Planks are a key exercise for anyone looking to improve their physical health. Mastering a plank means that you are able to handle many other workouts properly and gain a lot of fundamental strength. Planking focuses and improves your core muscles specifically; however, that is not the only part of the body that it’s beneficial for. A properly executed plank can actually help every muscle in your body get a workout in.
What’s so great about keeping planks in your exercise routine? Planks have a wide array of physical benefits- it’s not just an ab workout. In practice, a plank puts your body into the same position as the top of a push-up. Your body is horizontal while your toes and forearms hold you up and bear the weight. During a plank, the muscles hardest at work are in your core. However, that doesn’t just mean your abs. Muscles all around the middle of your body are working hard during a plank, as well as your glutes and obliques. Core muscles are the most important muscles to work out since they are the base of everything else in your body. Starting off with a strong core allows you to do work out your other muscles more confidently and properly.
What Exactly Is a Plank?
There are two main types of planks- high and low. For both types, you start with your body laying down, face down. Use a yoga mat or a soft surface to avoid too much pressure or pain during the exercise. Next, curl your toes under your feet and ensure your elbows are lined up with your shoulders. To start the plank, lift your body off the ground using your arms. For a high plank, keep your palms on the ground and extend your arms all the way up. For a low plank, keep your forearms on the ground so that your arms are only halfway extended. As you lift your body off the ground, press the weight of your body into your toes and arms. Your body should form a straight line once you’re off the ground. The goal of a plank to hold this position for a certain amount of time or as long as you can.
How to Hold a Plank
The position of a plank isn’t the hard part- holding it is. It’s important to hold the proper position throughout the exercise to actually reap the benefits and to avoid injury. During the plank, focus on bearing weight in your arms and toes while flexing all the muscles in your body. Focus on holding the pressure in your core, as this helps to strengthen the core and hold the plank as strongly as possible. Don’t allow your shoulders or hips to sink or rise, remain in a straight line. It’s also imperative to breathe continually and steadily. The pressure of a plank can make it feel easy to hold your breath, so focus on breathing slowly. Be sure that you don’t stain your neck or back during a plank. Keep your head facing down and avoid tensing your neck muscles.
Start off with a goal in mind for holding a plank, like 30 seconds or one minute. By doing planks consistently and strengthening your core, holding a plank for longer and longer becomes much easier.
How to Progress Your Plank?
Planks are no easy exercise; it can be quite difficult to start doing one, especially if you don’t have a particularly strong core. If it seems too difficult to hold a plank for any significant amount of time, don’t get discouraged. Repetition and consistency are the keys to developing a stronger core and stronger plank. However, there are some easy ways to build your way to a better plank. Try out some of these tips the next time you’re planking:
- Squeeze your gluteal (buttocks) muscles together as hard as possible during your plank. This gives your mind something to focus on and helps take some pressure off the rest of your body.
- Widen your feet, this makes the exercise slightly easier, and it’s a good place to start if you are inexperienced with planking.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If you inadvertently hold your breath or breathe unsteadily, less oxygen gets to your muscles, and it’s much harder to hold the plank.
What Are Common Plank Mistakes?
Planking requires a very specific form, and any mistakes can cause the exercise to hurt you or be ineffective. It’s easy to lose your form during the course of holding a plank, especially as your muscles get tired and you begin to lose focus. Here are some things to focus on avoiding:
- Dropping your hips or raising your hips. Moving your hips away from the straight line position feels a lot easier in the moment, but it means that you’re not planking properly.
- Dropping your shoulders. This is another way that your body falls out of the straight line position. Dropping your shoulders can also cause upper back or neck pain, so it’s important to push your shoulders back during the plank.
- Raising your neck. Trying to look up or ahead during a plank is an unnecessary strain on your neck muscles and makes it harder to breathe. Keep your face looking downwards during the whole time you’re planking.
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