We all work out and try to stay fit for different reasons. Maybe your goal is to lose weight or build muscles. Or better still, you just want to have a sculpted and beach-ready physique. However, the common factor is the increased preference for using bodyweight exercises to achieve these goals. They are a practical and straightforward way of getting fit using your body weight. Planks are perhaps the most popular form of bodyweight exercises out there. They are effective and flexible since they don’t require much of your time. Here’s what you need to know about plank exercises, as well as plank benefits.
What Is A Plank?
Simply put, a plank is an effective core exercise that works on your body strength and stability. You can achieve a plank using several different methods. However, the primary goal of a plank pose is to have your body perpendicular to the ground. Your stomach should also face down, and your torso elevated off the ground using your elbow or hands.
Think of a plank as maintaining an extended push-up pose without the upward and downward movements. This sounds simpler and more forgiving than regular push-ups, right? Well, simple is not easy, and plank exercises can become very strenuous real quick. Planks are a popular exercise in many workout routines, including:
- Yoga Routines. The plank pose is a vital part of yoga, from hot yoga routines, cardio-centric yoga and sun salutations. It can either be used as an intermissive pose connecting two parts of the routine or held for several seconds.
- Training Routines For Professional Boxers. Pro-boxers usually alternate between situps, pushups, planks, and held crunch. Each of these routines is, however, performed in decreasing duration determined by the coach’s timer.
- Training For Professional Sports Teams. Sports like football and hockey largely use planks as part of their exercise routines. This is primarily because of the plank workout benefits experienced by athletes after training sessions. Planks are effective in improving the strength of several core muscles that ultimately enhance their performance.
That being said, what are some of the benefits of plank exercises? Keep reading to find out.
What Are The Benefits Of Plank Exercise?
What are the benefits of holding a plank? Here’s how plank workout routines will improve your physical health:
Strengthens Your Core Musculature
Numerous plank exercise benefits can be realized from this routine. However, very few are as important as strengthening your core muscles. When it comes to building your core strength, planks are the gold standard.
Planks work your entire body and not just your abs. The major core muscles activated during planking include the glutes, the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, and the external obliques.
Strengthening each muscle benefits comes with additional physical benefits. Some of these benefits include:
Rectus abdominis – These muscles help improve your sports performance and help you jump high. The rectus abdominis are the muscles known to give the famous six-pack look.
Transverse abdominis – Help increase your ability to lift heavier weights.
Gluteal muscles – Help strengthen your back and give you a strong butt.
The obliques – Improve your capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting.
Improves Muscle Definition – Planks require more than just your core muscles. They also activate and strengthen the muscles in your arms, legs, chest, and shoulders. When you grip the floor with your fingers and hands, you warm the muscles in your arms and shoulders.
Solid planks also activate the quadriceps in the thighs and the calf muscles. The functionality of planks and the isometric hold help build up lean muscle, increasing the overall muscle definition of your body. This all-encompassing ability of planking makes it more efficient and productive.
If you want to give your body the extra challenge, try some plank exercises. These routines will make your body burn more calories compared to traditional abdominal exercises like sit-ups or crunches.
Planks will also strengthen huge muscle groups in your body. When you have stronger and larger muscles, you’ll torch more calories even when you’re resting. This makes planks vital for individuals working in offices or other sedentary jobs.
Having bigger and stronger muscles increases your resting energy expenditure. More calories will therefore be used up, reducing the chances of you putting on some extra weight. By extension, your calorie consumption will also be higher whenever you exercise. Yes, you’ll burn more calories when you try a plank pose then walk to school.
Burning more calories, in turn, translates to losing more weight. In as much as plank benefits for weight loss are significant, we should not ignore the other side of the coin. Using up more calories means getting hungry faster. When this happens, don’t go for junk. Instead, opt for healthy foods that’ll ultimately boost your nutrition.
We’ve all tried to stand on one leg before. How did that work out for you? Were you able to pull off some minutes or a couple of seconds was your limit. See, when the latter happens, it’s not about clumsiness; rather, it’s about your abdominal muscles.
If they are not strong enough, you won’t get the balance needed when doing activities requiring stability. Contrary to public opinion, balance is not majorly dependent on your legs. Your core muscles are what you want to work on if you’re looking for stability.
So if you ever find yourself wondering what are the benefits of doing the plank exercise, think about your stability. It’d be pretty cool if you can finally pull off the one-leg stance, right?
Side planks and planks with extensions can help you improve your overall balance. This will ultimately improve your performance in all fitness activities you take part in.
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What are the benefits of plank pose when it comes to your overall stability? And just how significant are they? The beauty of plank workouts is that they have a wide range of benefits, including improving your flexibility. Most exercises usually target your muscle strength only, making them a bit rigid in what they can offer.
Flexibility is one of the most important plank benefits of frequently exercising using this routine. This workout engages and stretches all posterior muscle groups in your body. These include your shoulder blades, shoulders, and collar bones. They also work on your hamstrings, arches of your feet and toes.
Throw in some side planks, and you add your oblique muscles to the list of muscles worked. By extension, your toes will undergo hyper-extension, which is vital for supporting your body weight. All these factors cumulatively increase your overall flexibility.
Do you ever wonder why planks are an important pose in several yoga routines? See, yoga is great if you want to build your core strength while improving your flexibility. Sometimes you hear people asking what benefits does yoga pose reverse plank and reverse table have. Simple, both poses greatly improve your flexibility.
Being considered a core exercise in yoga routines speaks a lot about its benefits to your core and flexibility. Here’s a pro tip: To increase your flexibility bonus, try adding rocking planks to the whole routine. This means that you rock your body by moving your toes in different directions.
Relieves Back Pains
This benefit is, to some extent, because of the improved posture that comes with plank exercise. However, the plank’s ability to prevent various types of back pain can also be attributed to its effect on abdominal muscles. And no, it doesn’t only reduce the risks of back pain; it also improves your overall back health (1).
See, the improved posture aligns your vertebrae, thus relieving unnecessary stress in your spine. The ligaments in your back are also arranged correctly, which further inhibits painful back conditions (1). However, plank routines also strengthen abdominal muscles. But how do they help in relieving back pains?
When your abdominal muscles become stronger, your body becomes more dependent on your stomach muscles. This relieves pressure on your back muscles. Your spinal cord is also straightened during a plank, making them stronger and more resistant to joint pain.
Gives You Better Posture
Planks can greatly improve your overall posture. A strong posture, on the other hand, creates a chain of positive dominos. For instance, your joints and bones will be kept in their right alignment. This then means that they will be properly maintained while increasing the overall efficiency of your muscles (1).
Also, a good posture ensures that your back and spine are in the right position, therefore reducing back pain. The bonus? With a great posture, you’ll look healthier and more confident.
Reduces Abdominal Fat
Losing belly fat is not always the easiest part of a weight loss regimen. Several routines primarily target your abs. Here’s where things get interesting, though. Every ab workout routine has a plank exercise included in it.
A plank pose will hold your abdominal muscle groups simultaneously, thus boosting your metabolism. The longer you maintain this position, the better your core will be improved, providing flexibility and a tighter belly (2).
Boosts Mood And Helps Relieve Stress
Yes, you read that right. Planks can have specific benefits on your mental health. Plank workouts have a rather specific effect on your nerves. By extension, this makes them an excellent way of improving your overall mood. Here’s how that works.
When you hold a plank position, you stretch muscle groups contributing to stress and tension in your body. These muscles massively contribute to the total stress in your body. When your body is physically strained, your mental state will soon be drained too.
Think of yourself sitting in a chair at work or home throughout the day. Your legs will become heavy and thigh muscles tight because you were in a bent position all day. Tension will also develop in your shoulders because they are forced to slump forward throughout the day.
All these scenarios put a lot of stress on your muscles and nerves. Tension in these parts of your body can make other organs experience more tension too. This transfer is mainly because of the natural need for compensation.
For instance, if your legs are tense, you’ll try to relieve them of the stress. As a result, additional strain will be put on your back. All these strain and stress eventually compound into anxiety.
Usually, you’d try massages to help relieve the strain. However, planks eliminate physical stressors better than massages, ultimately easing your state of mind. Additionally, your body releases endorphins in any form of exercise. They are a feel-good hormone that will lift your spirits in no time.
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How To Do Planks Correctly?
To get the most out of any type of exercise, you need to practice the right technique. It also reduces your overall risk of injury. Doing planks correctly, however, takes a little practice and patience. It is only challenging until you build up your muscles a little.
If you are new to planking, you might want to start small. If you can only manage only one plank daily, aim to hold in for about one minute. You can start with less then build up as you go on.
Much as planning is a great exercise, it is not suitable for everyone. You need to be careful with planking if you recently had prolapse surgery, gave birth, were obese, or had a pelvic pain condition.
Here’s how to do the regular plank:
- Get into the start of a push-up position.
- Bend your elbows 90 degrees, and lay your weight on your forearms for a forearm plank position.
- Keep your trunk straight and firm and structure a straight line from head to toe with no sagging or twisting.
- Relax your head and look at the floor.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Make sure you are breathing by inhaling gradually and consistently.
- At the point when your form begins to suffer, stop. Remember, you only benefit from planks when you use the proper technique.
3 Plank Variations You Should Know
If your goal is to work on your side abdominals while strengthening your spine, you should try side planks. According to this study, some side plank benefits include reducing spinal curvature in scoliosis patients. This implies that side planks minimize the risks of spinal problems, hence reducing the need for corrective surgery.
Here’s how you can do them:
- Lie on your right side while positioning yourself onto your right forearm that’s supposed to be on the ground. Also, your elbow should be aligned with your shoulder.
- Next, raise your hips hence creating a straight alignment between your body and the ground. Your body should form a triangle shape along with the floor during this process.
- Brace the sides of your right foot on the ground and stack your left foot on your right foot. Alternatively, you could place both feet on the ground.
Arm And Leg Extensions
You can try this plank routine to boost your balance.
- Start with a classic plank pose. Next, lift your right hand off the ground, then tap your left elbow lightly. Your toes and left arms should be used for balance.
- Bring your right hand back to the ground and switch to the opposite side.
- To start you off, do 10 taps on each side. However, you should bump this number up as your balance improves for the extra challenge.
This is a simple twist on your classic plank. However, do not be fooled. Simple is not always easy. Here’s how to do them:
- Get in your classic plank pose.
- Touch your knees to the ground each time, switching between sides.
- Always ensure that your back is straight and also that you’re tapping the floor during the exercise.
With such amazing benefits, it is easy to understand why planks are popular. Planks are an easy and power-packed full-body exercise that helps build your upper and lower body strength, tighten your core and improve your balance and posture. Also, there are many plank variations you can try to diversify your workout.
Whether you are just starting or are a pro at planking, keep in mind that quality beats quantity. Even doing 3 sets of planks, one minute each, produces great results in the long run. So, get planking today.
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. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain (2015, ncbi.nih.gov)
- The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat (2011, ncbi.nih.gov)