We love planks! They are challenging, can be done where ever you workout, and require nothing but your body weight.
Planks work your entire core. What exactly qualifies as core muscles? Your core is made up of all the muscles in your torso, your pelvis, and your hips. These muscles are responsible for your posture, your alignment and your balance, and strengthening them can help get rid of and prevent injuries, including back pain.
So why are planks so good at working your core muscles? Planks are a stability exercise. When doing a plank with the correct form, all of these muscles are working to hold up the weight of your body while keeping your spine aligned. Planks help with balance when you do variations where you are holding one arm or leg up while maintaining your plank position (examples of variations are shown below).
How can I be sure I am doing a plank correctly? The most important thing when performing a plank exercise is to have the correct form. You will not get the benefits from planks if you are doing them incorrectly, and you can also cause back and shoulder injuries. My best advice to make sure you are using the right positioning is to either look at yourself in a mirror while in a plank, or have someone take a picture of you. Do that a few times until you get a feel for the correct positioning. You can perform a plank on either your elbows or in push up position. There are examples of each of these below.
To correctly perform a plank:
- Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders in a straight line. Distribute your weight evenly and do not lean forward.
- Your spine should be straight. Do not arch your back up or down, you do not want your booty dropped towards the ground or up in the air. You want to lengthen your spine. As you stretch out your neck, keep everything in a straight line.
- Your feet should be hip width apart
How long should I hold a plank? This is totally going to be dependent on you. Start off by trying to hold a plank for 20 seconds. If you cannot make it to 20 seconds, start where you can and work up from there. Once you get the hang of it and can hold your plank for around a minute, start trying different variations to make it more challenging and to start working your muscles differently. A few examples of variations are shown below.
Do I need to do other abdominal exercises if I do planks? Yes, you do. It is always good to change up your routine. Our bodies can get stuck in a rut if we are always doing the same exercises and we need to work different muscle groups at different times to continue to become stronger. Check out our post on abdominal exercises here to get some new ideas to mix things up.
First I want to show you a basic plank and a basic side plank. Like I said earlier, you can do it on your elbows or in push up position.
Now I want to show you some variations you can do to challenge yourself. You can do these variations the entire time you are holding plank or just part of the time, whatever is best for you.
*If this is too hard to do both at the same time, just lift one arm or one leg at a time.
From plank position, step out one foot at a time, then back in and step out the other. You are sort of marching side to side with your legs.
While holding plank, pull one knee up towards the opposite armpit, go back down to starting position and switch sides.
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