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June 26, 2020 10 min read

Do you know those annoying commercials for magical useless products that promise you to achieve a world-class body without making a single move? Just sit and let our device work instead of you, they say. Well, the funny thing is that it's actually possible to progress without moving. And the best part: you don't even have to spend a single penny!

Sometimes the best exercises are the most simple. One of the simplest exercises you can do looks almost ridiculous in appearance. Once we try to perform, it teaches us all a lesson in humility.

Introducing: A Plank Exercise

A plank is dull in appearance, yet an extremely effective core exercise which helps you improve your entire body's stability and strength. Although there are many different methods to perform, the goal remains the same. In any case, you end up with your body perpendicular to the ground, stomach facing down, and torso elevated off the ground with either your elbows or hands.

The plank will help you significantly boost your overall strength and provide some serious body confidence—and we all know that confidence is attractive at least as much as a perfectly shaped muscle.

Have we already mentioned this is achievable with no expenses, from the comfort of your own home?

These are just a few of the many reasons why the plank is so popular. Many athletes consider the plank as their favorite exercise. Before you start working on exploring the proper form for your own version of a perfect plank, learn more about its benefits. At the end of this article, you'll be anxious to adopt it as a part of your daily routine.

A man doing a plank workout.

What Is a Plank, Exactly?

The plank belongs to a bodyweight exercise category. These kinds of workouts require using nothing but your own body, and they come with a train of advantages:

  • You can do them anywhere.
  • The only equipment you may need is a wall or a chair for support.
  • There’s no need to buy expensive stuff.

Bodyweight exercises are great for your core. Everything depends on your own body weight, so the amount of resistance practically tailors itself to your individual workout needs. If you gain weight, you will have to deal with working out a heavier load. Remember this every time you reach for a midnight snack!

The plank works out almost every single muscle in your body, which is why it's so appealing for all sorts of training. Cardio, strength, endurance, you name it, and regular practicing of plank position will improve it. Furthermore, planks can be performed by anyone, regardless of shape or age. It's you who determine the level of challenge, and how long you will keep the position. Even children can start out doing planks, and if they continue to do so, they will be able to keep exercising till their old age.

How to Start a Plank Position

Getting into a plank pose is easy. Holding it is the trick. It feels lightweight for the first few seconds, and you start to think, what the fuss is all about? Hey, hey, I am a Superman, and I can hold this thing indefinitely! But as the first minute passes, you begin to notice how a simple plank becomes an excruciating test of endurance. And then you get what the fuss is all about. Easy, short-term planks aren't going to provide you with much strength improvement — but this hell of shaking and sweating certainly will.

So, how do you start?

The key to success is forming a fixed, stiff position with your entire body. From toes to head, you must be firm like steel.

  • Lie on the ground, face down.
  • Put your forearms on the ground.  
  • Line up your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Line up your wrists with your elbows.
  • Place your toes on the ground.
  • Squeeze your glutes.
  • Tighten your abs.
  • Maintain a neutral neck and spine.
  • Keep your chin close to your neck.
  • Get in the pushup position on forearms instead of your palms.
  • Create a straight, strong line from head to toes.
  • Hold that position for as long as you can.
  • Hold it for a bit more than you think you can.

Congratulations, you just successfully endured your first plank! Can you hold on longer than that?

Essential Things to Remember for a Proper Plank Form

While planking is a fantastic exercise, there are still some rules to help you avoid common mistakes, maintain optimal health, and minimize the risk of injuries. Like with anything, excessive force or improper execution can lead to a chain of unpleasant issues.

Start by doing the plank for only a few seconds at a time, and check yourself for any injuries that the exercise can disturb.

Never let your hips sag down to the ground! This is essential since sagging hips makes the exercise initially easier, and you will be tempted more than once to cheat a little, especially in the beginning. However, a plank with sagging hips is not a plank, and it defeats the purpose of the exercise. So if you want to cheat better, just spare yourself the trouble.

Be sure not to hold your breath. Holding a plank for a long time without enough oxygen can be unhealthy for your brain and lead to dizziness.

Focus your eyes on the ground; find a spot, and stick to it. This is very useful for maintaining a neutral neck position.

Don't put your hands too close, as it can disturb your balance and run the stability necessary for the proper form of a plank.

Try to pull your belly button in and keep it squeezed. Your bellybutton connects to your transverse abdominis. It helps flex your T.A. muscles, providing a more demanding workout, which brings more results. To work on your six-pack harder, try and pull your chin down towards your feet at the same time.

Squeezing your kegel muscle is similar to flexing your belly button. Kegel squeezes draw pelvic muscles up, and the effects of doing this can be noticeable in your bedroom performance.

Make sure to hold your chest and abs tight for the entire duration of your plank. Keep your thighs activated. In time, that will help you feel every inch of your body and better understand how your core muscles work together. Finally, it will improve your overall balance.

When you’re not able to hold the pose correctly, it’s time to stop. You're only benefiting from the position as long as you maintain the proper form, which makes sure you are actually doing the plank.

The recommended time interval for first planks, for beginners, is 30 seconds - but it is perfectly OK if you can't hold on that long. You will, soon enough. Keeping a proper plank form for as long as you can is a good practice, gradually leading to progress. Alternatively, you can switch to a forearm plank and try resting your weight on your forearms instead of your palms. That may prove a better fit to your current shape, and allow you to hold the position longer.

If you are happy with the basic plank, stick to it. It's true that new variations come out every now and then, but a plank is a plank. That means, even if you never progress to other versions, the primary position is entirely sufficient for developing great core stability and strength.

Allow yourself enough time to rest. An average pause between planks is a minute or so, but a beginner may need more than that.

For the best results, repeat the exercise at least three times.

If you notice any pain, especially in your neck or lower back, it could be a sign that you aren't yet strong enough to endure. Don't force the position, since it can lead to compressed vertebrae or too much pressure on your spine.

If you have existing back pain, strained muscles, or injured discs in your vertebrae, you may find crunches a bit more fitting routine than planks. Crunches are also known for their ability to build core strength, and they don't flex the spine.

Proper Plank Form Variations

If you feel a bit bored or unmotivated, put some diversity and an extra challenge to your regular training with these plank form versions. Start with the easy ones and work your way up.

Forearm/Straight Arm Plank: These are the two easiest forms of planking, excellent for beginners who need to work on their strength. Keep your hands tucked under your shoulders as you hold your body in a straight line.

Side Plank: With the side plank, you can add some balance challenges to your regular exercise.

Bear Plank: Try crawling like a bear, but without movement. Add some intensity by staying on all fours with your knees hovering above the floor.

Reverse Plank: This is a reversed version of a standard straight-arm plank, which targets the back of your body to make the position harder.

Rolling Plank: This will make you sweat by switching between left and right side plank with a very short forearm plank in between.

Floating Plank: Floating planks challenge both the front and back of your body to give your core a 360-degree workout. From a straight-arm plank with your feet on a raised surface, lift your upper body using hard handles or something to anchor to. Maintain a straight line.

Seal-Walk Plank: This demanding version requires you to put sliders or hand towels under your feet, get into a straight-arm plank, and walk your arms forward as your legs slide behind you.

Breathing Plank: You still don't know how it feels to work so hard that your body literally shakes from head to toe? Try the breathing plank. Adding a breathing routine during the holds will challenge your muscles on a much deeper level.

Health Benefits From the Plank Exercise

The plank is such a versatile exercise. Many don't understand just how much it can do for our bodies, aside from knowing that it's very good somehow.

The simple, humble plank targets almost every group of muscles in our body. Adding it to your workout regimen impacts everything from head to toe. That statement is quite literal in this case since planks deliver far more than just muscle mass. They enhance the strength of the entire skeletal system, help your joints, improve your mental strength and ability to focus and concentrate, and on top of it all even help you breathe properly.

Some wonder if an exercise regime consisting solely of planks could give you a six-pack. The odds are not impressive since the amount of planking you would have to perform to achieve it is ridiculous. At the same time, it would lead to monotony. Including a plank as part of a diverse, healthy routine will, however, deliver an impressive set of benefits.

Planks go best when incorporated in a set of cardio and strength training. In time, you will notice how they affect each individual exercise and type of training you do.

Some Important Muscle Groups a Proper Plank Form Targets

The transversus abdominis is a set of core muscles, directly responsible for your ability to develop your abs. Training the transversus abdominis also lets you build and expand your rectus abdominis. The area responsible for a great-looking six-pack also greatly improves your ability to jump high. Your glutes also develop a great shape through the plank, together with enhanced support of your back.

The proper plank form also affects your oblique muscles, responsible for your ability to bend sideways and twist your waist. That is particularly useful since those muscles are often underlooked during typical exercise routines.

Strengthening your core is crucial for keeping your spine aligned, maintaining strength in the rest of your back, and keeping you safe from strain injuries. Unfortunately, not all training plans take that seriously. Targeting specific muscle groups sometimes lead to neglecting the core, developing disproportional strength, and various problems later in life. That is why the core must be trained on a regular basis, and it's a crucial answer to why the plank is so important as an addition to every training plan.

The Plank and the Posture

We know that good posture can prevent injuries caused by improper weight distribution. Good posture means your bones are well-aligned, with a low risk of skeletal fractures. It lets you lift more, taking out the strain from your joints and bones to prevent the development of diseases like arthritis. Improving your posture also benefits your internal organs, hindering digestive issues, or other possible functional problems. It can help with the prevention of osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition related to the joints in your body.    

Last but not least, proper posture makes you look higher and leaner, displaying confidence and coolness, which greatly affects your appeal and psychological well-being.

Proper form planks work your core, affecting the whole body, from your pelvic to shoulder girdle, together with your legs. It strengthens your spine, rhomboids, trapezius, abdominal muscles, which all naturally ends up in developing a stable and robust posture.

A Proper Plank Form vs Back Pains

The improved posture removes unnecessary stress from the spinal region. This also means the proper arrangement of the back ligaments. In addition to all that, planks will help you relieve back pains by building muscles in your abdomen, providing further support for your whole body. Strong abdominal muscles help your body feel less of your weight, which again relieves even more stress from your back.

A woman doing a plank excercise.

Planks for Flexibility

There's a reason why a plank is an essential pose in yoga routines. Yoga is a well-known form of exercise for building core strength and improving overall flexibility, and a plank is considered a vital element.

Different variations of the plank can improve the flexibility of different areas in more effective manners. For example, unlike many exercises, side planks allow you to stretch out your sides, improving flexibility from the hip area.

Plank as a Metabolism Booster

Planking burns a savage amount of calories. By strengthening massive muscle groups, it helps you keep burning fat even while resting. Having strong muscles means that your body is constantly burning more energy and loses the ability to store calories in the form of fat.

Burning more calories makes you feel hungry a lot more often. Combined with a healthy diet, it can prove a fantastic tool to shred that few excess kilos.

We Could Say More...

But we prefer to let you get planking right now. Once you start, you will discover a lot more anyway. The plank is a fantastic, simple exercise, suitable for anyone as a vital part of every exercise routine.

The plank delivers a large number of benefits that span your entire body. Start now, and your muscles, skeletal system, and even your organs will thank you later.