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Posted on February 3, 2021 by Michael Boettcher
The plank is considered the supreme discipline of core exercises. As simple as the forearm support may look, if you try to hold it for longer than 30 seconds, you quickly realize how many muscles are working simultaneously to hold the position and how much effort it takes to persevere in a supposedly resting position. What started as a snap idea of two teenagers led to a real mass phenomenon around a strong body core. Today, planking is an integral part of an effective workout and an essential part of personal training.
The Plank has become a pioneer of all core exercises for muscle building, because with only one fitness exercise and without any weights, not only the abdominal muscles are trained, but also the trunk, back, leg, hip, shoulder and chest muscles at the same time. So one exercise is enough to keep the whole body fit and at the same time train coordination and endurance. Planking is great for preventing back pain or strengthening overall fitness. Sit-ups, on the other hand, train only dynamic strength and are therefore unsuitable for back training. Planking is therefore the ideal exercise for a healthy spine.
The forearm plank is an isometric exercise. It is therefore performed without movement. Isometric exercises strengthen the so-called maximum strength and endurance. Due to the continuous muscle tension, which is held as long as possible, the muscle is under maximum permanent tension (isometric contraction). Back pain is often the cause of a too weak trunk or a permanent incorrect load on the spine, for example due to long periods of sitting in the home office. The result is pain. Planks help to compensate for imbalances in the spine and can improve posture. Not only is the core strengthened, but the entire body – especially the back.
Planking strengthens the entire body, especially the core, back, leg, hip and gluteal muscles, as well as the shoulders and chest. The longer the position is held, the greater the endurance and maximum strength is increased at the same time.
When doing the exercise for the first time, care should be taken to perform it without pain. Therefore, it makes sense to approach the exercise gradually in order to avoid injuries. The starting position of the Plank is in the prone position and supported on the elbows. The shoulders should be placed just above or in front of the elbows. The easiest variation is to lift the pelvis and support yourself with your knees. If that is too easy, you can straighten your knees and support yourself on your feet. It is important that the knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line, that there is no hollow back and that the pubic bone is drawn towards the sternum. Now it’s time to persevere! First, try to hold the position as long as possible without losing tension. After that, you can progressively extend the time and gradually incorporate additional movements.
Meanwhile, there are many variants that target different muscle groups and increase the difficulty of the exercise. The classic variation is a wide base between both elbows and between the feet. You can further challenge the abdominal muscles by progressively pushing the elbows further forward or statically pulling the elbows toward the pelvis. To target the oblique abdominal and back muscles, one can lift either one arm or one leg alternately. If someone wants even more of a challenge, the plank can be performed on an unstable surface. A pezzi ball or exercise ball is best for this. Due to the fact that the forearms are on the wobbly exercise ball, enormous strength and stability is required to keep the balance.
Yours Michael Boettcher