The plank is a classic core exercise, albeit one of the more tough ones out there!
That being said you can just perform the plank for a short amount of time until you get stronger to hold it for a little longer each time to progress.
Before we talk about the benefit of the plank, let's go into how to do one!
How to do the plank:
- Get into the push-up position, except with your weight on your elbows not hands.
- Keep your weight on your knees whilst you set up into a strong position
- Place your hands on the floor in front on your elbows
- Pull your belly button in towards your spine and engage your glutes
- Lift your knees off the floor to bring your body into a nice straight line
- Hips should be the same height as your shoulders
- Maintain a steady breathing pattern throughout as well as keeping your core braced
Why is the plank such a good exercise?
The plank works most of your trunk muscles, i.e. your chest, shoulders, abs, obliques, deep core, glutes and lower back. So in terms of getting a lot out of one exercise, this is a good one to choose.
But there's more to it than just that- the plank encourages core stability, spine strength and overall activation of trunk muscles. You'll be actively contracting all those muscles whilst stay perfectly still, which is actually quite uncommon when you're exercising. Usually, when you're contracting your muscles, you're moving through a range of movement whereas with the plank, you're staying perfectly still.
This is also a great way to practice breathing (yes I did write that correctly).. most of the time when bracing the core it becomes difficult to maintain normal breathing patterns. This makes it much more difficult to continue for any length of time but when you practice breathing properly during the plank you'll find it much easier, and also much easier to engage and brace your core in all the other exercises in your routine.
Once you've nailed the plank, the breathing, the engagement and stability, it's time to think about progressing beyond just going for longer..
Mountain climbers are a bit of an easier version of a plank which starts in a full plank position but with added abs engagement by way of driving your knees up toward your elbows. This takes a bit more stability as you end up going onto one leg at a time but with the added movement you'll probably still feel quite stable still.
Plank taps make for a slightly more difficult version of the plank because you're going on to one hand at a time meaning you have to work really hard to keep your hips stable and not rocking from side to side.
The plank reach is a little harder still as it requires a bit more shoulder mobility and also throws off your centre of gravity so you have to work a bit harder to keep that stability. It also take a little longer to reach forward as opposed to tapping the shoulder each time so you'll spend longer on 3 points than in the shoulder tap.
The hollow hold isn't really a plank but if it's deep core engagement you're after, this is the one for you! You can start with your legs fairly high and arms forward to help keep your back flat on the ground and as you get stronger you can lower your legs down towards the ground and bring your hands up overhead. You'll then have to work hard to keep that core engaged and lower back pressed on the ground.
Once you've nailed all of those exercises you'll have a bulletproof core and super strong lower back to help you maintain great posture in your pelvis and reduce your risk for lower back injuries!
If you want a bit more help or advice on your planks or core training and engagement in general then book yourself in for some sessions with one of our personal trainers!
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