What are the benefits of the plank exercise? Better yet, what exactly is a plank exercise? More than likely if you don’t know the answer to one then you probably aren’t sure about the other. So, just to be safe we will cover both topics!
What is a Plank?
To be clear, we are talking about the plank exercise for fitness; not that weird trend on ‘planking’ which was as short lived as ‘Tebowing’. The plank is a name for a basic isometric body position that relies on contracted muscles supporting the body against the natural resistance of your own weight. Think of a Pilates or yoga pose because performing a plank exercise is similar.
Many people like to incorporate isometric movements into routines because they are low impact and can be done anywhere due to the lack of equipment needed.
The plank position itself is simply holding your body in a rigid, straight line from feet to your head. Usually this involves a tightening of the muscles in the core such as the hips, abdominals, and lower back. The other muscles act more as stabilizers. Arm positions can vary as can the incline or decline of the body itself. However, in most cases the core of the body is still the primary benefactor because the middle of the body has the greatest stress placed on it as it is furthest from the supporting points of the feet and hands.
Often times the plank looks like a push-up with a person resting on their forearms.
What are the Benefits?
- Flexibility – A standard plank exercise can help with stretching hamstrings and the shoulder girdle as you stretch your body out. Also the foot arch and calves can benefit from the support position of the foot.
- Posture – A stronger core means muscles that are more able to support your body in its proper position for longer periods of time. When different muscles in the core area are weak the body compensates by twisting and bending which creates a deficiency in posture.
- Tone – Muscle tone is increased as the muscles are worked with an isometric exercise. The arms, shoulders, back, abdominals, hips, and legs all receive some benefit from a plank exercise with of course the core muscles working the hardest.
- Strength – Muscle strength and stamina are increased even in an isometric exercise. While strength gains might not be as noticeable compared to resistance training, for the muscles being worked an isometric style is safer. Additionally various levels of plank exercises can be used along with holding positions for longer times to increase the difficulty of the exercises. This will lead to stronger muscles.
The Bottom Line
Plank exercises should be an important part of any workout routine. A strong core benefits a person in so many ways that it should be a primary goal of any fitness program. Ideally plank exercises can be utilized as part of an abdominal routine or simply done before or after a workout to warm up or cool down. No matter how you use them your body will benefit.