The core exists not only to contract or bend, twist and rotate over and over, but also to withstand rotational force. We need strong cores to maintain a stable body when working, whether it’s lifting heavy objects, carrying a heavy load, or transferring power from the hips when punching or throwing a ball. Having that stable, strong core that can withstand external forces working to twist, twist or bend it is just as important as being able to do millions of squats.
Enter the board. The key to success with it is in the name itself. you form a still, rigid plank with your whole body. From head to toe you should be strong, not weak.
Planck’s proper form
Planks seem like the simplest exercise imaginable, and while they aren’t that complicated, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Get into a push-up position, only place your forearms on the ground instead of your hands. Your elbows should line up directly under your shoulders. Toes on the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abs. Imagine you’re squeezing a quarter between your butt cheeks.
- Look at the ground to maintain a neutral neck and spine. You may feel your chin tighten slightly.
- Tilt your pelvis. Instead of arching your back, pull your pelvis in slightly to really engage your abs. The pelvic flexion also allows you to use the quads and push off the ground with the legs.
- Push to the ground. The shoulder blades should be stretched.
- Create a straight, solid line from head to toe. One unified piece. In other words, a board.
- Keep that position.
What muscles do planks work?
The plank is a total body effort. When you’re in plank position, every fiber of your being is resisting the pull of gravity. You must engage and stretch every inch of your body’s muscles to resist collapsing and maintain cohesion throughout the contours of your body. While on the board, you are quite literally holding a line against the most famous force in the known universe.
- Your abs work to keep your spine from collapsing.
- Your glutes contract to support your lower back.
- Your erector spinae muscles are involved in keeping your spine aligned and neutral.
- Your quads contract to stabilize your legs.
- Your hip flexors are activated to prevent your hips from breaking.
- Your front head works to stabilize your shoulders.
And on and on. You are putting your spine in the most unfavorable position imaginable, subject to the pull of gravity every inch along it. You work everything board time.
Advantages of Plank
Research shows that planks make you stronger, especially in the core. They can even increase the thickness of your abdominal muscles. For people who are not very fit, simply doing nothing but planks for a few weeks will increase their overall fitness level. Not just long-distance power, that is, but general fitness.
Studies show that using planks in athletes’ training can reduce injury rates by making their bodies more flexible. It turns out that strong, stable core muscles make you more resistant to all the different forces that are thrown at you during an athletic activity.
In short, planks are exercise, and exercise improves almost every health metric you can imagine. The thing about planks is that they seem like a low-intensity, easy exercise that most people never even think to do. To the uninitiated, planking may seem like doing nothing at all.
If you’re bored of the traditional board, there are other options you can try.
Long Lever Plank:
Instead of placing your elbows directly under your shoulders, place them a few inches in front of your shoulders, thereby extending the leverage and increasing the difficulty. Research shows that this increases the activation of various muscles in the trunk. The further your elbows go in front of your shoulders, the harder it becomes.
Do a plank at your side with one hand on the ground and one edge of your foot wedged into the ground. Skip the sides.
Get into a traditional plank position, only holding yourself sideways with either your left elbow and right foot touching, or your right elbow and left foot touching.
Things to remember
- Do not let your hips sink to the ground. Hanging your ankles makes the exercise easier at first, but it’s not a plank and defeats the purpose of the exercise.
- Don’t look up. Look at the ground. This is a good tip for maintaining a neutral neck position.
- Don’t go for failure. When your form starts to suffer, pull the plug. You only get the most out of planking by actually doing the plank with proper technique.
- Do not arch your back too much. Keep that pelvis tucked in!
Even if you never progress (or choose to progress) to other plank variations, the basic plank, done correctly, will be enough to develop good core stability, strength, and overall flexibility.
Have more questions about boards? Throw them down.
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