Are planks good for abs? When it comes to ab exercises, planks are often mentioned and recommended alongside classic core workouts such as crunches and sit-ups. Despite their popularity as a core workout, how good are planks for abs and can they give you that enviable six pack that you have always dreamed about?
Are Planks Good For Abs Bodybuilding?
Yes, they are. According to bodybuilding.com, if you are looking to build your core then planks are the best thing for you. They actually rank higher than crunches and sit-ups in their effectiveness.
Why Are Planks Good For Your Abs?
Here are some reasons why planks are good for your abs:
They Workout Your Whole Core
When people think about the core, they are mostly imagining the front area of the stomach where the abs are often located. While this is indeed the core, it is only just a small part of it. The core is actually made up of several different muscles namely:
This is the deepest layer of muscle that extends from your torso to the pelvis. It works as a compression to the abdomen and all the internal organs in this area and also helps to stabilize your spine.
Found on each side of your spine and they work to help with side to side movement as well as extending and rotating the back.
Obliques (External And Internal)
The external obliques lie on either side of our bodies right where the love handles should be/are. The internal obliques are located right under the external obliques, just inside the hip bones. These 4 muscles (two on either side) work together to help us bend sideways and twist our bodies from side to side.
These are found behind you, just below the shoulder blades along the sides of your spinal cord. Like the obliques, they help us twist from side to side and also stabilize our backs.
Commonly known as abs, they are located between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis and their main function is to help us bend forward.
Planks unlike some other core workouts will exercise all these muscles at a go.
They Are Safer For Your Spine And Lower Back
The curling motion used when doing other core exercises such as crunches and sit-ups usually puts stress on your spine and lower back which can lead to chronic pain and injury. Planks on the other hand often require you to remain in one position with your back raised and spine aligned giving less chances for back injury.
They Are Easy To Modify
The standard plank is not the only variation there is. This simple, seemingly boring workout has many variations that still workout your core and prevent the boredom of doing the same thing over and over.
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Side Plank Exercise Variations For A Stronger Core
A variation of the original plank workout, side planks are a great workout to add to your routine, especially if you are looking to strengthen your core. Like the original exercise, this variation works almost as a full body workout. Side planks muscles worked include those in your arms, obliques, shoulders, arms, butt, legs, etc.
Some benefits of doing side plank exercises and their variations include:
Helps With Low Back Pain
Chronic low back pain is one of the most common complaints about ailment in adults. In 2019 in North American alone, about 75 million people reported suffering from chronic low back pain (1). A 2018 study by the International Journal of Science and Research, revealed that planks, including side planks can help with the treatment and therapy of low back pain.
They Are A Full-Body Workout
As previously mentioned above, side planks exercise different muscles at once and so depending on your variation combinations, you can end up working out your whole body with one simple exercise.
Help Improve Balance And Coordination
They are known as balancing exercises and holding the original pose, let alone their variations is not an easy task.
Reduces The Risk Of Back Injury And Protects Your Spine
Many common and even easy-to-do workouts can be very dangerous for you, especially if you do not use the correct form. To prevent such injury, strengthening your core as well as the muscles surrounding the spine can help keep you safe.
One 2016 study by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, showed that a weak core increases your risk of injury and plank exercises, including side planks, can help reduce this risk (2). A 2019 study showed that strengthening the quadratus lumborum – located in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine – through workouts such as these helps to reduce your risk of a back injury (3).
Side Planks Challenge To Try At Home
Doing a planks challenge is a good way to slowly strengthen your spine, back muscles, improve your posture and balance, get some abs and more. If you want to try the side planks challenge, here are some side planks for abs exercise variations for you to try.
- Begin by lying on your right side, with the legs extended and stacked from hip to feet.
- Place your right elbow directly under your shoulder and ensure your head is directly in line with your spine. Keep your left arm aligned along the left side of your body.
- Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your navel toward your spine and keep breathing.
- On an exhale, slowly and steadily lift your hips and knees from the mat. Stop once your torso is straight in line with no sagging or bending.
- Hold this position for 10, 20, or 30 seconds – or as long as you can before returning to the start position on the mat.
- Change sides and do the same on the other side.
Side Plank Kick
- Begin in the standard side plank position with your right elbow on the floor, hips lifted, with your legs extended out and stacked on top of each other from hip to feet.
- Place your left hand on your left hip and slowly kick out and forward the right leg in-front of you.
- Remember to breathe while keeping your core and obliques engaged.
- Kick up as high as you can – as high as your waist if possible – while maintaining your balance.
- Do 10 to 12 kicks before switching sides and repeating the same on the left side.
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Side Plank Crunch
- Start in the side plank position with your hips to knees raised, legs stacked on top of each other and elbow on the floor.
- Reach up with the arm not balancing your body on the floor and stretch it above and behind your head.
- Lift the and stretch out the top leg
- Now bring in the outstretched arm and the lifted leg towards each other as you would while doing a normal crunch.
- Do this for 20 seconds before dropping down, switching to the other side and repeating the same.
Side Plank With Oblique Twist
- Start in side plank position.
- Lift your free hand and place it behind your head.
- Now twist your body as though doing a Russian twist and bring your elbow all the way to the floor before lifting back up.
- Remember to keep your movements controlled so you can engage all your muscles, core and obliques, and to breath all through the workout.
Which Planks Are Good For Abs?
All variations of this exercise are good for not only your abs area but your whole core too. As long as you maintain the correct form, you will reap the intended benefits. If you are wondering ‘what planks are good for abs and back?’, the answer remains the same. However, if you are using this workout as a therapy for an injured back or spine, please consult your doctor or therapist to better understand which variations are okay and which might cause more harm than good.
The Bottom Line: Are Planks Good For Abs?
Yes, they are. This simple and often disregarded workout works extremely well for the core area and is recommended by many for this exact benefit.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Expenditures and Health Care Utilization Among Adults With Newly Diagnosed Low Back and Lower Extremity Pain (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CORE ENDURANCE AND BACK DYSFUNCTION IN COLLEGIATE MALE ATHLETES WITH AND WITHOUT NONSPECIFIC LOW BACK PAIN (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Tolerability and Muscle Activity of Core Muscle Exercises in Chronic Low-back Pain (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)