Plank in the Bank: The Money Exercise for Your Core

By Martha Michael

Plank Your Way to Optimal Health

If you’d rather walk the plank than exercise, you’d probably appreciate a shortcut to fitness. When a commitment to become healthier makes you want to throw the whole regimen overboard, the plank is a means of survival. You won’t use it to abandon ship, but to stand stronger and taller.

You don’t walk the plank, you are the plank, a stiff-bodied way to better health.

Plank Basics

In growing numbers, plank exercises are being seen as accessible and essential to individuals who want a streamlined workout program. It’s a low-maintenance practice because you don’t really need equipment. You can use a chair, a wall or the floor. People with any level of fitness can do them.

To form an effective plank:

  • Keep your neck long
  • Suck in your stomach muscles
  • Keep your hips and torso in line

WebMD describes planking as “functional” exercise, meaning that you’re not doing anything your body isn’t accustomed to doing as a part of your daily lifestyle. For instance, when you stand, your body is acting as a moving plank.

While working your major muscle groups, planks work on your core as well as add support to the muscles that support the core. Planks employ all of your major muscle groups.

If your goal is to strengthen your core, planks are a good choice. To start, you do six rounds, setting up your plank for 10 seconds, then resting for three seconds, then repeat: 10 seconds on, three seconds rest, etc.

Strengthen Your Core

There are many positive results from the practice of planking, but one of the key benefits is the additional strength to your body’s core.

An article on Healthline.com points out the reason that planks are a better choice than sit-ups for developing core strength. Crunches can sometimes result in back pain because of the pressure exerted on your lower back during the repetitive moves. But planks work the legs, arms and abs, so it’s a more comprehensive workout, dividing the load between various parts of the body.

Side planks have some powerful effects. For instance, patients with scoliosis can see a reduction in spinal curvature. Planking involves bodyweight exercises, which are good for your core.

“Bodyweight exercises are great for your core, and since they rely on your own bodyweight, they’ll be consistently tailored to your own workout needs,” the article says. “As you gain weight, you’ll be working out with more weight, which is similar to increasing the amount you’d bench press.”

Planks and Posture

You could spend hours in the gym, but if you’re hunched over like a sailor with scurvy, something’s missing from your workout.

Plank exercises strengthen the abs, chest, neck, back and shoulders, which makes it less challenging to properly position your lower back while sitting and standing. The isometric strength developed by planking helps you refrain from developing a forward leaning stance.

And you’re not just stronger -- doing planks also has a stretching quality. When you have your stiff body in position, the lower half of your torso is stretched and your hamstrings and arches of your feet are lengthened.

You can do shoulder touches during plank training if you want to make it more challenging. You can also incorporate knee touches or arm and leg extensions.

Better Balance Through Planking

Balance and vertebrae alignment are improved with plank exercises, which reduces stress on your spine, says an article on HealthCorps.org. The practice also contributes to healthy positioning of your internal organs, and keeping that alignment minimizes problems with digestion and other conditions that inhibit proper function.

When your back is in alignment you have a lower chance of developing back pain and you stand and walk with more balance. While your extremities contribute to better balance, most of a person’s stability stems from the core muscles.

Individuals who do plank training develop an ability to focus and concentrate. They also burn more calories than by doing sit-ups.

If you don’t have enough wind in your sails for a full-blown, high-impact fitness program, planks will help you reach some of the primary goals for a healthy body. Achieving some level of fitness is better than choosing to shipwreck the whole program.

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