We’ve all seen them in our programs, and more likely than not if you’ve done a workout at Movimento you have done more than your fair share of planks! From rehabbing an old back injury to training for a marathon or even firming up that stomach, planks have come to be a staple in the modern fitness routine. But, why is this? What makes the plank so special and commonplace, both for beginners and long time gym goers? What does a plank do for us anyway? It is these questions and more that we seek to explore!
Something we love to preach here at Movimento is to keep it simple. And planks are no exception! Often in functional movement getting back to basics will give us the most bang for our buck. You can see this in the practicality of movements such as pushups, planks, bodyweight squats, etc. Because you can do these movements almost anywhere, they are often an excellent choice for both members starting out and members that are in need of recovery exercises (to pair up with a heavier loaded exercise for example). The portability and simple application they have in a well-structured program also allows you to simply find some space and go for it! This means there is no need to find a machine, find equipment or lose momentum setting up a new station. Additionally, they are considered a fully body movement, which means more overall muscle activation which in turn burns more calories!
So, we’ve seen that planks are simple and easy to perform, but are they effective? Absolutely! For starters, planks lay a good foundation for firming up your stomach and giving you that toned look you’ve been looking for. As your abdominal muscles get stronger and you begin to hold a plank longer and begin to do harder plank positions, your mid-section tightens up. Coupled with a healthy diet full of vegetables and lean protein, consistent planks over time will help turn your abs from flab to fab!
But perhaps you’re not necessarily after that toned look, and instead you are looking to alleviate pain from an injury, or even strengthen your core to improve your everyday function. Planks have been proven time and time again to strengthen all the muscles in your lower back and core. According to the American Council on Exercise, the plank is so effective because it “provides minimal lumbar movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, and is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain” Additionally, when done with good form, planks also increase flexibility in the other areas of your back (for example, your shoulder blades) and even your hamstrings as you lengthen your body across the floor. Lastly, planks have been shown to improve your balance and posture in everyday life. Again as we improve the strength and engagement of our abdominal muscles, our spinal structure begins to fight the effects of gravity and other lifestyle related forces – effectively, straightening us up.
Did you know the world record holder for the longest plank is George Hood, who forearm planked for a mind-blowing hour and twenty minutes? For the rest of us, a good common test is to see if you can last a minute while planking. If you can, great! As you can see, a minute or two on your plank is just the beginning. However if you find a minute plank difficult (or often slip into bad form), it is fair to say you likely need to work on that abdominal strength! For more help on your plank or if you have any questions, talk to your Movimento fitness trainer at your next session. Either way, let’s get out there and let’s get planking!