What is a plank?
The plank is a strengthening exercise that uses the abdominal muscles to hold the body in a face down bridge position, while maintaining a flat back.
Why do a plank?
It is a very simple exercise, and has a real worthwhile return on investment. There are not many exercises that can give you the same benefits per time invested. The nature of the plank allows most people to be able to work at it everyday. Of course you will need to listen to your own body and take extra recovery time if needed. The benefits of performing regular planks are extensive and I will go in to these in more detail as this 30 day challenge goes on. A short list would include;
- Increased functional core strength.
- Reduced back pain.
- Postural Improvements.
- Better Balance.
Strength gains in the plank directly translate to improvements across a wide spectrum of other exercises from Push Ups to overhead presses. Having a strong connection between hips and shoulders allows for more efficient movements and power transfer to the limbs, reduced risk of injury and pain, especially involving the lower back. It won't hurt knowing that a stronger corset of core muscles can help loose a belt size or two just from holding everything where it should be. Weaker corsets can be pushed out by intestinal pressures increasing girth and bringing with it a host of potential health concerns.
How do you perform a plank ?
Lie flat on your stomach, place forearms on ground with elbows under shoulders, raise body off ground and maintain a straight back, head in line with spine and eyes focused on in a point on the ground just in front of your hands.
The fine points.... How to really get it right.
Join hands together and press gently into the ground to spread the load away from elbows.
Tighten the abdominal and core muscles. Engage the muscles you feel contracting each time you cough. A cruder but far more effective explanation.... try cutting of your urine mid flow..... these are the muscles you want engaged while you plank, for the entire duration of the plank. Once these muscles fatigue and fail, your plank is over. Do not allow other body parts, especially the lower back, to pick up the slack. It is this group of muscles that we are trying to strengthen over the next 30 days.
Looking up, causes excess curvature of the spine, pinching lumber vertebra and pushing hips towards floor. Fix this by keeping your eyes focused in a set point near hands.
Chin down, in neutral position, head in line with spine allowing for the best activation of the abdominals, and glutes, providing best support for the back.
Dropping chin low creates tension between shoulder blades and hips to rise, making the plank feel easier initially, but making it a far less effective. position for strength gains
Other common mistakes:
Holding breathe or shallow breathing near the end.
Even with perfect body alignment, you can relax the corset muscles. When this happens the hips slowly drop but the lower back muscles take over and are used to keep hips in line. At this point you are no longer holding your plank so tighten up or drop. Increases in your timed plank are worthless and possibly dangerous if not done correctly.
So let's get started... Day 1
Forearm Plank (as described above) For Time.
Aim for quality time.
Note, and let us know, your result and your thoughts.