We all have very different standards when it comes to what we define as pretty and I never really knew how to define beauty. Of course I had plenty of time over the past twenty-something years of my existence to form my own opinions on what I believed to look nice and what I thought of as plain ugly. Yet, as years passed by, my what-is-pretty-or-not checklist kind of changed as I realized that looks can’t be limited to a few clothes put together in a way that society defines as ‘fashionable’.
I think it really hit me when I came across the #ChooseBeautiful ad campaign from Dove last year and how it kind of made me realize that despite our differences, we have at least one thing in common: insecurities. I know we all experience them in different ways and on different levels but as this world is full of a lot of very confident people, it is also filled with not-so-confident humans.
So then I started to wonder where confidence was coming from and so I began by looking for a definition. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, it is:
‘A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.’
So, who teaches us to appreciate the person we are and trust the idea that it is actually okay to just go out there and be totally ourselves without fearing judgment or potential harm?
Looking at someone who’s dressed nicely or simply matches all of our ‘pretty’ criteria is a pleasant thing to do. It’s not as if we were all granted with the closet of one of the Kardashians or gifted with the ability to shop all the right items needed to pull up a stylish look. Yet, it doesn’t mean that we too don’t want to be labeled as pretty.
I always find it surprising how some people can breathe of absolute confidence. You can easily tell how good and comfortable they feel. Perhaps it’s something about the way they walk or the way their body moves when they speak. There are times when I find it so complicated to simply try to connect all the dots of my body just so the way I feel on the inside wouldn’t interfere too much with how I look on the outside. Yet, for the looking-confident people out there, it seems so easy to just navigate through the staring crowd.
Perhaps is it because they master their appearance and will only let it show what they want it to. We all have our days when getting out of bed already seems like an insuperable challenge so we just figured that since we’ve been brave enough to ditch our blanket, we’ve deserved the right to put a minimum amount of effort in getting dressed.
The truth is that the idea that ‘we are what we wear’ is often a misconception. I’ve seen people looking impeccable from head to toe when I knew very well about how miserable they felt on the inside. Because at the end of the day, no matter how confident you feel about yourself, it always has something to do with the outside world. I know a lot of people happily like to brag about how they couldn’t care less about what other people have to say about them but still, I can’t help but think that to a certain extent, it always has something to do with society, social media or even friends and family.
If you think about it, it takes us years of trying out styles. We go from one to the other, trying to make it the best reflection of where we stand right now in our lives. It’s our best protection, like a shield made of cotton and at the same time our most vulnerable item. It remains the first thing we let the world see of us. So perhaps, instead of trying to cover it all up with piles of accessories and make-up, we should try to start from within so there wouldn’t be so many layers needed to disguise what we are on the outside.
Maybe the difference between looking good and actually feeling good lies in these tiny bits of thoughts and efforts we decide to bring together no to let the world see how great we are but to push ourselves a little higher. It’s about the way we decide to treat ourselves, our body and as they often rightly say, our temple.
As Precious movie star Gabourey Sidibe once said:
‘People always ask me, ‘You have so much confidence. Where did that come from?’ It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl … It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it.’
If home is where the heart is then I think it’s time we love ourselves so much that we feel like our heart will always be in the right place.
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.
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.
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 abdominus, the 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:
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
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.
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 – shoulders, shoulder 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
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
Get into pushup position on the floor.
Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
Hold the position for as long as you can.
Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
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
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.
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.
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:
After prolapse surgery
Pelvic pain conditions
Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.