The plank has become a very popular exercise and you’ll find it in most ab workouts, but unfortunately it’s often taught with very poor technique. While the plank can be extremely beneficial, done incorrectly it can be a waste of time or even cause lower back pain.
While the plank does work the six pack and the obliques, it’s main focus is the internal muscles of the core. If you don’t think they matter because you can’t see them then think again. They are the foundation of every exercise you do, abdominal or otherwise. They help with correct posture which complements the look of your six pack, and a strong core means a strong, healthy, injury-free back. The main muscles involved are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and the diaphragm.
The easiest way to describe the plank position is that it’s the same as when doing a press up, but resting not on your hands but on your forearms which should be together under your chest pointing forwards. The only other part that touches the floor is your toes.
The Plank Technique
1. To start, have your toes, body and forearms resting on a mat. To bring you up into the correct position, tense your stomach and engage your core. This will bring your body up straight, so your hips are in line and not sagging or too high which happens when the hip flexors are used instead of the core.
2. Because the plank exercise is an isometric contraction, your only job now is to maintain this position for as long as you can. However, once your hips start to drop and you can no longer keep them up with just your core muscles you should end the set. There are exercises meant to train the hip flexors but this isn’t one of them. If this is where it starts to hurt you know you need to concentrate the effort more on your six pack and your obliques.
3. Hold this position for 2 minutes. If you can do 1 minute, keep at it until you get strong enough to maintain it. If you can’t manage 1 minute, make the plank easier by resting on your knees instead of your toes until you can.
The Plank Notes
1. Because the plank involves so many muscles and needs to be held in the correct position it should be done before any other ab exercise.
2. Keep your abs as tense as possible and keep checking that your hips are not dropping. Also, remember to breathe!
3. Once you are able to consistently hold the plank for more than 2 minutes it needs to be made more difficult. To do this, rest your arms on a Swiss ball instead of the mat, which causes your core muscles to have to work harder just to keep you from rolling off. Once this becomes too easy, keep your arms on a Swiss ball and also rest your feet on a BOSU. And when this becomes too easy, put your feet on a medicine ball or small Swiss ball. At this stage your core can officially be described as advanced!
Although your core is made a lot stronger and stable by doing the plank, its job is also to absorb movement and impact. For this reason remember to include exercises such as the kneeling cable rotation.
As always, any feedback or questions leave a comment below.