It always seems to me that there are two groups of people: those who enjoy planking and those who hate it. Why would someone hate doing planks? Perhaps they are not aware of, or just don’t remember, the 5 things listed below.
1. Why we plank
That’s more or less the answer to another intriguing question, namely: Why do some people enjoy planking? Plank is a static exercise, based on keeping the constant tension in the muscles. It doesn’t use reps, but time – what we improve by planking is not only strength but also endurance of the muscles.
To hold your hips over the floor for say, 30 seconds, your muscles have to be tensed for the 30 seconds – it’s 30 seconds of pure muscle work without rest. What is more, any special equipment is not necessary for the plank – we use just our bodyweight and the gravity.
2. Plank is good not only for the abs
We usually plank to strengthen our abs. But in this one, if it’s done properly, engages all the muscles of the core, as well as the back, the glutes and even the legs. The plank, as the very name suggests, should be stiff and hard. So planking, we should focus on tensing all the muscles, and not just keeping the hips over the ground.
3. What it means to “stick your belly button to your spine”
That’s what we need to do when planking: brace the core, keep the belly in and squeeze the glutes at the same time. In other words, we should focus on keeping both the front and the back of our body as close to the spine line as possible. That’s the position safe for the spine and efficient for the working muscles.
4. The straight lines and the right angles
Strength is important, but technique is crucial, too. The simple rule to remember when planking is to stick to the straight lines and keep the right angles. Ok, what should be a straight line is rather obvious: the neck, the back, the glutes and the legs. Keep the legs straight in knees as well. Make sure that the shoulder blades are not sticking out and that the back is not arched.
But what about the right angle? Pay attention to the positioning of the shoulders. Make sure they are directly above the elbows – not in the front or in the back. The angle between the forearm and the arm should be straight. Otherwise, there may to too much unnecessary pressure for the shoulder joints. The same goes with the feet: they should be firmly leaned against the ground – keep the right angle between the feet and the shins.
How to control the form
How to check if the lines and angles are what they’re supposed to be? Use a mirror – plank with your side to the mirror and take a short glance at the beginning and control the positioning of your body every 10 seconds. As your muscles will weaken, the lines and angles may be distorted.
If you don’t have a mirror at this low level, ask someone to control your positioning and tell you if you’re doing something wrong or use your phone to record yourself when planking. This way you’ll make sure that you’re planking in a proper form.
5. Keep breathing!
As it’s been already said, in the plank the muscles of our core are tense all the time. And when tensing the core muscles, many of us have the reflex to hold our breath. The important thing is to learn how to breathe when the core muscles are braced. It’s plain unhealthy and inefficient to hold your breath for 30 seconds or more considering such an effort of the muscles.
And here’s yet another tip: focus on calm breathing when planking, and not on thinking how hard it is to hold the position for another 25 seconds or more. While flexing the muscles, relax the mind and try to take it as a position of rest from the reps.
If you’re a member of the plank-haters group, make sure you remember those 5 points next time when you’re supposed to plank. The proper form of exercise, attitude, and motivation may cast some new light on the exercise you’ve been detesting or avoiding the whole time. And this is one great exercise, which is why you should definitely try to stop hating it.