The plank is a bodyweight exercise that helps you build core strength and stability. The reason? During the exercise, the entire abdomen must work to keep the body in an isometric position.
Performing the plank helps strengthen the abdominal wall, in fact, even if we often think that crunches are the most effective exercise for the core, in reality it’s not exactly like that.
But why is it good to include planks in your training routine? Effectively training the core muscles of the body helps you improve stability, reduce injuries and increase mobility.
What is the plank and why do it
It is an isometric strength exercise, which involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up for a few seconds. It is an exercise that works the core muscles, improves strength, balance and endurance.
The literal translation of plank is “table”, because when performed correctly, during this exercise the body is straight and rigid, just like a wooden plank.
It’s a bodyweight movement, where you keep your body in a straight line from the ground. Planking, as a static exercise, involves multiple muscle groups simultaneously, and is therefore extremely effective in strengthening not only the core, but also the shoulders, arms and glutes.
Performing this movement can also help reduce back pain, as by strengthening your core, you relieve pressure on your spine, which also improves your posture.
Plank and abs: the muscles involved
During the plank, different muscle districts are activated. The movement, in fact, allows you to activate the core and back muscles, including the spinal erector, the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis.
In addition, the position allows you to use the trapezius muscles, rhomboids, deltoids and pectorals, as well as the gluteus maximus and quadriceps.
All of these muscles need to work in unison to keep your body straight and parallel to the floor.
Specifically, the primary muscles that are activated are:
- Spinal erectors.
- Rectus abdominis.
- Transversus abdominis.
The secondary muscles that work are:
- Anterior deltoid.
- Lateral deltoid.
- Posterior deltoid.
- Pectoralis major.
- Serratus anterior or serratus anterior.
- Gluteus maximus.
- Quadriceps femoris.
How to do it right?
The most common form of plank is the one on the forearms, or forearm plank or even low plank. This position is similar to a push-up, but your body weight is supported by your forearms, elbows and toes.
- Lie face down on a mat with your head facing forward and your palms flat on the floor.
- Begin by getting into a push-up position, bend your elbows, and place your weight on your forearms instead of your hands.
- Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.
- Support your core by contracting your abs.
- Hold this position for a specific amount of time.
For beginners, try holding the position for 10-20 seconds. Then, over time, increase up to 30. While the more experienced and already trained people can try to hold the position for up to 60 seconds.
As for the serial number, again it all depends on the level of preparation. Beginners can try 3 sets of 20-30 seconds with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. Professionals can also make only 1 minute of recovery.
If you are interested in the topic, discover our plank challenge.
All the benefits of the plank
Exercise has several benefits for our body, from improving posture and mobility to preventing injuries.
Strengthens the core and muscles of the upper and lower body
As mentioned above, it is one of the best exercises to strengthen your core. When you hold the plank position, your biceps, neck and shoulder muscles also collaborate and work together to allow you to maintain the correct position and body isometrics. For this reason it is excellent for strengthening all the muscles of the body.
Prevents muscle imbalances
It’s easy to develop muscle imbalances when doing classic abdominal exercises, such as sit ups and crunches.
On the contrary, with the plank the muscles of the spine and the buttocks are also strengthened and, in this way, the abdominal work is compensated for. The result? Better posture, more spinal support and less lower back pain.
Improve functional movement
Planks are important for functional movement, i.e. all those movements that are performed in everyday life.
Crouching, bending, running, lifting and jumping are all functional movements that focus on the core. For this reason, the execution of the plank can help you improve this type of mobility.
Helps burn calories and fat
The plank is an isometric exercise, a combination of strength and cardiovascular exercise. For this reason, you can burn calories and regulate your weight by doing plank exercises.
Obviously, the number of calories consumed with the plank depends on several factors including age, gender, weight and genetic predisposition.
Approximately 7 calories can be burned per minute; consequently, with 10 minutes of plank you can burn about 70 Kcal. It must be said, however, that if you want to promote weight loss, you must also combine a healthy and balanced diet with constant physical activity.
The best thing about planks is that there are countless variations of the exercise, you will surely find the one that best suits you and your needs.
In addition to being extremely versatile, it can be performed anywhere because you don’t need specific equipment but only a mat and comfortable clothing.
Plank alternatives and variations
The plank has many variations, from the side plank to the plank with straight arms. Let’s see them in detail.
1 – Side plank or dynamic lateral plank
The side plank is one of the first alternatives to the classic plank.
According to a study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, side planks could help reduce spinal curvature in patients with scoliosis. This means that this exercise can help reduce the chances of spinal problems.
- Lie on your right side and rest your right forearm on the floor. The elbow should be in line with the shoulder.
- Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line with the floor.
- If you want to increase the difficulty, try lifting one leg..
- Stay in this position for a few seconds and switch sides.
2 – Reverse plank or reverse plank
This exercise engages the glutes, hamstrings, abs, obliques, triceps, and shoulders. The back, during the movement, instead of facing upwards, is downwards.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
- Put your hands back on the floor.
- Engage your glutes, core and arms to lift your hips, forming a straight line from heels to shoulders.
- Make sure your shoulders are away from your ears, and avoid sagging your hips by tucking your pelvis.
- Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
3 – Plank with straight arms
As you build strength, try increasing the difficulty by switching to a straight-arm plank.
- Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Push your hands into the floor and lift one knee at a time off the floor.
- Straighten both legs, so you’re in a straight line from heels to head.
- Make sure your hands and shoulders are aligned, your legs are strong, your feet are hip-width apart, and your core is engaged.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as you can.
4 – Plank to push up
This variant of the classic plank is suitable for those who are already trained, because the movement is quite complex. It’s about starting from a plank with your elbows resting on the ground and then moving on to a plank in extension, and performing a push-up.
- Lie face down on a mat with your head facing forward and your palms flat on the floor.
- Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
- Extend your arms and bring your body into an extended plank position.
- Go down into a push-up keeping your back straight, core and glutes contracted, and return to the starting position.
5 – Stability ball plank
Strengthen your core, but also your deltoids, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and even your calves.
- Use a fitness ball, get into a plank position, resting your elbows on the ball.
- Inhale and exhale, bring your belly in and keep your body straight like a board.
6 – Dynamic plank
It is a strength and cardio exercise at the same time.
- Start in the plank position with straight arms.
- Step your feet outward, wider than hip distance apart, as you jump into a plank position.
- Immediately return them to the starting position.
- Try to complete 2-3 sets of 30 seconds or as long as you can maintain good form.
If you are a beginner, you can perform the movement statically without jumping.
7 – Plank shoulder tap
The shoulder tap or shoulder tap plank works different muscle groups, including the hip flexors, abs, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
- Start in a traditional straight-arm plank position. Spread your legs for more stability if needed.
- Keeping your core engaged, lift your right hand off the floor and touch your left shoulder. Then, he returns his right hand to the floor
- Raise your left hand and touch your right shoulder.
- Continue to…