A strong core is essential for a healthy life.
As men and women age on, lower back injury complications are seen.
It is important to do strength conditioning exercises that strengthen the core and minimize such injuries.
Core muscles make up your abdominal midsection including your abs, glutes, obliques, lower back. Once you have a strong core, the entire body is healthy.
A strong core has a direct bearing on good posture as well. Many “fit” people who workout every single body part, take care of the body fat and their nutrition on a daily basis ignore core exercises.
The odds are that they are neglecting the most important part of health stability.
Abdominals muscles support the lower back. With stronger abdominals, chances of lower back injuries are less.
A Strong core helps accentuate your physical performance. Many people suffer from lower and upper back pains even while doing simple activities like walking or getting up from the bed.
Since the core is the center of the human body, it is important to make it stable enough. Also, a good core strength is directly proportional to good overall sex appeal.
There are many ways to achieve a strong core. You can do ab exercises such as crunches, reverse crunches, leg raises, etc. but one of the most beneficial exercises are the planks.
Planks are the best exercises for improving strength. Most of the people feel planks are “boring” and avoid.
Think about this: Biggest gains come from doing simple things daily and efficiently.
Benefits of Plank Exercises
#1 Good abdominal strength
Core strengthening exercises work abs pretty well, and people who love building firm abs cannot ignore these. One of the best ways to get a flat belly is by doing core exercises.
#2 Good lower back stability
You can workout and be safe from the jeopardy of injuring your lower back. Many back muscles and ligaments tend to get damaged when you deal with heavy weights in the gym and day-to-day activities.
Core exercises help normalize the spinal functions. (1)
#3 Flexibility is improved
Once the lower back is stabilized, most of the tension and strain when you stretch your body is gone. With this, you can aim for a great range of motion. It can help you in doing various yoga exercises too.
#4 Better breathing
Lung capacity is improved. These muscles are joined to the diaphragm. Working out core muscles groups helps in better inhaling and exhaling, holding the breath and hence, blood circulation is also improved.
It leads to better overall health of the human body. If you think core exercises are only for fitness freaks, you are wrong. By doing these simple tasks, you can live a healthy lifestyle. (2)
#5 Better sports performance
For athletes, doing core exercises on a daily basis means betterment in sports activities. Be it running, cycling, swimming, surfing, skiing, etc. the performance of the overall body is improved with a stronger core. (3, 4, 5)
#6 Best Core activating exercises
Once the core muscles are hit, it helps in giving you that aesthetic look you aim. The body posture is improved, so it the overall body strength.
#7 Stress reduction
There are mental benefits of doing planks too. As per a study by Yoga Journal, planks help in reducing daily stress. They help reduce worry and anxiety. So if you are feeling depressed most of the times, consider doing planks.
Most of the time, we spend sitting throughout the day, and this leads to tightening of the core muscles. Planks put you in an overall better mood.
Here are the pointers to keep in mind before doing planks.
1) Positioning of arms: Elbows must be direct below your shoulders, in a single straight line. Many people put undue weight on the arms; that is a wrong technique to perform planks and entire core activation is not possible. Proper distribution of weight is necessary.
2) The lengths of the spine should be the same in opposite directions. Lengthen your neck and the tailbone. Try to maintain this length of spine throughout the set.
3) As far as foot positioning is concerned, go with a distance that works well for you. A hip width is recommended, but many people space the legs apart at a shoulder width.
4) Make sure to maintain proper posture. Your hips should not be too far from the ground; keep the body parallel to the floor. Tighten the core towards your spine.
5) While doing strenuous activities like planks, many people tend to hold their breath that lead to adverse effects. A sick feeling is noticed when you do not pay proper attention to breathing technique while doing planks.
Do breathing in counts of five or any appropriate number. Inhale for five to six counts, hold the breath for five to six counts and exhale for the same number of counts.
Plank Exercise Variations For A Better Core Workout
Plank Exercise #1 Forearm Planks
- With a yoga mat, start off in the push-up position. Place your forearms on the ground in a way that both your elbows and fists are placed on the ground flat.
- Contract your core in, gently get the toes curled and lengthen your spine. Try to be as parallel to the ground as you can.
- Flex the abs muscles and feel a squeeze in your glute muscles. Stay stable in this position and you will feel the burn in your core muscles.
- Time yourself, stay in the position for 20-30 seconds and do 3-4 reps daily.
Plank Exercise #2 Side planks
- Balance your body on one forearm and the side of your foot. For instance, balance on the left forearm and left side of your leg.
- Lift your body gently and keep the other hand on your sides.
- Feel the contraction in your abs and breathe. Keep that static hold position for some time and do the same for the other side.
Plank Exercise #3 Two point Plank
- In this exercise, lift one of the forearm from the ground and the opposite side foot off the mat too.
- Stay in the position by feeling the contraction in your core. Do the same with the other hand.
Plank Exercise #4 Spiderman plank crunches
Assume a regular plank position and pull one knee to the outside shoulder. Repeat with the other knee.
Plank Exercise #5 Weighted planks
- Put a suitable weight, 25 lbs or more on your upper back. Assume an arched back position to balance the weight and hold the static position for 25 or more seconds.
- In this exercise, the core has to balance your body weight plus the extra pounds weight of the plate.
Plank Exercise #6 Plank walkouts
- Hold a full plank position, and with your forearms, walk back towards your body and walk away. Do an adequate number of repetitions.
- It includes the static hold position as well as the dynamic walkout that puts more pressure on the core muscles.
Plank Exercise #7 Plank twist
- Start off in the plank position, taking care that the hips are not raised too high, neither too low. Support the weight throughout your body.
- Pivot at one forearm, and raise the opposite arm vertically upwards, twisting the obliques on the other side. Alternate and do the recommended number of reps.
Plank Exercise #8 Plank up downs
- The initial position is the full plank position.
- Lower the left arm first and touch the left elbow on the ground, do the same with the right arm.
- Then, raise the left arm first followed by the right arm to come back to the initial push up position. Do an adequate number of reps and feel the burn in your core.
- Put a towel under your feet and assume a plank position.
- With the legs straight, pull the feet towards your body.
- Make sure that the feet can slide easily. You can wear socks and do the same exercise on a marble floor.
Plank Exercise #10 Plank with triceps kickbacks
- Get in the plank position, instead of palms on the floor, rest your arms on two adequate weight dumbbells.
- Do a one arm dumbbell row without any change in the upper body posture followed with a triceps kickback for the same arm. Alternate and do 12-15 reps.
Plank Exercise #11: Wall planks
- Step the right foot on the wall first and then the left foot, assume a pushup position.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds up to one minute.
Plank Exercise #12 Swiss ball planks with leg lifts
- This exercise tones the arms for women and works the core muscles well too.
- Rest your legs on a Swiss ball, extending your spine so that your body is parallel to the floor.
- Lift one leg up at a time, feeling the squeeze in your glute muscles and then lower the foot. Repeat the same for the other leg.
Plank Exercise #13 Planks with donkey kick
- With the initial elbow plank position, bring one knee towards the body and then lift it up squeezing your glutes.
- Do the reps for one leg and then repeat the same reps for the other leg.
Plank Exercise #14 Side planks with oblique crunches
- Lay down on to your sides, with one elbow supporting the entire weight. Stagger the feet so that the bottom foot is in front and the top foot is behind it.
- Come up and assume a side plank position. Place the top arm behind your neck.
- Add oblique crunches by bringing the bottom foot up and the upper body down.
Plank Exercise #15 Reverse planks
- Sit on a gym mat with your legs stretched out fully with hands behind your back.
- Raise your hips off the ground as high as you can, and contract the abdominal muscles as you hold this static position.
- You can also do some leg lifts with these reverse planks to feel more burn in your core.
Plank Exercise #16 Plank arm and leg raise
- In the initial elbow full plank position, lift your right leg first and the left arm simultaneously, feeling the contraction in your core.
- Do the same with the other leg and the arm. It is a great variation to work out the stabilizer muscles in your body.
Once you get used to doing fundamental planks with a proper form, try to reduce the ground contact. Amplify the exercise by using one leg only or one arm only as discussed in some of the variations above.
Do not miss the opportunity of working out your core muscles by doing planks. Initially, it does hurt, but once you get used to it, you will be a happier and a much stronger person.
For people who do a workout, realize that the benefit of doing planks is not limited to get well-toned abs and other muscles.
For a good posture and avoiding other health related injuries later, they should form an integral part of your daily rituals.