Today’s guest post is from Jess at Hello to Fit! She’s a plank pro and offered to share some tips with us! If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, head on over for some health & fitness inspiration!
Planks can be considered the base or foundation of all core work. While using just our bodyweight, planks can build up our muscular strength from head to toe – literally! Every muscle in the body must be engaged and active in order for us to hold a proper plank.
When you think of abdominal strength, do you think of sit-ups and crunches? Those can be good to strengthen the abs, but not much is being done for the rest of our core muscles (the back, glutes, hips, shoulders, and chest). Sit-ups tend to engage mainly the hip-flexors, and can be tough on the back (since you are in a “flexed” or rounded position).
According to Harvard Health Publications, planks “recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than sit-ups, which target just a few muscles”. This is more functional for our activities of daily living, since all of those core muscles have to work together when we do chores, pick up our children, and play sports.
Planks for everyone!
So…you want to be in-the-know about proper “planking”. There are many variations, but we’ll go over two ways you can plank on the floor: modified and full plank.
Place hands under shoulders and knees slightly behind hips, so that the hips are in a diagonal line with the shoulders. Elbows are soft, not locked, and shoulder blades should feel “plugged” into the joint. In other words, pull the shoulders slightly down and away from the ears.
Make sure abdominals are engaged; otherwise, your modified plank my look like this. Which is incorrect. Allowing the hips to sink can put unwanted pressure on the spine – back pain is no bueno!
For more of a challenge, you can come into a full plank. Safety cues are the same as for a modified plank, except that you’ll come onto the toes. Depending on personal preference (or if there is a wrist injury), you can stay on hands or drop down to the elbows.
A couple of big things to watch out for when you’re in full plank are hips that sink too low, or hips that are too high. Channel your inner Goldilocks and find that position that is “just right”: hips are in that diagonal line from the shoulders.
Plank better to perform better
Mastering any variation of a plank can help us be better at basically everything in our daily lives. We might be able to sit up a little taller – and with better posture – at work. When we’re at the gym, we can better protect our spine when lifting weights. With a stronger core, carrying our small children can be done safely and more efficiently.
What am I trying to say? If you haven’t planked today yet – drop down and give yourself a minute or two of some solid core work!
Jess is an ACSM certified personal trainer and AFAA certified group exercise instructor from Charlottesville, VA. Through her personal training and blogging, she hopes to share her experiences with living a balanced lifestyle: a lifestyle that includes an emphasis on strength and core training, moving as much as we can for health, while also enjoying those moments of indulgence.