Do You Know How to Do the Abdominal Plank Correctly?
“You never realize how long a minute is until you spend it doing a plank.” These were the unforgettable words of one of my trainers. And the fact is that doing isometric planks, also known as abdominal planks, is hard and the time passes very slowly. But the benefits are worth the effort. Because planks are one of the best exercises for strengthening the core and many different muscle groups all at once.
Plus, planks are a basic exercse that don’t require any equipment, so they’re really easy to incorporate into any of your workout routines.
The plank is a movement that comes from Pilates, yoga and workout routines and can be done by anyone. As it’s an exercise which uses our whole body, it lets you burn lots of calories and build muscle in a short space of time, as explained by this study from 2021. The same research also shows that abdominal planks are effective in developing our strength and endurance and can help reduce lower back pain.
A “Six Pack” Of Steel
If all this information has still not convinced you to include planks in your abs routine, there are even more reasons. Because planks also work your six pack harder and better than traditional ab exercises, also known as crunches, as confirmed by a group of researchers in this study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. These scientists measured the performance of 20 participants in up to 16 different ab exercises and found that isometric planks, or crunches, “maximize functional gains and peak performance.”
Planks are also an example of functional exercises, which are more effective by incorporating multiple muscle groups compared to exercises that focus on only one muscle group. Functional exercises mimic the way our bodies function during daily activities and can “improve our fitness in terms of speed, muscle strength, power, balance and agility,” as seen in this study from 2021.
How Long Do You Have to Hold a Plank?
As we well know, the perception of time expands to infinity when we do an abdominal plank. But in real time, how long should a plank last? Ten seconds? Two minutes? As long as you can? George Hood beat the world plank record, holding it for 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds. But relax, no one expects you to reach the times achieved by this 62-year-old former Marine. In fact, the ideal amount is much shorter than you think, between 30 seconds and one minute is enough.
How to Do the Plank Properly
Sarah Beth, of Sarah Beth Yoga, a yoga instructor from the United States with over 12 years of experience, explains all the steps you need to follow to do the perfect plank. You can also check out her video on this topic for more details.
- To begin the plank, place your hands just below your shoulders, draw your feet back so that your weight is on the balls of your feet and your heels are directed backward while your head is extended forward.
- You want your body to be straight and strong like a plank of wood, so press the backs of your knees up, squeeze your glutes, tighten your core and keep your neck in line with your spine and your gaze towards the floor.
- Remember that your neck and hips should neither be lifted nor sag.
- For the trunk to be properly aligned, your neck and hips should be in line, as if someone were drawing a straight line from your heels to your head. You can ask someone else to tell you when your hips are aligned until you get used to the feeling.
For a simpler modification:
- If keeping your hips aligned or engaging your core is too difficult, then lower your knees so that the straight line of the plank is from your knees to your head. This is also a variation you can do if you can’t get used to the original position.
- If your wrists feel tight, then use your forearms but keep the integrity of the plank, that straight line, from your knees to your head. You can also combine the variations and lower this posture to your knees.
Learn more about this topic at foodspring:
- Hatha Yoga: a style of yoga to boost strength and encourage relaxation
- 7 exercises to strengthen your oblique abs
Sources for this article
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