The Plank, is a bodyweight exercise revered and dreaded with equal measure. It targets the whole body, with emphasis on core strength. Planks can be performed anywhere with little space and no equipment needed. The primary muscles used are deep in the torso, including the abs, internal obliges and back, the secondary areas are chest, shoulders, buttocks, thighs, calves and triceps. It takes a lot of energy and strength to perform a decent plank, so you will quickly feel fatigued, even when held for just a few seconds – currently the Guinness world record for holding a front plank, on forearms, is 8hrs, 15 min & 15 sec, by a man and 4hrs 19mins & 55 sec, by a woman – now there’s a challenge to try this weekend if you’ve got nothing else to do?!
In all seriousness, it is a challenging movement and must be built up gradually, using good form from the get go, ensuring both strength and muscle memory are properly developed and correct technique employed to avoid injury.
There are many variations to the humble plank, some are static (isometric) and others are dynamic, and in the case of Pilates part of a movement pattern called a ‘flow’. A Plank can be performed with either outstretched arms to support the upper body, or by resting on the forearms and can incorporate a variety of positions and movements with the legs and core.
The benefits of planks are numerous, as so many muscles are being used. Few exercises can boast working the whole body, including the core, the way a plank does. As a result not only will your core strengthen, improving posture, you’ll also develop overall more muscle mass, increasing your metabolic rate (aka more fat burning potential). The resistance created by holding your own body weight has other less obvious, yet equally beneficial effects with an increase in bone density and strengthening of the surrounding connective tissue. So whats not to love?…oh yeah – they are hard work!
– This article has been published in the April edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk