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Planking The RIGHT Way For Core Strength

Meet the women behind the popular workout program that’s changing lives

The cornerstone of any strength training regimen often involves movement-based exercises, but there’s another approach that shouldn’t be overlooked: static holds. While pushing, pulling, and lifting weights are essential, exercises like the plank emphasize holding a position rather than moving through a range of motion. This can be highly effective for building strength and endurance, especially in the core muscles.

Take the plank, for example. It’s a fundamental exercise where you maintain a fixed position, typically with your arms straight or forearms on the floor, and hold it for a set amount of time. Despite its simplicity, the plank can be incredibly efficient at developing core strength, outpacing even dynamic abdominal exercises like crunches, according to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The key to the plank’s effectiveness lies in the constant contraction of muscles without the reprieve of movement. Unlike exercises with distinct phases of contraction and relaxation, the plank demands sustained engagement from head to toe. This continuous tension activates various muscle groups, making it a comprehensive workout for the entire body.

During a plank, the core muscles, including the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliques, are heavily engaged to support the spine and prevent any movement. Additionally, the glutes play a crucial role in maintaining proper form, while muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms, upper back, and legs are recruited to stabilize the body. As a result, the plank is not only a core exercise but also a total-body workout.

It’s important to note that the goal of a plank isn’t to set endurance records by holding the position for extended periods. Instead, focus on maintaining proper form and tension throughout the exercise, typically for about a minute to 90 seconds. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to planks, as losing form diminishes the effectiveness of the exercise.

Incorporating planks into your routine offers a myriad of benefits beyond aesthetic improvements. Along with sculpting a stronger core and defined abs, regular plank practice enhances overall performance in other exercises by improving stability and force generation. Furthermore, a robust core reduces the risk of low back pain by supporting the spine and promoting proper posture.

Performing a plank correctly is essential to reap its full rewards. To do so, follow these steps:

  • Begin by positioning yourself on the ground with your elbows stacked directly beneath your shoulders and legs extended.
  • Squeeze your abs and glutes to create tension throughout your body, pulling your belly button toward your spine.
  • Maintain a straight line from your head to your heels, avoiding any sagging or lifting of the hips.
  • Look down to keep your neck in a neutral position.
  • Hold the plank position while continuously engaging your core and glutes until you feel your form falter.
  • To incorporate planks into your workouts, start with four rounds of holds lasting 30 seconds to a minute each. Focus on maintaining perfect form, and gradually increase the duration as you become more proficient. 

Additionally, explore different plank variations to target various core muscles and add variety to your routine.

Do you do planks? Do you have trouble getting them to properly engage your core? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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