• En

Who knew staying still while exercising could be a parameter for fitness? Since strengthening the core became the latest fad for the world of fitness, lying down on your elbows has become the go-to exercise, replacing sit-ups and crunches. And yet, holding your body still against the forces of gravity is more challenging than you would imagine.

Lying down like a flat piece of wood has now become all the rage, becoming the benchmark for bodyweight exercises. Doing hundreds of push-ups in one go is no longer a testament to one’s strength; holding a plank for minutes on end is the gold standard now.

Although the inventor of Pilates, Joseph Pilates is also credited with inventing the plank exercise, many of its variations predate it as it is commonly used in a variety of workouts and has been for a long time.

Because of its popularity in gyms, sports, crossfit, callisthenics as well as yoga, although through different variations, the plank is widely accepted as an effective exercise to strengthen the core by holding your own body weight against gravity.

  1. Types of planks
  2. Benefits of the plank
  3. The correct way to do the plank
  4. Alternative exercises
  5. Takeaways of plank exercise

Through its various iterations, the plank has grown in stature as well as popularity for its versatility as well as the ease of doing it. Which is primarily the reason it has been performed in workouts of all kinds around the world. Some of its variations are listed below:

  • Straight arm plank
  • Forearm plank
  • Side plank
  • Chaturanga Dandasana (yoga)
  • Leg raise plank

Although there are more variations, the plank is the most popular in its original avatar, the forearm plank where the body is propped up on the elbows and toes.

Contrary to popular belief, the core of the human body doesn’t just comprise the abs, which means, a person with a set of six-pack abs isn’t necessarily going to have a strong core. Core muscles hold the centre of your body together, connecting the upper and the lower half of the body, and allow you to resist external forces along with making the limbs move in the direction you would want them to.

The plank, as a result, becomes essential in challenging the core muscles and building them up for greater efficiency throughout the body, while some variations also activate other muscle groups as well. Here are some of the benefits of doing planks:

  • Improves core strength: As has been mentioned above, performing the plank consistently will see positive effects on all the abdominal muscles, obliques (side of the stomach) as well as the hip muscles. This helps you during your gym workouts and running with an enhanced ability to lift heavier weights and be able to run more efficiently.
  • Improves posture, stability and balance: The positive effects of the plank includes an improved sense of posture. Erratic lifestyles usually tend to show up with chronic pain in the neck, shoulders and the lower back, because of poor overall posture, and planks help in correcting that by strengthening the core muscles. It also lends to more stability in the body and a better balance throughout the limbs.
  • Reduced risk of injury: Improved performance in the gym or any fitness activity, or even while moving furniture through a stronger core also means lesser chances of you suffering an injury.
  • Increased metabolism: The general rule of weight training exercises is that they continue to burn calories long after you have stopped working out. Planks puts the same rule into effect thanks to its strength-training functions.
  • Psychological benefits: Exercise itself has several psychological benefits, and planks help in banishing the negative effects of sitting all day in front of a desk, or in awkward postures while lying down on the couch. The plank helps ease the stress in the muscles and joints in the arms and legs that have been constricted due to the lack of movement throughout the day.
  • Improved flexibility: Strengthening the arms, legs as well as hip muscles allow you better flexibility in the body to be able to perform other tasks with more ease. The stronger your core muscles are, the more you’re able to perform stretches, allowing your limbs to move that much more.

Muscles worked

Abdominal and core muscles

Equipment required

None, although having a mat to keep the elbows from bruising is a good idea.

Experience level

Beginner

Sets & reps

3 rounds 

How to do it

  • Lie down on the floor on your stomach.
  • Keep your forearms planted on the ground under your shoulders and lift yourself up
  • Keep your body in a straight line from your head all the way to your toes
  • Keep your torso in and the rest of the body rigid while breathing normally
  • Hold the position as long as you can
  • Get back down once you start shaking or can’t hold the position anymore
Tip: For those new to a plank, holding the position for at least 60 seconds could be difficult. Ensure that your back doesn’t arch inwards while doing it as it reduces the effects of the exercise. If you’re comfortable with the basic plank, you can move onto the other variations, or test yourself on the basic one by lifting up either leg or arm.

While planks are extremely effective at attacking the core muscles, some can get bored by the monotony. But there are several exercises that can be performed in its place to continue working on achieving stronger core muscles:

  • Leg raises
  • Crunches
  • Mountain climbers
  • Russian twist
  • Flutter kicks

Strengthening the core is no easy task but an important one. Whether you are a gym freak, like to run or play a sport, a strong set of core muscles go a long way into improving your performance. The limbs work in synergy with the core muscles to be able to perform physically challenging tasks in an efficient way, preventing you from straining other muscle groups.

The plank is the perfect exercise even for people who can’t find the time to get to a gym or a park, as it can be easily performed at a place big enough to lie down. All it takes is a few minutes of time to perform, but you can extend your workout for as long as you can hold a plank!

References

  1. Lee J et al. Comparison of three different surface plank exercises on core muscle activity. Phys Ther Rehabil Sci. 2016 Mar; 5:29-33.
  2. Blasimann A et al. Effect of Core Muscle Strengthening Exercises (Including Plank and Side Plank) on Injury Rate in Male Adult Soccer Players: A Systematic Review. Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2018 Mar;32(1):35-46. PMID: 29558776.
  3. Atsushi Imai and Koji Kaneoka. The Relationship Between Trunk Endurance Plank Tests and Athletic Performance Tests in Adolescent Soccer Players. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2016 Oct; 11(5): 718–724. PMID: 27757284.
  4. Choi, JH et al. Comparison of Trunk Muscle Activity Between Traditional Plank Exercise and Plank Exercise With Isometric Contraction of Ankle Muscles in Subjects With Chronic Low Back Pain. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2020 Jan.
  5. Walton, LM et al. The effects of a 6 week dynamic core stability plank exercise program compared to a traditional supine core stability strengthening program on diastasis recti abdominis closure, pain, oswestry disability index (ODI) and pelvic floor disability index score Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. 2016 Jan; 3(3). ISSN 2055-2386
cross
Ask your health query now and get connected with a doctor within 10 minutes!