Planking, anyone? If you are looking for a way to mix up your workout regimen, I’ve got something for you. A plank exercise is one of the most powerful and effective exercises that you can do! Why? Well, it’s effective because it builds strength within the entire body in a relatively short amount of time. There are so many plank variations, which means it’s adaptable for people at different fitness levels. And here’s another bonus. A plank can be done without any special equipment and you can do it anywhere (e.g., your home, in a hotel room, etc.)! It does require some commitment, consistency, and proper form to maximize the full benefits. Want to know more about a plank exercise? Let’s dig a little deeper my friends!
What is a Plank?
The basic plank consists of both hands on the floor, positioned right underneath your shoulders while you are on your toes (or, if you need a modification, you can put your knees on the floor). This is often called the straight arm plank. Once in position, you can simply hold the position or introduce some movement through the lower body or upper body to add more of a challenge.
Why is a Plank Exercise Effective? Which Muscles do Planks Workout?
The plank exercise is so powerful because it’s an isometric core strengthening exercise. Here’s what planks do: you develop muscles by engaging them in a prolonged held position. To hold a plank position, you have to use your upper body, lower body, and core for stability, which is why the plank exercise is perfect for someone who loves efficiency and multi-tasking. By holding a plank, you build strength throughout the entire body, develop support for your spine, and improve your posture. This happens because you recruit several major muscle groups which include the abdominals (rectus
Are Plank Exercises for Beginners?
Yes, but you must be safe and smart about doing it. As with any new exercise, always check with your doctor before starting anything new. If he or she suggests any modifications for your exercise, be sure to use them.
And, if you are looking for ways to start a new workout routine, check out my post here!
Planks–Where to Start?
First, it’s important to honor your body and start at an appropriate fitness level for you. If you’re just starting, it may be best to use modifications such as placing your knees on the floor. Then, be knowledgeable about the proper placement and form for your body. This will help you attain the full benefit of the exercise while keeping your body safe from injury.
When you first start doing plank exercises, hold it for as long as you can without compromising your form. This may be a couple of seconds. With consistency, you will build strength and you’ll be able to hold it for longer. As a general guideline, experts recommend that you should not hold a plank longer than 60 seconds at a time. If you go longer than 60 seconds, you may compromise your form (and good form is key).
For some visual tips about proper form while doing planks, check out this video! And, if you ever feel that you can’t maintain good form while doing an exercise, regress the movement (i.e., take a modification) so that you can maintain your form.
Types of Planks
Now, this is why a plank exercise can be so much fun! There is literally something for everyone– from a beginner to someone at an advanced level. Here are some of my favorite plank exercise variations:
- Standard Plank (also called a High Plank or Straight Arm Plank): Start by kneeling on the floor and place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. You can raise your knees, or keep them on the floor. If on your toes (knees raised), raise the heels above the balls of your feet. Your body should form a long line from your head to your heels (or knees if knees are on the floor)
- Forearm Plank (also called Low Plank): Very similar to a Standard Plank however, your forearms are on the floor and parallel to one another. Start by kneeling on the floor and place your forearms on the floor. Make sure your elbows are underneath your shoulders. You can raise your knees, or keep them on the floor. If on your toes (knees raised), raise the heels above the balls of your feet. Your body should form a long line from your head to your heels (or knees if your knees are on the floor). By the way, this is a great modification for the Standard Plank if you have wrist issues.
- Side Plank: you can start from a Forearm Plank (easier) or High Plank (harder). From a Forearm Plank, rotate onto one forearm. Stack your hips and shoulders and ensure your elbow is under the shoulder. Regarding your feet, they are either: stacked, one in front of the other, or the top foot is planted in front of the body. Your knees are straight and your body is in a long line from your head to your feet.
For other plank exercise variations, check out this extensive list here!
So there you have it. If you are looking to add something extra to your exercise program, I highly recommend adding plank exercises into your routine. Whether you are a beginner or more of a seasoned fitness person, there is something for everyone. There are also modifications available for many plank exercises. Plus, you can do them anywhere because
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Happy planking everyone!
Mrs. Traylor is a Fitness Instructor, NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, AFPA Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, wife, and momma who provides actionable advice for positive lifestyle changes with fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Read about Wendy’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, and subscribe to Wendy’s newsletter here!