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How Doing Planks Can Transform Your Body And Make You Ready for Summer

How Doing Planks Can Transform Your Body And Make You Ready for Summer

Winter is over, the temperatures are rising, summer is going to be here soon. That means 2 things: shedding layers of winter clothes and becoming much more active. Did your Netflix addiction get the better of you for the last 4-6 months? It’s okay, you’ve still got time to get your body ready.

Since we’re all short on time these days you’re going to want to focus on the best bang for your buck exercises, exercises that focus on using a multiple muscle groups and can help you reach both aesthetic and performance goals which is why planks are a great choice.

Planks are a great total body exercise that is efficient, effective, can be done anywhere, and progressed or regressed to fit any fitness level. Whether you’re looking to tighten up the midsection and stand a bit straighter to look great at the beach or improve your athleticism for summer sports, planks are a perfect exercise.

Planks are More Than an “Ab” Exercise:

Most people think of planks as an ab exercise, and while it’s true they are a great exercise for the abs, it’s selling them short.

Most trainers and physical therapists consider the “core” to be the area from your shoulders to your hips and every muscle in between. Doing planks works just about all of these muscles simultaneously. Muscles like the “6 pack abs” (rectus abdominus) deeper abs (transverse abdominus), obliques, spinal errectors, lats, rhomboids, traps, and glutes. Simply rising into a pushup plank will also incorporate the chest and triceps. Planks, when performed correctly, are all about creating tension through the whole body, activating all of the muscles of the “core”.

Compare that to a crunch or situp, where the abs and hip flexors are the only muscles really exerting and it’s easy to see how planks are so much more than just an “ab” exercise.

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Planks Work Your “Core” the Right Way:

Research from Dr. Stuart McGills’ lab has shown that the core is constructed to create a corset around the lumbar spine. This corset is built to keep the spine rigid during rotational and compressive forces. For most people, the best core training is that which limits or resists motion of the lower back (lumbar spine).

Planks do just this. More traditional ab exercises like situps and crunches flex the spine, and while that may be good for building a 6 pack, it’s probably not the best choice for your lumbar vertebrae and continued back health.

Planks Help Correct Your Crappy Posture:

Many people have what is referred to as desk jockey posture from sitting all day in front of a steering wheel, computer or TV. This posture leads to a rounded upper back, forward shoulders and posterior pelvic tilt. Basically, the length-tension relationships of the muscles have changed from being hunched over all day. Some muscles become overstretched, some shorten, others become overactive and others under-active. This tends to lead to what’s called “hanging off of the hard structures”. Instead of using the muscles to provide stability for a neutral spine, we slide into positions that allow us to use the bones for stability.

Planks are (usually) all about creating a neutral position. It stands to reason, that the muscles which are worked in a plank are also the ones that have an effect on your neutral posture. Muscles like the glutes, spinal errectors (low back), obliques and scapular stabilizers (upper / mid back muscles) help to pull you back into a more neutral position. While simply doing a few planks once or twice a week probably wont fix your posture completely, they’ll help activate and build endurance in the weak, under-active muscles. This will help improve your posture much more than traditional flexion-based “core” exercises like crunches.

You Might Look a Bit Thinner – or Correcting Posture Part 2:

Many women (and some guys) have too much of an arch in the lower back and as a result use the vertebrae of the lower back to create stability. In other words they “hang off the lower back”. Doing this can lead to an excessive lumbar mobility and anterior pelvic tilt. This can give the lower stomach the appearance of being pushed out, or the dreaded lower belly “pooch”.

Planks can help to correct this posture also. Specifically by strengthening the glutes, rectus abdominus and obliques.Remember, planks are a movement that reinforces a neutral hip and spine position, so almost any deviation from a neutral posture can be helped with planks.

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Baby Got Back:

We’re in the golden age of glutes. Let’s face it, butts are everywhere. While a nice core never goes out of style, glutes are the “it” muscle right now, in a big way… and for good reason. Not only does a nice set of glutes look great in a bikini or swim shorts, they are arguably the most important muscles in the body from a movement and performance perspective.

While planks are not thought of as a glute exercise, a good plank isn’t about time, it’s about tension. To stay in the correct technique you must squeeze your glutes and keep them contracted hard the whole time. For some of the more challenging plank variations, you’re not only using the glutes to stabilize the hips, they’re also creating motion which will increase the challenge overall.

Planks are Great for Treating and Preventing Low Back Pain:

Nobody wants to get up and head out to catch some waves at 6am on a Saturday and paddle back in after one ride, or be in the clubhouse after 9 holes, all because their lower back is killing them. Back pain affects 31 million Americans at any given time according to the American Chiropractic Association. Don’t be a statistic. Low back pain sufferers have some common traits including tightness in the thoracic spine and hips, weak glutes and the tendency to use the low back to create movement.

Remember, planks are about tightness, creating a stable corset around the spine. Training this corset by planking not only helps to strengthen the muscles but also teaches your body what it feels like to be in a tight, braced, position.

How to Plank, It’s Not What You Think and How Not Waste Your Time:

Too often planks are done for ridiculously long timed holds and with a big arch in the lower back. This needs to be fixed. The purpose of the plank is to create tension through the body and resist movement. Your plank should reflect this, so flatten out that back and get as tight as possible.

Front Plank Checklist:

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  • Abs turned on and braced.
  • Hip in neutral or very slightly rotated forward (belt buckle to chin) to help the abs fire.
  • Glutes squeezed hard.
  • Shoulders in the joint, scapula (shoulder blades) down the ribcage.
  • Upper and lower back flat.

plank

    Side Plank Checklist:

    • Elbow directly under the shoulder.
    • Top leg towards the front of the body.
    • Ribcage in neutral, usually this means pulled down slightly and rotated up slightly.
    • Hips in neutral, glutes squeezed hard.

    Side-Plank-Marching_edited

      Moving Planks, the Planks You Never Thought of:

      Too often planks are thought of as a stationary exercise, but that’s not always true.

      Exercises like:

      • Ab wheel rollouts
      • Bird Dog
      • Stir the pot
      • Suspension rows
      • Fallouts
      • Pushups
      • Farmers walks
      • Suitcase carries

      Are nothing more than moving planks.

      Think about it. To do these exercises correctly you must begin in and maintain a stable, core braced, plank position. The core is resisting the hoop, shear and extension forces that are being placed on the spine, no different than any other plank. The key here however is that the exercises must be performed correctly. The core cannot buckle it must stay braced, with no movement whatsoever through the spine.

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      The 10 Second Plank From Hell: The RKC Plank

      This is the plank that separates the men from the boys, the RKC plank. This plank isn’t just about maintaining tension, it’s about creating tension, literally, trying to crush yourself.

      RKC Checklist:

      • Hips posteriorly upper back slightly rounded to create a psuedo crunch effect.
      • Squeeze the glutes as hard as possible.
      • Drive the elbows back under you.
      • Drive the toes towards the elbows.
      • Squeeze everything in between as hard as possible and try to crush yourself in the process.

      There’s Really no Excuse Not to Be Ready When Summer Gets Here:

      Planks cost nothing, you need no special equipment and they can be done anywhere. They’re super easy to incorporate into a workout or even your daily routine. You don’t even need to program them into a special place in your routine often. If you’re lifting weights, interval training or even running laps, you can add planks to your workouts by simply using them as active rest in between sets, intervals or laps.

      They’re so simple you can do planks on your living room floor during commercials or work breaks. Just remember build slowly and don’t focus as much on the length of time you can hold a plank as much as how much muscular tension you can create while in the plank position.

      Don’t wait, the count down is on, start now and you’ll be surprised at the effect planks can have on your physique, posture and athleticism by the time summer rolls around.

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      Last Updated on November 19, 2019

      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

      Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

      If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

      1. Create a Daily Plan

      Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

      2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

      Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

      3. Use a Calendar

      Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

      I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

      Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

      4. Use an Organizer

      An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

      These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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      5. Know Your Deadlines

      When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

      But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

      6. Learn to Say “No”

      Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

      Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

      7. Target to Be Early

      When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

      For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

      Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

      8. Time Box Your Activities

      This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

      You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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      9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

      Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

      10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

      Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

      You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

      11. Focus

      Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

      Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

      Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

      12. Block out Distractions

      What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

      I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

      When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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      Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

      13. Track Your Time Spent

      When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

      You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

      14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

      You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

      Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

      15. Prioritize

      Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

      Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      16. Delegate

      If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

      When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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      17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

      For related work, batch them together.

      For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

      1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
      2. coaching
      3. workshop development
      4. business development
      5. administrative

      I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

      18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

      What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

      One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

      While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

      19. Cut off When You Need To

      The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

      Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

      20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

      Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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