Planking has grown in popularity over the past few years. This is due in part to a strange fad that took place in 2011 where planking on random inanimate objects was cool. However, it turns out that the plank exercise is actually a very good one, particularly for your core. In this post, I am going to explain some of the benefits associated with planking. I will also go over how to properly complete a plank with good form.
The main benefit of the plank is its ability to help tone and strengthen the core. The core typically refers to any part of the body that is not a limb - so, everything other than the arms, legs, head, and neck. The main muscles that provide support when a plank is properly done are your transverse abdominus and your rectus abdominus muscles. Having these muscles well developed is a key part of achieving the “defined abs” look that many are striving for. Additionally, the plank helps to strengthen the oblique muscles that run along side these core muscles as well. This can also help to create a defined and toned looking midsection.
I had mentioned above that the plank primarily benefits the core and midsection, but that does not mean that the strength benefits for the plank end there. The plank also helps to strengthen and tone a few of the muscles in the upper and lower body as well. The pectorals, the deltoids, and a host of other upper body muscles also benefit from having planks as a part of your regimen. The quads and glutes in the lower body can also steadily improve in appearance and strength from doing this exercise. All in all, this makes the plank pretty close to a total body exercise.
Planks can also help to save your back and improve your posture - if done correctly. By strengthening the abdominal muscles as well as some of the muscles in the lower back, the plank is one of the most effective exercises for reducing low back pain. A stronger core is key to taking extra unnecessary pressure and strain off of the low back. The fact that the plank helps to increase the strength of some of the lower back muscles as well, such as the quadratus lumborum, is icing on the cake. Of course, this is assuming that the planks are being done correctly. Also, consider that this is something that should be done gradually. If you are new to this type of exercise, you should be starting off with basic planks and for shorter durations of time compared to more experienced exercisers.
Planking can be a useful addition to any weight loss regimen as well. When you are losing weight, you have to keep in mind that there is no way to “spot” reduce fat. You can't choose where weight will come off of your body (unless it is being surgically removed). This means that an exercise like the plank that targets multiple muscle groups is particularly useful. Anytime you do a compound exercise, like the plank, you are helping to stimulate more muscle fibers than more basic exercises. This means that you will most likely burn more calories and build more muscle doing compound exercises. I always advocate to my personal training clients that exercising intelligently is just as, if not more, important as exercising intensely. When it comes down to it, the plank is an intelligent and efficient exercise. I would argue that any exercise that gives you that much bang for your buck would have to be. This makes it something that almost everyone should do on a regular basis.
There are also other versions of the plank exercise that help with other fitness goals as well. I will demonstrate some of these as well as basic proper plank in an attached video. Hopefully, I have inspired you to try out the plank and reap some of the benefits! Remember everyone, exercise intensely, but more importantly, intelligently!