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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 August 15, 2018

      7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

      7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

      Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

      Video Summary

      Why is it important to train up our core strength?

      There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

      This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

      Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

      In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

      One Exercise, multiple benefits

      There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

      By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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      When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

      Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

      In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

      What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

      What will happen when you start doing planks every day

        1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

        Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

        • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
        • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
        • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
        • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

        2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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          Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

          Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

          3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

            Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

            4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

              Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

              A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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              A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

              On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

              5. You’ll improve overall balance

                Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

                6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

                  Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

                  7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                    Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                    How to hold a plank position

                    1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                    2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                    3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                    4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                    5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                    6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                    7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                    Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                    Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                      How to improve your plank time gradually

                      1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                      2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                      3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                      Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                      Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                      You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                      • Prolapse
                      • After prolapse surgery
                      • Pelvic pain conditions
                      • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                      • Previous childbirth
                      • Overweight

                      Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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