The Power of the Plank for Fitness
Plank exercises, though deceptively simple, are extremely beneficial to the body. Not only is it a very challenging exercise, but planks also increase strength and endurance in your abs, back and core and can, as such, be used to work the glutes and hamstrings. Planks also improve posture and balance, and core conditioning.
For me, the plank is core to my weekly workouts and part of my half marathon and triathlon training programs. Here’s what you need to know about the plank exercise;
What are Plank Exercises?
The plank is a bodyweight exercise that takes just a few minutes. Basically, you lie down on the ground on your stomach, then use your elbows and toes to support your weight while keeping your back straight. The challenge is to hold this position for several minutes.
There are multiple variations of the exercise. For instance, you can extend your arms out straight, or you can do 1-arm planks which require more strength and stamina. (see the video for variations). Each direction engages a different set of muscles for all-around toning and strengthening.
Benefits of the Plank
Plank exercises benefit the whole body, especially if you employ the different variations of the workout. The following are some of the key benefits;
Have you ever tried to stand on one leg only to fail miserably? Perhaps you began shaking after just a few seconds or you couldn’t do it altogether? If it happens when you’re sober, it could be a sign that you’re lacking in balance. Planks can help you find your center of gravity; the practice of balancing the body on our elbows and toes helps reveal the point at which the body weight is balanced. Physical balance not only improves endurance and flexibility but also plays a role in achieving mental balance.
It Improves Posture
Planking also has a huge impact on posture. This is big news because proper posture brings with it a ton of health benefits. Good posture keeps your bones and joints correctly aligned. This, in turn, improves the health of these two areas. Proper posture also improves the back and spine. People who practice the plank regularly experience fewer back pain episodes and spine issues. Above all, good posture leaves us looking young, healthy, and more confident.
Planking challenges the entire body at a time and can help you burn more calories than sit-ups and regular crunches. What’s better, the muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise every day ensure that your body continues to burn energy even when you’re sedentary. Just one minute of planks every day before and after work is enough to significantly enhance your metabolic rate and maintain the high rate throughout the day.
According to scientific studies, exercising increases the level of endorphins in the body; endorphins are natural mood lifters. It also gives you a focused activity that can help you feel a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishments naturally make us happy. Exercising also limits the level of stress on your brain. Planks go one step further by relaxing muscle groups that tend to become stiff when we sit for long periods. Relaxing these muscles lifts mood.
As a workout enthusiast or sportsperson, perhaps you’d like to know which muscles are likely to benefit the most from planking.
- Front-facing planks: Engage muscles in the upper and lower body including; the abdomen, lower back, shoulders, chest, neck, triceps, biceps, glutes, thighs, and calves.
- Side planks: Particularly effective for engaging muscles in your spine.
- Reverse Planks: Primarily engage the glutes, hamstrings, abs, and lower back.
My standard weekly workouts involve HIIT routines or running but a plank 5-6 days a week is standard. The video below will run you through a 3-minute plank and demonstrate the main position as well as two other options, the extended arm, and the one-arm plank.
Start small, even 2 sets of 30 seconds a day to being building yourself up to longer planks. Easy to use, this is a great exercise you can do in your living room, bedroom, or hotel room!
2 Minute Plank with Mike Gingerich
3 Minute Plank with Mike Gingerich
Additional Fitness Resources
Naked Nutrition is my “go-to” source for all-natural, non-GMO, and gluten-free products to supplement my training. I used Naked Energy for many pre-workouts, the Naked BCAA branch chain amino acids for post-workout recovery and also Naked Collagen to help keep my joints and ligaments in the best health possible.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are a core of my fitness training. Fast, high-powered, and efficient, these workouts help me strengthen core muscles and avoid injury from over-running. I use the team from HASfit as my go-to. I’m a patreon contributor for them and highly recommend their workouts to you.