Work way more than your core muscles with a humble yet powerful plank.
At first glance, the plank may not seem like much in action. What’s so great about even holding your body motionless? It turns out there are some great benefits to staying in the plank position. The plank exercise challenges your entire body, and it’s worth it. This bodyweight exercise is especially good for working the core, which is crucial for mobility and pain relief.
But first, take the time to learn how to do a proper plank. This will ensure you are engaging the correct muscles in the correct manner and help prevent injury. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can fully enjoy the benefits of the plank below.
1. Planks strengthen the entire body
Love multitasking action? Target multiple muscles at once by doing planks. For starters, planks work your glutes and quads, muscles that play a vital role in propelling you forward, and are especially helpful if you’re a runner. Strong glutes and quadriceps also stabilize the pelvis and knees respectively, helping you move comfortably during sports and everyday activities.
Planks also target your shoulders, arms and core, the main stabilizers of your body, when you are on a plank, your spine is in a neutral position, which forces the core muscles to engage and provide stability, ultimately making them stronger .
2. Plank Improves Your Posture
While planks strengthen your core, it can also promote good posture. This is especially important if you tend to slouch or, like many people, sit at a desk all day. Here’s how it works: Your core muscles are responsible for supporting your spine and keeping your body upright, according to the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. This includes muscles like the diaphragm, pelvic floor, internal obliques, and abdominals. Doing a plank keeps these muscles healthy and strong, ensuring they can support your spine with ease. What’s more, a strong core helps your posture even further by keeping your spine in proper alignment.
3. Doing planks can help relieve low back pain
When it comes to pain, the plank will support you—all thanks to the core-strengthening, posture-improving effects of the move. As the center of the body, the core handles the load of your movement. According to current sports medicine reports, if you have a weak core, the load is shifted to surrounding muscles, which begin to overcompensate disproportionately. This can cause back pain, especially in the lower back. Poor posture can also stress the back muscles, according to the University of California.
Enter the benefits of the plank exercise. In a 2017 study, researchers found that stabilizing the core with exercises such as planks can reduce low back pain. Planks can also relieve stress by improving your awareness of spinal alignment and posture. This type of awareness, called postural awareness, has been linked to relief from back pain, according to a 2018 study.
4. Plank helps prevent injury
By stabilizing your core, planks reduce the risk of injury. According to the Journal of Athletic Training, a strong core helps transfer power to your extremities during movement. On the other hand, weak cores cannot handle the load. This puts too much stress on nearby muscles, leading to injuries in unexpected places like the buttocks, hamstrings, or inner thighs.
The posture-related benefits of planks can also lend a helping hand. Good posture keeps you safe by distributing your weight evenly during activity. This helps you avoid awkward, incorrect movements that can lead to injury and pain.
5. Plank Improves Your Balance
When you do a plank, you’re forced to put all your weight on your toes and arms without falling over. This improves your balance, which is key to controlling your body position. Maintaining good balance helps you move in an injury-resistant manner, whether you’re walking to the mailbox or hiking up a hill. Also, balance problems tend to become more prevalent as we age, so it never hurts to challenge your balance with moves like the plank.
If you’re a bit shabby in the balance department, don’t worry—there are plenty of ways to modify the plank. You can make it easier by placing your knees on the ground, which provides extra support while you build strength. Another option is to lift your upper body with your hands on a bed or chair, suggests Rhodes. It kind of brings the floor with you and makes the board easier to hold. The more upright your torso is, the easier the plank will be. Looking for a challenge? Plank for longer than usual, or raise your legs or arms.
6. Plank Improves Flexibility
While the plank doesn’t feel like your typical stretch, it can totally improve your flexibility. Doing a classic plank lengthens and stretches your hamstrings, the main muscles in the rear thigh that can cause pain when they get too tight. This exercise also stretches the arches and balls of the feet, which improves balance and range of motion. At the same time, the side panels stretch diagonally, making it easier to rotate the torso.