You already know that regular exercise helps you stay fit and healthy. You may not know, however, that sometimes the simplest movements result in the greatest fitness gains. This is definitely the case with plank exercises.
Doing a plank requires holding your body (that is, your trunk) off the floor while keeping it in a straight line. It’s easy enough to get into the basic position, but maintaining it requires strength and endurance in your back, abs, and core. This is the best movement for core conditioning, and it also strengthens your hamstrings and glutes, improves balance, and promotes proper posture. Plank exercises are so effective because they use multiple muscles simultaneously.
Here is a quick overview of the various benefits of planking.
- Tones up the belly. Planking helps to build the inner core muscles that are the foundation for that enviable six-pack look. Plank exercises strengthen the abdominal muscles and tighten the mid-section. Of course, you’ll need to shed any extra fat to get the full six-pack effect. Just be aware that it’s unhealthy to shed too much; men should maintain about 6% body fat and women 9%.
- Improves flexibility. In addition to boosting strength, planks also improve the flexibility of your posterior muscle groups, including those around the collarbone, shoulders, hamstrings, and even feet. Planks help these muscles to expand and stretch. Thus a side plank stretches the sides, especially when you extend one arm up over your head while keeping it in line with your body.
- Reduces back pain. Planks have an amazing effect back pain, reducing it by strengthening the core. They also help to strengthen the back muscles themselves, especially those nearer the neck. Since planks require minimal movement as they contract the various layers of abdominal fascia, they are an excellent way to build up the core. Stronger muscles throughout the body contribute to alleviating upper- and low-back pain over time.
- Promotes balance and posture. Correct planking requires you to engage the abs in order to stay upright. Planks that involve extension, such as side planks, are especially beneficial for improving body balance. Here’s a great balance exercise: get into the side plank position, then lift your leg and hold it for 10 seconds; next lower your leg, repeat, and then switch sides. Planks work pretty much every muscle—including those of the chest, back, abs, shoulders, and neck—and thus promote proper balance and posture. If you practice planks on a regular basis, you’ll soon find that you are sitting and standing straighter.
- Enhances your mood. Not only do planks boost your physical fitness, but they also enhance mental health. Like any vigorous exercise, planks have the potential to give you a real psychological boost. Because they stretch and ultimately relax various muscle groups that often become tense and stiff from prolonged sitting, plank exercises can lift your spirit and your mood.
There are a many variations on planking that you can try in order to work different parts of your body. So talk to your physical trainer to find out more about the kinds of planks that are best for you, or just visit www.fitnessgoals.com.