WHY PLANKS ARE POWERFUL, HIGH YIELD MOVEMENT
Planks are powerful, high yield movement, worth learning to do correctly. Learn to safeguard your body and learn some variations. When you put your mind into this movement, it is truly a whole body exercise!
This post is not going to offer a planking challenge like you have seen many times on the Internet. However, it is going to explain why those challenges are so incredibly popular. The answer is obvious! Planks truly are powerful, high yield movement.
One of the first things I do when I sit to write a new post, is Google my idea. When you Google, “why plank?” the post titles that come up, tell you there are anywhere from 7 to 10 benefits of planking! True enough. HOWEVER …
The #1 most important benefit of planking, is that IF YOU make it into a WHOLE BODY movement, your WHOLE body will start to feel stronger. Stronger body, stronger mind!
SO WHAT ARE THE 7 to 10?
- Planks are one of the best core movements you can do!
- A properly executed plank will improve posture.
- If done correctly and safely, planks will decrease, if not get rid of, back pain!
- Thoughtfully executed planks, will lead to better coordination.
- Improved flexibility.
- Improved balance.
- Quickened metabolism.
- You need no equipment.
- Easy to modify for a beginner or advanced workout!
- Better mood!
THE POWERFUL, HIGH YIELD PLANK
Start with a forearm plank. I will show you also a half plank (takes away some of the resistance), in case you are unable to hold your weight from the outset. Worry not! YOU will get there!
There is debate about whether or not a forearm plank or high plank is better, i.e. more productive. I say that depends on a) what makes them difficult to begin with and b) the different muscles that benefit, depending on position. So, try them both and YOU decide.
If what makes them difficult is the inability to hold your full body weight, then begin with a forearm (or half plank) and work up to a high plank. Eventually, you can try some variations too! Planks are powerful, high yield movement that are worth perfecting.
The first and most important thing to know about a safe plank is that the more your ENGAGE your core, the safer your body will be AND the more benefit you will get from the movement. You MUST tighten/engage your core muscles, abdomen and back. This will prevent back strain. Keep your body in a straight line when planking. Letting your body curve, up or down, is what could cause injury. Do not let the word HALF, make you think a half plank is easy. If you have not planked before, you will know from the outset, nothing is easy here!
In a forearm plank, keep your arms about shoulder distance apart. Your arms can be straight, parallel to each other and palms to the floor. You may find that pushing through your palms, helps with the movement. I prefer to join my hands together during a forearm plank and push through my fist to the floor. In a high plank, your wrists need to be directly under your shoulders and if you splay your fingers (like you do your toes in yoga), this too will help you with the movement.
While I do not particularly promote the burn, dailyburn.com has pictures of the three most common mistakes made when planking. This is a well done post, that includes how to avoid making these common errors. Have a look and be cautious.
FOREARM PLANK (with half plank variation)
The forearm plank is the place to start. On the left you see a half plank. When you are happy with the length of time you can hold the half plank, add in the rest of your body. I like to grasp my hands in front of me, and push my fisted hands into the floor. Please be sure you are keeping your neck in line with your spine and not looking up!
The high plank is all the way up, with arms extended, wrists under shoulders. Avoid fully locking your elbow. When you are happy with the length of time you can hold your high plank, start challenging yourself by lifting up one leg or arm to increase difficulty.
HOW LONG SHOULD I PLANK?
A beginner can start with 10 or 15 seconds or you can hold the plank as long as you can, while maintaining your safe body position. Safety is key and most likely you will get 10 -15 seconds, if you are new to this move. From there, each time you plank, repeat your starting time, until it feels like it is getting less difficult. Then add 5 seconds and so on and so on. A minute or more is a STRONG outcome!!! If you can build to planking anywhere near 2 minutes, you are doing REALLY WELL! Remember, this is not a competition, nor a challenge. This is YOU learning to plank safely and carefully, so that your body can reap the benefits!
A MIND-BUILDING EXERCISE
I really like to train my mind to work with my muscles. When you engage your muscles with your mind, you are making a connection that will REALLY be beneficial. BEFORE you raise your body into the plank position, engage your core. Tighten your abs, feel how that straightens your back, connect to your arm muscles (they are doing the lifting here) and THEN, lift your body up off of the floor. While you are up in the plank, repeatedly scan your body. Arms in good position – check! Abs keeping my back safe – check! Whole body is parallel to the floor – check! Feet and toes okay -check! AND then back to the beginning again. This will not only keep your body engaged and safe, but it will pass the time! Before you know it, your timer on your phone will go off and you will have succeeded!
Try the simple exercise in Control Your Muscles With Your Mind. It will really help you with all of your movement and can be performed throughout your day, to help you engage your muscles randomly!
These days I am happy to be practically fit and know I am keeping my body strong and well. IF you are interested in planking variations that are more DIFFICULT, the one-armed or one-legged plank are the next variation to progress to. PLEASE be careful, the benefits of planking can be completely ERASED if you take on TOO MUCH! I really like Healthline’s 14 Plank Variations You Haven’t Tried, But Need To ASAP!
BACK TO THE 7 – 10 BENEFITS
If you have read the details in this post AND checked out some of the links, you will now understand why planks are powerful, high yield movement. It really is NOT necessary to do complicated things to improve your body’s fitness. The plank is one of the 5 moves in the 5-Move Build Your Own Workout video. This is a do-it-yourself, calisthenic workout, that I have put together. Doing these movements, progressing from easy, through the more difficult variations (if you choose), will work your entire body. The video link can be found here.
You can also do squats, another great exercise that focuses on your lower body and can engage the WHOLE body. Pick 3 to 5 basic calisthenic movements and build a workout to keep your body strong. Start with beginner or basic movements, learn to engage your MIND and build to tougher variations. You can do this all at HOME, all without equipment (if you choose), all without cost and all on your own!
Remember, this information is for reference purposes only. If you are starting a new movement practice, please discuss this with your Primary Care Provider first.