Magnificent exercise to strengthen the abdominal center and many muscle groups, the plank must be performed in the right way. Let's see together how
- The plank and strength in the abdomen: benefits and muscles involved
- Execution and advice
- How to avoid common mistakes
- How many times a week and how to increase the intensity
The plank and strength in the abdomen: benefits and muscles involved
At the center of our body there is a real natural “forge”, a belt that stabilizes the pelvis and guarantees a support function for the internal viscera. The abdomen is made up of muscles that are in the front and side (rectus abdominis, pyramidal muscle, external and internal obliques, transverse) and posterior (loin square, iliopsoas). To support everything below: pelvic floor. To give coverage at the top and side: diaphragm. The distinction between high and low abdominals depends only on the fact that the sheath that covers these muscles at the bottom is only anterior, while at the top it is both in front and behind. We use the abdomen in urination, in defecation, when we make love, when we walk. When you cough, when you vomit, the muscles of the abdomen are used a lot. Obviously, during the birth phase, the stress on the abdominal muscles is important. When we lift, pull, push, we use the abdomen.
Strengthening the core is an important aspect of any training program. In addition to the aesthetic factor, having a strong abdomen helps stabilize, balance and strengthen the whole body during almost all other activities. The strength of the abdomen is the basis for all coordinated and powerful athletic movements. Strong abdomen means reduced stress on the joints and improved posture. The plank, in addition to training all the aforementioned muscles, provides strength and stability of the muscle core, as well as burning calories.
Execution and advice
Let's start by saying that the plank has a progressive trend: we must not be discouraged and we must make peace with the fact that the gradual maintenance comes only by practicing it. Having said that, let's see how to perform a good high plank execution:
Start from the quadruped and bring your legs back slightly, leaving your knees on the ground. The hands are below the shoulders and the elbows are not hyperextended. On the exhale, bring the navel towards the spine and feel a first activation. Extend your legs back by separating them and let your toes press against the floor, while your spine takes the shape of a single oblique rod and your shoulders do not sag. The ankles are in line with the feet. The position of the back remains neutral. Maintain the position by pressing the palms and fingers against the ground, pushing the feet against the floor and contracting the abdomen. The gaze remains on the ground and the neck does not hang down or even extends upwards. In the first run try to keep 10 seconds then gradually increase, maybe up to 30 seconds and then 1 minute.
The low plank is performed in the exact same way and with the same position, apart from the arms, as the weight ends up on the whole forearm and not just on the palms.
Last but fundamental factor: do not go free diving. Breathing remains a key factor in doing the plank well and reaping all the benefits. Maintain long, deep, conscious breaths. Try to get to a clavicular breathing, get all the breath from the abdomen to the chest up to the collarbones, even if the position of the body in space remains horizontal, even when you seem not to be able to maintain it.
How to avoid common mistakes
When starting out, it may be easy to fall into errors due to lack of strength in the abdomen or arms or legs. In the first place you should avoid arching your back, as this mistake does not work the abdominal muscles well and automatically transfers excessive weight to the arms. The shoulders must be kept low and wide to avoid changing the structure of the column.
Secondly, when the body gets tired, the hips begin to sag downward. If you are in your first workouts, don't force yourself, give in. Gradually, with practice, resist, stay focused, try to separate your feet a little more and always keep your abs very active.
Last but not least, a serious mistake that is often committed: arching the head upwards by shortening the cervical spine. The plank should be visualized as an imaginary line of continuous energy that goes from the heels to the occiput to the ears, in this way you do not tire your neck and keep the right attitude to make your abs work a lot.
How many times a week and how to increase the intensity
The beauty of the plank is that, being a bodyweight exercise, you can practice it anywhere. You should always warm your shoulders and arms first, even with simple rotation exercises, in order to avoid fatigue in delicate areas such as the rotator cuff. It is also a good idea to warm up the pelvis with two-way circles and the spine with flexions and extensions. You can also try the plank 3 or 4 times a week by focusing on increasing the maintenance time and inserting it into a program with multi-joint exercises.
Once you have reached a good holding time you can increase the workload by for example removing a support base such as a hand or lifting a leg.
Plank with leg lift
You start in the same position as the plank above with your forearms and toes on the floor. You slowly lift one leg a few inches off the floor, hold it for 2 or 3 seconds and then bring it back to the ground. You change your leg and repeat. You can do two or three sets of 10 repetitions.
Plank with arm lift
To add variety to the basic plank, you can lift one arm keeping the shoulder away from the ear, having first shifted the weight to the supporting arm. The arm is then returned to its initial position, and then the arm is changed and the operation repeated. You can do two or three sets of 10 repetitions. A nice variation in this sense, which also adds cardio work, is that of the plank with alternating shoulder touch, where you quickly touch the opposite shoulder with your hand and then continue with the other, keeping the pelvis stable and strong legs.