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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 November 6, 2020

      10 Ways to Quickly Boost Your Workout Motivation

      10 Ways to Quickly Boost Your Workout Motivation

      You come in from a long day at the office, and you want to get a workout in, but you can’t find the motivation. Or maybe you think you have workout motivation, but “life” is getting in the way.

      Making your workout a priority and finding ways to fit it into your schedule will offer you a host of health benefits, help you lose weight, and make you feel like you’ve got your mojo back.

      Working out will be a lot easier if you view it as a gift you give to yourself versus a distasteful activity you have to get through. Think about your health and vitality — by working out, you are treating yourself as a priority and coming from a place of self-love.

      Studies show that regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills.[1] So if you’re using the excuse that work is taking over too much for you to have time to work out, think of your workout as a part of your work day. You’re helping your brain be sharper at work.

      “Healthy exercise is valuable not only for the maintenance of good physiologic function of the body, but also mental clarity, and the feeling of good health.” —Paul Dudley White, MD

      Once you’re ready to make your fitness goals a priority and give yourself the gift of regular exercise routines, how do you implement your workout plans into your daily life?

      Here are 10 ways to boost your workout motivation. These strategies will help you keep your fire for working out going strong.

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      1. Commit to Your Calendar

      Say you want to work out for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Look at your calendar for that week and see where those spots will fit in the best. Then, make a commitment to sticking to those times.

      One exercise study showed that a big obstacle to maintaining regular exercise is being able to fit it into a person’s schedule.[2] Make these appointments with yourself unbreakable. Maybe you can handle variety, so one day a week you might have an early morning workout. Another day that week, you might fit it in after work.

      2. Start Your Day with 20 Minutes for Your Workout

      You may have great intentions for working out after work or during a lunch hour, but inevitably other commitments will encroach into that time and kill your workout motivation.

      If you get on up and knock out your workout first thing, you reap the benefits all day long of that energy boost. This workout could be a morning walk or hitting the yoga mat right when you get out of bed.

      3. Expand Your Horizons and Seek out Variety

      Our brains crave variety. If you are stuck in the rut of the same old workout, it might be time to stretch yourself.

      Brainstorm some wild ideas that sound appealing to you. Look for fencing classes in your area. See if there’s a place near you where you can rent kayaks, and look for some local outdoor clubs where you could go kayaking with others.

      Even if the new thing you try is challenging, give yourself some time to stick with it enough to see if it might be for you.

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      4. Include Social Time in Your Workout

      Having a hard time fitting in a workout because of your social life? Instead of only getting together with your friends at the wine bar, see if you can schedule a hike in the park with them, or you could join a rec league like kickball. You could talk a friend into joining with you, or you could sign up by yourself and meet some new pals.

      Some exercise research has reported that competition is a key motivator for exercise, and you can use that to your advantage in one of these leagues.[3]

      Other opportunities include playing basketball or tennis at local parks, gyms, or fitness centers. Scope out some ways to make your workout more social or combine fitness activities with your social life to create more workout motivation.

      5. Use Music to Inspire You

      Is your playlist stale? Spend some time creating a great workout playlist. Search Spotify or create some motivating stations on Pandora.

      Think about what songs make you move. If you hear that song, you just can’t sit still. Even the theme song from Rocky might be a good motivator for you.

      You can create multiple theme playlists to spark more creativity and fun in your workout. How about making a playlist of Best All-Time Roller Skating Songs? Or Best Heavy Metal Workout Songs? Best 80’s Workout Playlist (maybe it includes Let’s Get Physical).

      6. Find Some Cool Podcasts

      If music isn’t really your thing, download podcasts or audiobooks that interest you. Getting lost in a good podcast or audiobook can make the time fly by during your workout. And if you get the satisfaction of “multi-tasking” — you’re getting your exercise in while reading a book or staying up to date on a podcast.

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      For an extra boost of workout motivation, if you’re listening to an audiobook, stop it at a cliffhanger and decide not to listen again until the next time you work out. This will motivate you to start exercising so you can see exactly what happens.

      7. Update Your Gear

      Maybe you’re not up for working out because your workout gear is from the dark ages. If you go to pull out a T-shirt for your workout, and it’s full of holes, it’s time to re-do your workout wardrobe.

      Think of getting new workout gear as investing in yourself. How often do we make sure our living rooms or kitchens are state of the art, but we don’t put any time, energy, or money into our personal effects?

      It could be as simple as getting a new water bottle. Making sure you have supportive and properly fitting shoes is key to achieving your workout goals. And if you get a new workout tee or tights, it can make you more motivated to get moving.

      8. Get Organized for Your Workout

      Set out what you need as motivation for your workout. If you are going on a morning run, lay out your workout clothes alongside some motivational quotes the night before. Fill your water bottle and set it on the counter.

      For the after-work exercisers, pack your bag of clothes to take with you to work so you have no excuse not to go to the gym. If you are coming home after work, set your clothes out so that when you come home they will be a not-so-gentle reminder to you saying, “It’s time to go on your walk!”

      9. Use Alarms as Nudging Reminders

      So you’re not a morning person. If you think getting up earlier to squeeze a workout in before work is just not going to happen for you, then set an alarm for the time you need to start preparing for your workout in the afternoon/evening.

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      If you want to go on a walk at 6pm, set an alarm for 5:30pm as a reminder. When you hear the alarm, it’s a workout motivation reminder. You don’t want to shirk on your health and fitness.

      10. Trade Exercise for That After-Work Happy Hour

      Maybe you are skipping some workouts to meet co-workers at happy hour. Or you come in from a long day at work and have a glass of wine first thing to alleviate the stress of the day. While it’s sometimes nice to unwind with a glass of wine, doing so after work could become a habit, and you can replace that habit with exercise.

      By cutting out alcohol right after work, it gives you more time in the day to get a workout in. Try to go straight from work to your workout, or put your exercise clothes on the minute you get home and head back out the door for your run or walk. Whatever it is, think of that happy hour as a new kind of “happy hour time” for your to treat yourself and your body to your workout.

      Exercise can help stave off anxiety and depression, so if your post-work drink is to alleviate post-work stress and anxiety, give a neighborhood walk a whirl instead.[4]

      The Bottom Line

      Life sometimes gets in the way of our plans, including our plans to work out and stick to weight loss goals. However, by maintaining the attitude of self-love and giving yourself the gift of time to exercise, you can use the above tips to help you stay on track with your workout motivation.

      By using some organizational tricks and remembering your reasons for making your workout a priority, you’ll not only find the time to fit it in but feel good about doing so.

      More on How to Find Workout Motivation

      Featured photo credit: juan pablo rodriguez via unsplash.com

      Reference

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