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5 Reasons Why You Should Think Twice Before Your Plank!

5 Reasons Why You Should Think Twice Before Your Plank!

What’s the best exercise you can do to strengthen your core?

For many people, the answer seems obvious – “The best core exercise is obviously the plank!” And, it makes sense that this is such a popular response. Planking has become synonymous with core training because of the potential benefits this one exercise can offer.

Planking targets deep abdominal muscles called the Transverse Abdominis (TVA). The TVA acts like a wide belt that supports your core, much like a weightlifter’s belt or a tight corset. Because planking develops these supportive muscles it is often thought to be the perfect exercise for avoiding injury, particularly lower back injury.

But wait, there’s more…

Performing a proper plank also recruits muscles in your back, glutes, legs, and shoulders, making it much more than just an exercise for your stomach. It really is a full-body exercise that can improve strength, posture, and muscle tone.

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So let’s all start doing more planks, right? Not so fast.

While there certainly can be benefits to practicing the plank, there are 5 reasons why you might want to think twice before making it your go-to core training exercise.

1. Using Proper Technique is Harder Than It Looks.

One of the draws to using a plank for core conditioning is the seeming simplicity of it. Drop onto your elbows and hold your body off the floor for as long as you can. What could be easier?

In actuality, perfecting a plank is an art form. Most people don’t realize that the position of the shoulder blades and hips, as well as the contraction of the glutes, quads, and tightening of the TVA are all necessary for an effective and safe plank. It’s far from a mindless exercise!

Check out the infographic below to get a better sense of how technical a plank can really be. Exercisers often miss these key points and therefore sacrifice many of the benefits a good plank can offer.

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Perfect Planks

    2. Holding a Longer Plank Isn’t Always Better.

    Holding a plank for long periods of time has become a bit of a badge of honour in the fitness community. If you can hold a 3-minute plank then you (and everyone you tell) can be sure that your core is really strong.

    Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work this way. As we just discussed, a perfect plank requires a lot of discipline that cannot be seen by onlookers. It is quite possible for someone to hold a nice-looking plank for several minutes without fully engaging their muscles. It’s a deceptive exercise.

    This results in two major problems. First, there becomes a competitiveness around planking that can lead people to losing form in favour of increasing plank duration. And second, a longer plank erroneously becomes a barometer for improvement when in fact, a longer plank is often achieved by relaxing into lazy form.

    3. It Doesn’t Train Your Core For Real Life Movements.

    Planking is a type of exercise known as an isometric. This simply means that your muscles are neither lengthening nor shortening while performing the exercise – You are holding a static position.

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    Even though you’re not physically moving, your muscles still have to contract to fight against gravity, otherwise you’ll face-plant into the floor! Training isometrically will help you increase your core strength, but just how practical is that strength?

    When do you ever hold a plank position in real life? Even if you’re an athlete, how does a plank translate into performance?

    In contrast, there are many core training movements that require you to twist and bend much like you do every single day. Take for example the “Russian Twist” as demonstrated in the video below. This is an example of an isotonic exercise, one that translates into movements for everyday living, whether you are moving grocery bags into your car or swinging a baseball bat.

    4. Planking Can Be Dangerous For Your Lower Back.

    Plain and simple, planking with improper technique or when your core muscles aren’t properly trained is dangerous for your lower back.

    When the TVA muscles are not sufficiently strong enough to hold a plank, your body will quickly look to recruit other muscles to provide relief or it will shift into lazy form. Usually this results in sagging hips, which cause lordosis in the lower spine. In other words, your low back takes on an exaggerated curve and becomes susceptible to injury.

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    Here’s what a lordotic curve looks like. Take a look around the gym and you will likely be able to spot exercisers who are experiencing this during their planks.

    Lordosis

      5. It’s Just Not As Effective As Other Exercises.

      Yes, practicing perfect planks with a strong focus on contracting all of the involved muscles is a good exercise for developing your core strength. But, according to several research studies, there are other core exercises that outperform the plank.

      Again, it goes back to the isometric nature of the plank. Holding a static position cannot recruit as many muscles, or recruit muscles to the same degree, as exercises that combine various movements and different muscle contractions.

      So which core exercise is best?

      Using Electromyogram (EMG) technology, researchers have determined that a “Rollback Pike” using a stability ball stimulates more muscle contractions than any other core exercise (yes, even more than a plank).

      Featured photo credit: Did I say eyeballs? / Tyler Bolken via flickr.com

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      Last Updated on March 2, 2021

      Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss

      Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss

      As you get started on a fitness journey, you’ve probably looked up the importance of a good exercise regimen, a healthy diet, and a more active lifestyle. What you probably haven’t heard much about is the importance of keeping a fitness journal to keep yourself on track.

      Here is how to get started with a fitness journal and the benefits it will bring.

      How to Start a Fitness Journal

      Starting a fitness journal is simple and easy. You either buy a pre-organized fitness motivation journal or a blank notebook if you are interested in designing your own layout.

      As you get started with your fitness journal, try to include the following.

      Fitness Goals

      Before you even begin to track your workouts, it’s important to clarify what your fitness goals[1] are and the deadline you plan to reach them by. Your goals can include changes in your diet, your exercise routine, or your weight.

      Workout Statistics

      Each time you do a daily workout, write down the date, day of the week, start/end times, the exercises you completed, and the reps of each. This can be altered depending on your specific workout. For example, if you’re a runner, you can write down your average speed while running, your peak heart rate, and your total distance traveled.

      Body Metrics

      In order to track your progress, you’ll need to know specific body measurements. You can include your weight, BMI, length measurements, and calories consumed each day. Then, go back and measure these at least once a month to see how close you are to achieving your fitness goals.

      Diet and Sleep Info

      Your eating and sleeping habits are just as important as your workouts when it comes to fitness. As an added element in your fitness planner, you can keep track of what you eat, your water intake, how long you sleep, and your sleep quality. This can help you identify patterns that can help you work out more effectively.

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      Benefits of Keeping a Fitness Journal

      1. The Key to Celebration

      “Progress equals happiness.” -Tony Robbins

      One of the most encouraging acts you can do in your life is to track your progress. If you’ve set goals, it’s absolutely crucial for you to know if you’re moving any closer.

      As Tony Robbins, a top-notch motivational speaker and author, said: Progress is happiness. It’s one thing to crave progress and another thing to start measuring it. That’s when the workout journal comes in handy.

      When you’re able to see just how far you’ve come by looking back in your fitness journal, you’ll feel more motivated to keep moving forward.

      2. Better Guidance

      “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

      Imagine if a coach could analyze your whole progress, your weaknesses, and your strengths in less than 5 minutes.

      If you have paid to be coached by a professional in the fitness industry, why not make his/her life and your progress easier? If your trainer knows where you’ve been struggling, and where you’ve been excelling, s/he will know how to guide you toward better results.

      3. Reduce Reliance on Willpower

      The last thing we all want is to put more stress on our plates. Why should we consciously note down our progress and add an extra task?

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      A workout book can actually lessen the willpower that we need to get to the gym. The fitness journal takes the decision weight off our shoulders that is needed to start the task.

      When you plan your workouts in advance through your journal, your mind will already have the habit embedded in your routine.

      You can also check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination. This can help you learn to stop procrastinating and get to the gym when it’s time.

      4. Helps You Face the Truth

      A fitness journal will help you analyze what you’ve really been doing to achieve your fitness goals.

      Some people think they simply have “bad genetics,” yet when they look at what they’ve really been doing through the fitness journal, they may see that their eating and exercise habits haven’t gone in the right direction. This can help eliminate excuses and get you moving on a better path.

      5. Creates Accountability

      By looking at our past achievements, we can set the goal to achieve more. A fitness journal can foster our ambition by keeping us accountable for what we did yesterday and what we plan to do tomorrow.

      6. Recognize Patterns

      Have you ever wondered why you feel a lack of motivation one day and then feel like exercising for two hours on another? A fitness journal can help you see patterns in your behaviors. In the end, what gets measured gets managed.

      7. Experience Joy of Task Completion

      You know that feeling when you cross off something on your to-do list? It’s possible to replicate that same feeling after going to the gym with your fitness journal.

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      If we write down the results of our training, we get a dopamine rush. It makes us feel that we’re in control of our destiny.

      8. Prevent Excuses

      If you’ve noticed that you haven’t made any progress recently, look at your fitness journal. It’s most likely not your genetics.

      If we write our progress down, we can see what works and what doesn’t, which can help prevent excuses.

      9. Minimize Injuries

      Do you feel a sting after doing shoulder exercises? Make a note in your fitness journal.

      Before starting the next workout, go through the old workout and act accordingly. Often, injuries accumulate after multiple workout sessions. We can minimize the occurrence of injuries by writing it down in our journal and noting what isn’t working for our bodies.

      10. Look and Feel Like a Pro

      If you have a fitness journal to track your progress, you’ll feel more dedicated to your workouts overall. Looking and acting like a professional becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      11. Determine the Value of Your Time

      Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. -Parkinson’s Law

      Parkinson’s Law also applies to your fitness results. If you don’t give your workout a maximum duration, you may not end up using your workout time wisely.

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      Pre-determine the sets, reps, and exercises that you want to do beforehand to make the most of your time.

      12. Focus on You

      While I’m a huge believer in motivation through a competitive spirit and external factors, in the end, this journey is about becoming a better you—a healthier, faster, stronger and better person altogether.

      The fitness journal can help you keep your focus on where it should be—on you. In the end, all the notes that you take are focused on your progress and your decisions.

      Final Thoughts

      The reason most people don’t have a fitness journal is that they assume it’s not worth it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      There are plenty of reasons to follow a fitness journal. From creating motivation, to helping you stay on track, to being a facilitator for personal growth, having a fitness journal is an absolute necessity if you’re serious about reaching your fitness goals.

      In the end, having a fitness journal for goal setting can really make all the difference for your physical and mental health.

      More on Reaching Your Fitness Goals

      Featured photo credit: dylan nolte via unsplash.com

      Reference

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