Over the past couple of years, the bodyweight exercises have come screaming back to fashion. After spending almost a decade in shadow of fashionable and funky workout styles, the world has once again embraced the practical and simple exercises that are extremely convenient to do and in no way compromises on fitness results.
Plank is at the top of the list of bodyweight exercises with which the public has madly fallen in love with. Currently, you won’t find any decent core workout suggested by the fitness experts that wouldn’t have any variation of planks. And, being one of the most effective exercises certainly does make it famous. It requires little time investment, is very simple to perform and best thing is that it works multiple muscles at the same time.
Apart from the aesthetics prospect, the strong core muscles are absolutely vital. They have to shoulder the heavy responsibility of supporting entire back and spinal column. A strong core can assist in keeping posture and back problems at bay. And, of course, you have to train your core muscles on regular basis to make them strong and reap enormous benefits associated with it. One effective and time saving way to do so – is to do planks daily. And, here are great things that doing planks everyday will trigger.
Better core definition and performance
Planks’ status as a premium core exercise stems from the fact that it works and engages all the major core muscle groups including – the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle, and the glutes. Due to this, the planks help in sculpting all round core muscles and give you a complete washer board midsection. When done regularly, the planks can help you attain the sexy and ripped six pack abs. And, in terms of functional strength and performance, by training all the major groups, the planks gives you lot of benefits. Each group has its own benefits and by strengthening these muscles, you will notice:
- Rectus abdominis: Better sports performance, especially in jumping. This muscle group is fundamental in developing the renowned six pack look. It gives you a chiseled look.
- Transverse abdominis: Improved ability to lift heavier weights.
- Oblique muscles: Better capacity for stable side-bending, waist-twisting and lateral movements.
- Glutes: Supports back and can prevent lower back pain. And for ladies, it is a key to shapely booty.
- Lower risk of injury in the back and spinal column.
The best thing about the planks is that unlike other core exercises, it doesn’t put any strain on your lower back. In terms of stress on the lower back, the classic crunches are the biggest culprits and lying leg raises aren’t any better. Planks are good for your back not only because they don’t put stress on your back, but also because doing planks regularly can make a marked difference to lower back strength. And, a strong lower back ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.
Another benefit of the planks is that it lengthens your back muscles, which is exactly what you need to tackle the hunched back posture problem. Sitting continuously for more than an hour, triggers a response in your brain which instructs shortening of the back muscles to comply better with the posture. So, the planks can effectively solve the posture problems.
An increased boost to your metabolism
Planking can give a timely boost to your weight loss program by cranking your metabolism up. The planks burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises such as crunches and sit-ups, which mean you would be torching calories round the clock. Also, it is a well known fact that regular calorie burn and challenging physical activity will keep your metabolism in higher gears. Plus, by doing planks regularly, you will strengthen and build muscles, which will ensure your body burns more energy even when at rest.
Doing planks regularly can make a world of difference to your ability to stand and sit with straight and stable posture. The strong core muscles have a lasting effect on the overall condition of your neck, shoulders, chest and back. Remember the core muscles hold everything in its place and are very important for the well being of the internal organs. Also, as said before, the planks improve your lower back strength as well. And, having a strong and stable back can correct widespread and common back problems such as slouching and hunching.
Better overall balance
Have you ever tried to stand on one leg? Yes, I know most of us couldn’t stand up straight for more than couple of seconds. The reason is that your core muscles aren’t strong enough. The abdominal muscles play an important role in improving overall balance. To be more precise, the external and internal oblique muscles are a key to maintaining stability in the upper body, which leads to better overall balance. The side planks and plank extensions are some of the best routines to improve your overall balance that could improve your performance in almost every kind of athletic activity. And, balance isn’t only important for sports performances, it can help you tip-toe around more efficiently, which is a great skill for specific situations.
Planking expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shoulders, shoulder blades, and collar bone. Also, while doing the planks, you stretch your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. And, by adding side planks to your routine, you can also work on your oblique muscles. And, as you know, the more you stretch your muscles, more flexible they become. Also, it has been found that isometric stretching done over a prolonged period of time is the best way to improve your flexibility and agility.
In general, any exercise routine is considered as mood booster. Working out stimulates the secretion and production of ‘feel good hormones’ known as endorphins. These hormones alleviate stress and relax your mind.
Apart from the general stress booster benefits of exercising, the planking brings a lot to table when it comes to improving mood and alleviating tension and anxiety. As discussed in the above point, the planks stretch out several muscles. And, how it helps reduce stress? Bear with me for a second. You spend your all day sitting at your workstation, and this leads to tight thigh muscles, cramped legs due to being bent for several hours, and tension in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. Now this can put a lot of stress on the nerves and muscles, and your state of mind is definitely connected with your physical state. And, the planks can dissipate stress and tension from these muscles, and can help your relax.
However, you can only avail these wonderful benefits of the planks, if you do them in the right way with a right form. In fact, if you are doing it in an inconsistent form, you risk building tension on the muscles, which can over time lead to muscular problems. So, here are some points on how you should do the classic plank.
- Get in a pushup position on the floor.
- Now, bend your elbows at 90 degrees, place them directly beneath your shoulder and place your body’s weight on your forearms.
- Firmly ground the balls of your feet on the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body. Remember you don’t have to lock your knees or hyperextend them.
- Now, pick a spot on the floor about a foot beyond the hands and lock your gaze at it. This will neutralize the neck and spine and will ensure that you don’t place undue stress on your neck and upper shoulder muscles.
- Squeeze your abs and breathe normally. Hold the position without compromising on the form as long as your fitness permits.
And, there are some common mistakes that you should avoid at all costs to get the most out of the planks. And, they are as such –
- You have to keep your body in a straight line. Often under the strain of exertion, people let their hips drop, which puts pressure on your lower back and robs your core and butt of a good workout.
- Another common form problem associated with the planks is sticking your hips in the air. Of course, the pose becomes easier to hold by doing so. But, at the cost of its effectiveness. And, the latter is important to get the most out of the workout.
- Also, sometimes people allow their hips to sag to one side. Of course, such a mistake is normal. After all, everyone has body imbalances with one side being weaker than the other. But, you have to ensure, it doesn’t affect your form. You have to keep hips equidistant from the ground to work both sides equivalently and keeping unnecessary pressure of your lower back.
- It has also been seen that due to poor back and shoulder mobility and strength, people tend to hunch or round the shoulders to stay in a pose for a bit longer. However, this puts strain on your neck and shoulders.
Below, you can find a sample plank video that can help you to get the form absolutely right.