If you’re looking to build a strong and stable core, then there’s nothing quite like a good plank. Though many people might spend ages completing all manors of reps upon reps of sit-ups, the humble plank actually trumps all when it comes to core workout as plank challenges all of your core muscles in a short period of time.

benefits

The biggest benefit of the plank is that it involves your entire body. Whilst many other core exercise specifically target the abdominal or back muscles, the plank teaches you how to use your body as a unit, creating balance and stability beyond just your midsection. This skill transfers over to everyday life far more than just crunching, and can help reduce your risk of injury from other exercise in the gym. Not to mention, they’ll help to improve your posture by teaching you how to keep a straight back and strengthening the muscles involved in protecting the spine.

Secondly, the plank is incredibly versatile as there’s always a way to increase the difficulty to create a different stimulus. For instance, by extending your arms further overhead, the movement suddenly becomes a lot more taxing. You can also take one arm or leg off the ground to challenge your balance further or widen your stance to make the movement easier. You can even go upon your side to hit the muscles from another angle or go into a reverse plank. Because of this versatility, it makes for an excellent movement for high intensity interval training routines to burn a large amount of calories for fat loss. You can do it for time or complete reps by lifting your arms up or switching between side planks.

Lastly, the plank requires little to no equipment. Though you can use weights or combine it with other movements to increase the difficulty of the exercise, there’s no necessity for any other equipment whatsoever. This means that you can always get in a good workout no matter where you are.

how to plank

The first component of an efficient elbow plank is arm positioning. You want your elbows placed directly underneath your shoulder and find place that is comfortable for forearms. The next step is to pull your shoulders down, away from the ears. Try to move shoulder blades together, flatten upper back. You want fairly neautral spine alignemnt.

Active your abs, contract your obliques in combination with a clute contraction. You don’t need to be doing an all out effort. You just want to active your muscles to tie everything together so that there isn’t a section of your body that is just completley relaxed. Also try to contract quad muscles (front of tights) that locks your knees. The best position for your feet is hip-width apart. Try to think about 50 percent of your weight on your arms and 50 percent on your legs.

elbow plank

elbow vs full plank

Full plank does not challenge your ABS as elbow plank, but it is a great option if you want to strengthen your upper body as it engages a lot of arm muscles, specifically the triceps. If you want to focus more on your ABS, consider elbow plank in which your arms are bent, elbows are directly beneath shoulders, and your weight rests on your forearms. It also takes pressure off the wrists from being bent at a 90-degree angle.

side plank

Side plank also known as Vasishtasana in yoga. Vasishtasana in yoga is named after the sage Vasishth meaning brilliant, best. This pose is not an easy one and it challenges your strength, therefore before performing the side plank try out other simple poses that can help to strengthen muscles.

reverse plank

The reverse plank is also know as purvottanasana. In Sanskrit ‘Purva’ means the whole body and ‘uttana’ means intense stretch. So this pose stretches your entire body and helps you to be flexible. It stretches your hands, legs, biceps and shoulders and abdomen and also strengthens your core muscles. It also stretches your chest and strengthens your wrists. Reverse plank pose is also known as upward plank pose.

superman plank

This pose is very intense where full body contraction takes place and works out all the muscles. It concentrates on lower back, glutes, hamstrings, ABS and obliques. The alternate hand and leg holding, helps to find balance between hand and leg co-ordination. It aids in good motor control and improves your stability. First, make sure that you can hold at least 30 seconds the normal plank, otherwise it is difficult to perform the superman properly.

How long should I hold

With isometric exercises, like plank poses, the level of difficulty is increased by choosing more advanced variation or holding the pose for a longer period of time. People often wonder how often they should be doing plank poses and for how long they should hold each pose. Here are some basic guidelines that will answer those questions.

Beginners should start by mastering the basic plank pose. If the basic plank pose is too difficult or places too much pressure on the wrists, an elbow plank pose is an excellent alternative. Once either pose is mastered, the pose should be held for a short amount of time, 10-15 seconds. A basic plank pose or elbow plank pose should be completed three -five times with a short break between sets. When holding each repetition for 10-15 seconds becomes too easy, the holding time should be gradually increased. People with very weak core muscles may not be able to execute a basic plank pose or elbow plank pose. When that’s the case, they can begin either pose with one or both knees on the ground to make it easier. When their strength improves, they can begin performing the plank poses with both knees off the ground.

People whose core muscles are fairly strong should hold their individual plank poses for 15-45 seconds. As with beginners, intermediate exercisers should aim for one set of three to five repetitions. Intermediate exercisers who wish to incorporate more plank poses into their exercise routines may wish to try a variation of the pose that works the muscles in a different way, such as side plank or raise one arm (or leg). In this way your muscles get much more load than in regular plank.

Athletes with excellent core strength should gradually work up to holding each plank pose for a 1 minute or os. The goal for advanced exercises is to complete one set of three to five repetitions, resulting in a grand total of 3-5 minutes of active pose time. You may also wish to incorporate new plank pose variations into their workout routines, such as reverse, superman or some variations that involves movement.

Some people boast about holding their plank poses for extremely long durations, 3-5 minutes or event longer, but does that provide greater fitness benefits than holding them for two minutes or less? Probably not. Dan John, a contributor to Men’s Health magazine, stated that there are no benefits in holding plank poses for more than two minutes. “Enough is enough. It’s just a plank. More is not better.”

Tom Hoel, who held the record for the longest plank until 2014, agrees. Hoel said that, “Very few people will benefit from the plank training I’ve been doing.” Hoel is a gym owner, group fitness instructor, and personal trainer. In his classes, he doesn’t go beyond three-minute holds.

People who are preoccupied with holding plank poses for long periods of time often focus on quantity over quality. When done incorrectly, plank poses can place unnecessary stress on the spine, which can lead to discomfort, pain, or injury. Also, when plank poses are done incorrectly, the core muscles are not effectively challenged. It’s always better to prioritize proper form ahead of the amount of time that you want to hold the pose.

Common plank mistakes

Keep your feet straight, maintain neutral spine alignment, and hold. Simple, right? Hardly! In the real world, you may need to make some small adjustments in order to achieve proper alignment, gain maximum benefits and stay pain free from this pose. Here are 7 mistakes that people commonly make when they attempt a plank pose.

Butt in the air

People are often tempted to stick their butts in the air during elbow plank pose because it enables them to hold the pose for a longer time than if they performed the pose correctly. The problem is that, when you stick your butt in the air, it puts excessive pressure onto your shoulders and you aren’t required to hold your core rightly. This mistake often results in neck and shoulder pain. Keep your butt down, so that it’s aligned with your heels and shoulders. plank mistakes

Arched back

When you arch your back, you are relying on your spinal ligaments rather than the core muscles for support. This misstake typically leads to lower back pain. Correct it by slightly tilting your pelvis, which will flatten your back. Squeezing your glutes is also helpful. Imagine keeping your body in one straight line from your shoulders to your feet. plank mistakes

Hips too low to the ground

If your hips sink towards the ground, you are relying on the lower back to support your body weight rather than properly engaging the abdominal and core muscles. It is much easier to rely on your spinal cord instead of properly engaging your muscles. You can correct this posture by pressing the front of your thighs up towards the ceiling. plank mistakes

Poor Neck Alignment

In plank pose, the neck must be held in neutral alignment. The head should be neither dropped forward, nor should it be lifted up. Think about your head and neck being an extension of the straight line that’s created by the rest of your body. When the neck isn’t straight and the head is dropped forward or lifted up, pain in the upper back or neck will likely occur. plank mistakes

Rounding the Upper Back

A rounded upper back is a sign that your shoulders are hunched up. People often make this mistake to compensate for weak core muscles. It allows people with weak core muscles to hold the pose for an extended period, at the expense of their upper back, neck, and shoulders. In order to correct this error, move your shoulders down, away from your ears. Contract your traps (upper back muscles) and lats (mid-back muscles) to prevent the shoulders and upper back from rounding. plank mistakes

Poor Elbow and Shoulder Alignment

Elbows and shoulders need to be in one straight line. Tilting the shoulders in front of or behind the elbows overloads the shoulders. plank mistakes

Clasping Hands Together

Clasping your hands together take out the effectiveness of plank pose. When your hands are clasped together, your core muscles don’t have to work as hard. Always keep your hands apart, extended in a straight line from the elbows, with your palms on the ground. plank mistakes

keep planking

You’ll often hear the squat crowned as the king of all lower body exercises and the push-up trumps everything else for the upper body. Well, the plank is the same for the core. Nothing can quite compare to its full-body stimulus and accessibility. No matter where you are or what your fitness level is, there’s a variation on the plank that will work for your goals and your body. If you’re not planking, then you’re missing out on a vital exercise that will help you with both your fitness performance and overall health.