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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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      Published on June 7, 2019

      10 Lower Body Workouts Anyone Can Try at Home

      10 Lower Body Workouts Anyone Can Try at Home

      Having a hard time going to the gym? Fear no more!

      In this article, we’ll be breaking down 10 in home lower body workouts anyone can try at home and their exercises. No gear needed for these workouts, just some space and a cup water waiting for your disposal.

      There’re 3 main parts in this article:

      If you’re familiar with the basic lower body exercises, just get into the first section 10 Lower Body Workouts That Can Be Done Anywhere right away.

      If you want more guidance on the basics, check out the second section Lower Body Exercises Breakdown.

      And the last section is about what you should do before and after working out.

      10 Lower Body Workouts That Can Be Done Anywhere

      If you’re familiar with the basic lower body exercises, just read on this section.

      If you’d like to have more guidance on each exercise listed in these 10 workouts, take a look at the following part Lower Body Exercises Breakdown.

      1. The Starter Workout

      3 sets of 8-12 reps of:

      • Squat
      • Single Leg Deadlift
      • Glute Bridge

      (30 sec to 2 min rest in between each set)

      2. The 7 Minute Workout

      3 rounds of 30 seconds of each exercise:

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      • Walking Lunges
      • Quarter Squat
      • Step Up
      • Single Leg Deadlift

      (1 min rest in between each round)

      3. The Unilateral Workout

      4 sets of 16 reps of:

      • Reverse Lunges
      • Single Leg Deadlift
      • Skater Squat
      • Single Leg Glute Bridge

      (30 sec to 1 min rest in between each set)

      4. The Endurance Workout

      2 sets of 20-50 reps of:

      • Squat
      • Walking Lunge
      • Single Leg Deadlift
      • Glute Bridge

      (1-2 min rest in between each set)

      5. The Back To Back Lower Body Workout

      5 rounds of 10 to 20 seconds of each exercise:

      • Skater Squat
      • Step Up
      • Single Leg Deadlift
      • Single Leg Glute Bridge
      • Quarter Squat

      (30 min rest in between each round)

      6. Strength Lower Body Workout

      5 to 10 sets of 4 reps of:

      • Walking Lunge
      • Single Leg Deadlift
      • Squat

      (30 sec to 2 mins of rest time in between set)

      7. Glute Burner Workout

      4 sets of 10-30 reps of:

      • Walking Lunge
      • Single Leg Deadlift
      • Single Leg Glute Bridge
      • Quarter Squat

      (1 min of rest time in between set)

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      8. The Advance Lower Body Workout

      3 rounds of 20 seconds of:

      • Squat
      • Walking Lunge
      • Skater Squat
      • Reverse Lunge
      • Glute Bridge
      • Single Leg Deadlift

      (2 mins of rest time in between set)

      9. The Quick Lower Body Workout

      2 sets of 10 reps of:

      • Reverse Lunge
      • Step Up
      • Single Leg Deadlift

      10. The 100 Repetition Challenge

      2 sets of 50 reps on each leg of:

      • Walking Lunge
      • Single Leg Deadlift

      (4 mins of rest time in between set)

      Lower Body Exercises Breakdown

      Here’s the breakdown of the lower body exercises[1] that you found in the workouts listed in the first section of this article.

      1. Squat

        A squat is a compound movement which entails the recruitment of a majority of your lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, spinal erectors).

        How to squat:

        Feet shoulder width apart or a little wider. Toes pointed slightly out, arms out in front of you. Sit into your heels till you hit parallel with your butt and knee, drive through the heels, return to starting position and repeat.

        2. Walking Lunges

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          A lunge is a complex movement which recruits mainly the lower body.

          The walking lunges are a harder version of a split squat which is stationary and then adds the component of stepping and keeping balance which engages the gluteus medius as well as allowing a larger range of motion.

          3. Reverse Lunge

            A reverse lunge is very similar to the split squat but instead, after every rep, you are returning to the starting position and stepping back.

            By reverse stepping, you are allowing for a better emphasis on the hamstrings and gluteal muscles as opposed to the quadriceps muscles in a forward stepping lunge.

            4. Quarter Squat

              A quarter squat is the top ¼ movement of a squat. This will work mainly the gluteal muscles as it emphasizes the hip extension and not a lot of range of motion on the quadriceps muscles.

              5. Skater Squat

                A skater squat is a unilateral variation of the squat, this squat really engages the gluteus medius and hamstrings as it works unilateral stability and hip flexion which fires both the hamstrings and glutes.

                6. Step Up

                  The Step Up is the greatest balance of getting the glutes and quadriceps muscles firing. Doing Step Ups will not only get the glutes going, but the quadriceps as well.

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                  7. Glute Bridge

                    Glute Bridges are a great way to nearly isolate the glutes and build a great butt. This entire movement works through hip extension which the main movement of the gluteal muscles.

                    8. Single Leg Glute Bridge

                      Single leg glute bridge ensures that we are evenly building the glutes and not relying too heavily on our dominant leg and symmetrical butt. The step up can be done in a chair or a step in the stairs

                      9. Single Leg Deadlift

                        Single Leg RDL’s engage that entire booty and hamstrings, especially the gluteus medius due to its unilateral stability property. This is a great way to spice up some routine deadlifts.

                        Before & After Working Out

                        Before engaging in any physical activity, consult a doctor if you have not worked out in years. However, if you want to go at it without consulting a doctor, start slow and build your way up. Even though it’s home workout, use dynamic stretching or some light jogging[2] as a warm up before starting the lower body workouts.

                        Finally, at the end of the lower body workout, use static stretching to reduce injuries and to calm down your heart rate gradually.

                        Featured photo credit: Gesina Kunkel via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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