The Benefits of Planking | To Plank or Not to Plank?
To plank or not to plank, that is the question.
The answer is yes! The benefits of planking are enormous, as this exercise helps build your core, develop better balance, and support your posture for better functional movement every day. You should be planking as much as possible, and in every variation possible to get the most out of this essential workout.
Learn more about the benefits of planking when you read these tips and tricks from our coaches at Gloveworx.
The Core and More
When most people think of the core, they think of the muscles that contribute to the six-pack abs they do dearly desire. However, as the name implies, the core is the structure that makes up the middle of your body, including your sides, your back, and yes, those enviable washboard abs.
The core is one of the many muscle groups that plays a role in training and getting stronger. The muscles of the core include:
- Rectus Abdominis - the rectus abdominis is the core muscles that make up the aforementioned six-pack abs when belly fat is reduced. This long muscle stretches downward along the front of the abdomen.
- Transversus Abdominis - the TVA is deep within the core, and is largely responsible for stability and support, wrapping around the spine.
- External Obliques - the external oblique muscles are at the front and side of your trunk, in the waist area.
- Internal Obliques - the internal obliques are located under the external oblique muscles, traveling in the opposite direction.
- Erector Spinae - the erector spinae is one of the most important muscle groups in your back, comprising of three muscles that extend from the neck to the lower back.
- Multifidus - the multifidis is a thin muscle located in the spine, which plays a key role in stability and joint protection.
While these are the major muscles within the core, many other muscles play a role in core strengthening and stabilization. Everything from the pecs and lats to the diaphragm to the hamstrings tie into core functionality. In the human body, everything is connected and works together!
Planking Benefits in Activities of Daily Living
Forget the endless crunches when trying to strengthen your core! There are many planking benefits that play a role during training. A plank workout can be a great way to get a quick round of exercise when on a tight schedule, while adding the plank pose at the end of an exercise routine can be a killer finisher after torching calories. However, the benefits of plank exercises extend beyond the studio and impact activities contenders do in their home life as well.
One of the main planking benefits is the reduction of low-back pain in those who incorporate the plank pose into their workouts. It's estimated that 80% of people experience low-back pain at some point throughout their lives, and strengthening the core can help reduce these occurrences. Taking time to work those transversus abdominis and the posterior muscle groups can make them stronger and more resistant to wear and tear over time.
Most people struggle with maintaining proper posture, especially in a technology-driven world that has everyone bent over looking at their phones or computers. Planks work to improve the core muscles, strengthening them and providing stability that contributes to good posture (which contributes to reducing the low-back pain mentioned above).
Offsets the Effects of Sitting
Even when prioritizing fitness goals, most people spend a lot of time sitting. Many jobs promote a sedentary lifestyle that wreaks havoc on the pelvic floor, knees, neck, and back. All of the issues listed here tie into a weak core, sore back, and future health problems.
How to Do the Perfect Plank
Many people claim they can plank forever without feeling any strain in their abs. In this situation, their body is most likely trying to take a shortcut to working out the abdominals.
When you perform the plank, you usually just hold yourself up in any way possible, using any combination of muscle and bone to support your weight. Many people are mostly engaging and working their shoulders more than anything else, so they don’t feel anything in their core because they aren’t using it. To enjoy the full benefits of planking, focus on three things: elbows, hips, and butt.
Start with Your Elbows
While the basic plank is a relatively static position, you can create tension that will engage your core. While balancing on your forearms, focus on driving your elbows toward your toes to create a constant pulling motion, starting from the point of contact with the elbows and moving towards your feet during the entire duration of the plank.
Think about ripping the floor back with the elbows as you plank to massively increase core activation!
Your Hips Should Not Dip
Your back should be so flat that a coach should be able to set the table on it without it falling. To accomplish a flatter back, you must engage your pelvic floor by thrusting your hips forward from the bottom to create a posterior pelvic tilt. Imagine a piece of tape connecting your pelvic floor and your belly button. Hold your pelvis in this position during the entire time you are holding a plank.
Last, Butt Not Least
Clenching your glutes is an important part of the plank position, as it supports your core instead of deflecting the exercise away from it. Like the pulling action with the elbows, this activation of the glutes will engage the lower abdomen and help target the pelvic floor specifically to ensure you get more benefit from your planking.
Getting It Right
Planks work best when done in proper form. When you incorporate all of these activated muscle groups into your plank, you will feel the difference and start to see the results. Planks are the perfect core building exercise, as you can perform them almost anywhere, and they have tons of variations (like the side plank) with more great benefits.
At Gloveworx, we like to finish our killer workouts with a classic plank routine to help our contenders build strength in their core. We may even throw in the occasional leg lift and balance variations to make things interesting. Do you have what it takes? Show off your planking at our next Gloveworx group session.