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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 April 2, 2020

      10 Quick Easy Workouts To Lose Arm Fat At Home

      10 Quick Easy Workouts To Lose Arm Fat At Home

      Flabby arms are something a lot of us have to tend to. If you find yourself buying a sweater or cardigan to go with your tank top or usually opt for the long-sleeved dress, then you’re not alone. Usually a result of genes, general excess fat or just ageing, it seems difficult to lose arm fat. The fat in our arms accumulates mainly around the triceps – the muscles on the back of your upper arm – and are prone to getting flabby if not exercised regularly.

      What we eat can also play a part in the extent of the jiggle so eating a good, healthy balanced diet as well as keeping well hydrated can put you on the right track. Resistance exercises are the most effective way to blast that underarm fat as well as strengthen, shape and tone your muscles. You can always go down to the gym and work up a sweat but who has time for that? If you want a convenient and quick alternative then you can easily manage an effective routine in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a set of dumbbells and you can start toning up those bingo wings with these 10 easy workouts.

      1. Tricep dips

      shutterstock_251341681

        Works: Triceps

        • Hands must be positioned shoulder width apart on a secured chair or bench.
        • Position your bum in front of the bench with feet hip-width apart on the floor and legs bent.
        • Straighten out your arms a little, keeping a slight bend from the elbow so to put more emphasis on the tricep and less stress on the elbow.
        • Keeping your back close to the bench, slowly lower your body so that your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
        • Once in this position slowly push off your hands back to the starting position.
        • Do 10-15 reps.

        2. Bicep curls

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        shutterstock_314080697

          Works: Biceps and shoulders

          • Start off with your feet hip-distance apart, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing out.
          • Starting with your left arm, bend your elbow to slowly bring the weight up to your shoulder holding the position for 5 seconds.
          • Slowly release the elbow and straighten your arm back down to the starting position.
          • Repeat the moves on the right side.
          • Complete 3 sets of 10-15 reps for each arm.

          3. Push ups

          shutterstock_326069966

            Works: Triceps and Deltoids

            • Lying face down, place your hands on the floor roughly shoulder-width apart.
            • Tuck your toes under and gently lift your body up, pushing through your hands and making sure not to lock your elbows.
            • Slowly bend your elbows bringing your face roughly 2-3 inches from the ground.
            • Slowly push back up through your arms. If this is difficult then do the same move but keeping your knees on the floor.
            • Repeat 10-15 times.

            4. Tricep Kickbacks

            shutterstock_314080715

              Works: Triceps

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              • Place a weight in each hand and kneel down onto the floor with your toes tucked under.
              • Bend your upper body forward from the hips up and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle.
              • Extend both your arms backwards while your palms are facing each other.
              • Feel the tension in the triceps and return to the starting position.
              • Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

              5. Plank

              shutterstock_298755041

                Works: Chest, Shoulders, Biceps and Core

                • Start face-down on the floor, resting on your forearms and knees.
                • Step your feet out so that they are slightly apart and come into the plank position.
                • Make sure your body is straight, parallel to the floor and your bum is tucked in.
                • Pull your abs in and hold the position for as long as you can. Try to aim for 20-30 seconds and build up to a minute.
                • Repeat 3 times.

                6. Tricep Extensions

                shutterstock_314080343

                  Works: Triceps

                  • Stand on a mat with your feet hip-width apart.
                  • Hold one dumbbell with both hands behind your head, bending the elbows.
                  • Bring the weight towards the ceiling, straightening your arms above your head.
                  • Lower back to starting position.
                  • Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

                  7. Lateral Arm Raises

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                  ab891e2e702b8027b704791ef556d0ce

                    Works: Deltoids

                    • Stand with feel hip-width apart. With arms down the side of your body, hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in.
                    • Starting with your left side, inhale and slowly raise your arm so that it’s parallel to the floor. Make sure not to lock your elbow by keeping a slight bend.
                    • Make sure your arm is straight and palm is facing the floor.
                    • Exhale and slowly bring your arm back down to your side.
                    • Repeat on the right side.
                    • Do 10-15 reps on each side and two sets.

                    8. Overhead Press

                    shutterstock_314080298

                      Works: Shoulders

                      • Stand up, lining your feet with your hips and hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing out.
                      • Bring the weights to your shoulders.
                      • Keep your core muscles tight and straighten your arms above you.
                      • Slowly bring your arms back down to your shoulders.
                      • Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

                      9. Bent Over Row

                      shutterstock_275943536

                        Works: Triceps and Biceps 

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                        • Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
                        • Bend your knees and and then bend your upper body forward from the hips making sure you keep your back nice and straight.
                        • Make sure your hands are straight and placed under your shoulders.
                        • Bend the elbows back while lifting your arms towards the sides of your chest, pulling your shoulder blades towards each other.
                        • Slowly lower the weights in a controlled movement and feel the tension at your triceps.
                        • Repeat 10-15 times.

                        10. Skull Crushers

                        Skull-Crushers

                          Works: Triceps

                          • While holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie on your back with your knees bent.
                          • Slowly raise your arms so they are above your chest, making sure your elbows are straight but not locked.
                          • Slowly lower both arms toward your head, bending your elbows to 90 degrees as the dumbbells reach the mat. Aim to lower your weights so they are on either side of your head  with elbows bent and pressing in toward your head (being careful not to hit yourself in the face).
                          • Lift your arms back to starting position.
                          • Complete 2 or 3 sets, 10-15 reps each.

                          Featured photo credit: Maddi Bazzocco via unsplash.com

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