Do you want to shape your character? Plank, seemingly simple to perform, works a large number of muscle groups. Whether you choose yoga, pilates, or circuit training, chances are you’ll be doing planks as part of your program. It is an essential part of many exercise programs. And for good reason: A 30-second or one-minute plank can dramatically improve your fitness. Here’s everything you need to know about how to make a great board and why it’s so good for you.
Advantages of planks
Simply put, the plank is isometric strength training that builds core endurance. Isometric means there is no movement. Note that we said stamina, not strength. The plank, like any good core exercise, is not designed to strengthen muscles, but to improve their endurance.
While muscular strength refers to the amount of force a muscle can exert or the weight you can lift, muscular endurance refers to a muscle’s ability to sustain a sustained contraction for an extended period of time. You need both to keep your muscles in their best shape. Strength allows you to exert maximum force (lifting a heavy box) and endurance allows you to use the muscles over and over again before they tire (like running a marathon or doing several dozen repetitions of an exercise).
When it comes to our core muscles, improving endurance can help us with many everyday tasks. Our core helps us maintain our posture, supports our spine, and keeps us balanced when we sit, stand, and walk. (And yes, it will also help give the trunk a stronger look).
Planks work a whole range of muscles. The plank mainly works on the transverse abdominal muscles and the rectus abdominis muscles of the abdominal wall. This is a group of muscles located on the front of your abdomen. The rectus abdominis is the most superficial and acts like a six-pack, while the transversus abdominis is the deepest. Planks also work the glutes, both maximally and medially.
The other muscle groups used depend on the type of plank you are doing. When you do a forearm plank (see below), you create more tension in your core and lats, the latissimus dorsi muscles, which are the large V-shaped muscles connecting your arms to your spine, spine, and back. If your goal is just to work your core, the forearm plank is the way to go. When you do a plank with your arms fully extended (the top part of the push-up position), you also work your triceps, shoulders, and chest.
How to make the right board: the right shape and variations
To do a forearm plank:
Start on all fours with your hands and knees on the ground.
Place your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders with your arms at a 90-degree angle and looking straight down at the floor.
Extend one leg behind you while maintaining a neutral spine (maintain the same natural curve in your upper, middle and lower spine as if you were standing straight) and contract your glutes to strengthen the straight line from the top of your head to your heels. Avoid arching your lower back, lifting your hips, or bending your knees.
Contract your abdominal muscles, you should feel that you are contracting the entire area between the ribs and the pelvis. At the same time, contract your lower back muscles by pushing your elbows into the floor as if trying to pull your elbows toward your toes.
To do a straight arm plank:
Start on all fours on your hands and knees. Keeping your palms on the floor and looking down, step your feet back to form a perfectly straight line from the top of your head to your heels. (Your gaze should be down, so your neck is also straight.) Your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
Maintain a neutral spine while contracting your abs, lats, and glutes as described above.
Procedure for performing a modified kneeboard:
Start on all fours on your hands and knees. Raise your arms forward and keep your knees in contact with the floor until your body forms a straight line from the top of your head to your knees. Keep your spine in a neutral position. Work your core and side muscles to maintain the position. Your gaze should be downward and slightly outward so that your neck is aligned with your spine.
How long and how often to do planks?
Here’s a good goal: try to hold the plank for one to two minutes. It’s not arbitrary because that’s about how long most exercise sets are, and you want your core to be at least strong enough to maintain a neutral spine for that amount of time, because that’s when your spine is under the most stress . .
It is safe to do planks daily unless you have injuries, heart problems or shoulder strain. Because planks work on muscular endurance, not strength, there is no need to let the muscles rest and recover before working them again. The plank is safe for most people, but if you’re new to exercise, it’s always wise to get cleared by a doctor and ask a fitness professional about it. Check your form. Especially if you have high blood pressure, a hard abdominal restraint maneuver can temporarily raise your blood pressure even more. Some spinal problems can also be aggravated if you hold the board in an excessively bent or extended position.
Tight hip flexors can also cause problems. Our trunk can sag and we can lose neutral spine alignment due to hip flexor tightness. If your hip flexors are tight when you try to do a plank, you won’t be taking advantage of your core muscles and will continue to stress your hip flexors, which need to be stretched and not stressed.
Finally, any shoulder issues should be resolved before working the boards. It is absolutely necessary not to stress the shoulder joint by keeping the arms in the correct position, which allows the stabilizing muscles to do their work.
You may have experienced one of these problems before or have another medical condition or illness that could prevent you from exercising safely. Even if not, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.