscles to activate to support your posture and share in the function of holding your body upright. Your back muscles will be better able to share this load in not having to do all the work, thus reducing the pain. Good posture then keeps the vertebrae and ligaments of the spine aligned and healthy.
Your plank position will increase flexibility in your posterior muscle groups while you’re building strength. The muscles around your collarbone, shoulders, and shoulder blades will stretch and expand. You will also stretch and engage your toes, the arches of your feet, your calves and your hamstrings. Areas that might get overlooked are all getting activated to allow your body to do a plank exercise.
You can experiment with more flexibility as you do variations like a side plank. As you do this, you can stretch your sides further with each rendition of your routine. If you try to do a rocking plank while in plank position, you’ll increase your stretching benefits. It’s easy to do from the basic plank position as you rock your body back and forth by pausing with your toes.
The isometric hold you use during the plank position enables your body to manifest stability. This enforces substantial overall improvement in your coordination and balance. As the plank exercise strengthens all of your core, beyond your abdominals, it triggers your body to act as a unit, not just as individual parts. Planks train your muscles to work together efficiently, and they hone your balance.
The plank position and its variations are perfectly designed to do this. In developing your plank endurance, you’re able to run, cycle, swim and hike better as your core gets stronger. You’ll resist injury of overusing one muscle group, because your whole body will be engaged. It’s amazing how your body’s stabilization during this horizontal hold will influence your ability to stabilize in your vertical positioning and while moving.
Good posture is when you're able to keep your bones in proper alignment while facilitating breathing and your nervous system functioning. It affects the operation of your internal organs and your digestive system, therefore it’s apparent how important good posture is. You want to ensure that the spine, core and upper body muscles are strong and healthy. When these muscles are strong, especially the erector spinae, rhomboids and trapezius, you’ll stand up straighter naturally.
Aesthetically, good posture will lengthen your muscles while making you look toned and lean without even losing extra pounds. Standing upright with alignment gives you more confidence and allows you to process in a more powerful manner. As you regularly practice your plank exercise, your chest, abs, back, shoulders and neck maintain strength to adjust your body’s natural alignment.
Once again, concisely doing a plank exercise will allow you to tap into the broader benefit that regular exercise brings. A very important benefit of exercise is that it heightens your metabolism. The intensity of maintaining your plank position is perfect for you to conjure up burning calories in your body. You won’t only burn calories while you're working out but you’ll have your metabolism going at a higher gear for hours afterward.
Your muscle mass and strength attained through engaging in a plank position offers the benefit of a faster metabolism. This is an incredible bonus to go along with doing a movement that already does so much for you physically.
With building core strength, the plank position is the top choice to engage. It allows you to work simultaneously on all the muscle groups in your stomach. You will strengthen your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and the internal and external obliques. Whether you want to improve your deep core stabilizing muscles or hip and back mobilizing muscles, it is all going to be addressed when you do your plank.
The reveal of your “six-pack abs” won't just come from exercise but, from a healthy diet and lifestyle. But when this is paired with a functional resistance training like holding a plank poison, it helps you develop stronger definition of your body’s mid-section. Your inner core muscles will be trained, laying the foundation for creating a stronger, more defined front sheath of abs you can see. While regularly doing planks, you will see and feel how much tighter your abs and core are getting.
Practicing a plank exercise releases neurochemical substances in the brain called endorphins, which occur during physical activity. This is especially good with the plank as it will come with all the other benefits. These endorphins help your body increase the feelings of happiness and work with other “feel good” chemicals in the body. A primary goal is for you to decrease the feelings of stress.
The plank position also aids in tension relief as your body is encouraged to lengthen and stretch performing the pose. In this process, you can become more mindful of the stress that triggers worrying and anxiety. You want a preventative measure to partake in before your stress or anxiety gains hold of you. This exercise will shift your focus and calm you down while activating the body’s endorphins that make you feel better.
As you can see, this is one significant movement to do! Start with the basic plank position, build up your duration, then add some variation. It's doable and effective. There are so many benefits in doing your plank exercise.
Featured Image Source: Pexels