Plank exercises involve holding your body, especially your abdomen, in a rigid bridge-like formation for a long period of time. They have subtle variations which have varied effects in toning your body. Most of these variations include components of developing core strength that focus on muscle building and fat torching techniques.
Plank exercises not only train your muscles but train your mind and help develop a symbiotic relationship between your mind and body.
Benefits of Plank Exercises
Plank exercises are a step in that direction. Although seemingly easy, these exercises challenge your mind and its control over your body as you struggle to hold the position. Few of the physical benefits of planks exercises are as follows:
Core muscles are the main muscles of the abdomen and the sides which are responsible for supporting your back, shoulders and other muscles. A strong core means that you are strong enough to do heavy lifting, or fit enough to run for miles.
Plank exercises expect you to control the breathing of your core muscles as you hold the position. In such an elongated lock down position, it starts shaping your core muscles.
The human body has three types of muscles, and the most visible ones are the ones attached to your bones, which are tensed when you do any hard exercise. These core muscles get tensed and start breaking as you do a plank. When you release the plank, the relaxation techniques of the muscles are helps build stronger and better muscles fast in the body. As a result of continuously challenging your core muscles, you develop a strong core.
Tones abs, shoulder and lower back:
The same process of muscle breakage and repair applies to the toning process of your muscles, as you hold a plank. As you breathe in and out during a long lock down plank, the calories in your body burn and your muscles, especially in the region of abs, shoulders and back, are broken to ease the body position.
This breakage is not permanent or harmful. When the body relaxes, and with the help of a proper protein rich diet, these muscles build back faster and stronger. As your muscles get toned and more visible, the layers of fat in your body burn off with regularised breathing and the plank lock down.
Human beings have a tendency to relax their body, often in postures that are not very good for the skeletal system. As a result, the body becomes complacent and the skeleton starts to curve giving the back a C type appearance.
A good plank will strengthen the back and the core and give a good stretch to your muscles so that you don’t feel the urge to slouch over and sit in a previously deemed, comfortable position.
Many a times, bad posture is a result of lactic acid build up in the muscles from too less work. When you hold a plank lock-down, the lactic acid build up in the muscles is utilized in relaxing and contracting the muscles, as opposed to making you feel uncomfortable. Hence, your posture is improved.
Easy to do:
Plank exercises are often the most easy to do. Holding a plank is not difficult and you can begin at any difficulty level, at a position comfortable for you. When you are comfortable at that level, you can then move on and advance to difficult holds and other combinations of planks.
Plank exercises stretch your muscles and give you strong toned muscles that help increase your flexibility. Flexibility in the human body is a result of elongated lean muscles, which are one of the plank exercise benefits.
Different Plank Exercises to Reap Plank Exercise Benefits
1. Basic plank:
A basic plank is the easiest exercise to begin with which works on your abs, thighs and glutes but most importantly, on your abdomen muscles. The main thing that you need to know for this exercise is that your breathing needs to be controlled and the majority of your weight should be concentrated on your abdomen region.
To hold a back plank:
- Lie down on your stomach and keep your arms flat on the ground so that when you lift yourself your elbows are perpendicular to your shoulders.
- Raise your hips by putting pressure on your abdomen and not your back. Do not form an arch with your hips.
- Try to keep your body as straight as possible. In this position, you will not feel any pressure on your upper back. If you do, you’re probably doing it wrong so try to shift your weight by moving your hips down a bit.
- Now, ease your breathing by taking deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly, so that your abdomen is relaxed and you can easily hold the plank position.
- Hold this basic plank position for 20 seconds and then relax. Try holding it for 30 seconds the next time; progressing by 10 seconds each time.
- Do four or five repetitions for a good abdomen exercise.
2. Side planks:
Side planks are great exercises for your obliques, thighs and abdomen.
In this plank hold lock down:
- Lie down on your side and balance yourself on your lower arm, keeping the elbow perpendicular to the shoulder.
- Stretch the other arm towards the ceiling, as straight as you can then lift your stomach while on the side.
- You should form a 60 degree angle with the floor with your legs straight and your abdomen pulled in. This exercise works on your obliques and as you practice regular controlled breathing, you will be able to hold the plank for 20 seconds or more.
- Turn and repeat on the other side.
- Do four to five repetitions for great results.
3. Spider-man plank:
A Spiderman plank is great variation of the basic plank, which works on your thigh and glute muscles burning off calories and fat in those areas.
For this plank:
- Start by holding a basic plank. Then take your right leg and bring it towards your chest while holding the body as still as possible.
- When you bring your leg forward, you will feel your right butt muscles working. Once again, you should not feel any pain in your back muscles.
- Try to concentrate your weight on your abdomen and glutes.
- Bring your right leg backward and take your left leg forward while holding the plank.
- Repeat this 20 times each, with each leg and release the hold.
- This is a comprehensive fat burning plank to give you toned glutes and thinner thighs.
4. Reverse plank:
A reverse plank is great exercise for those with big bellies. It strengthens and tightens the abdominal muscles and pushes back your stomach.
For Reverse plank exercise:
- Sit down with your legs straight in front of you and keep your hands behind you with your palms facing your butt.
- Now, lift yourself with your arms still flat on the mat and balance yourself on your heels and palms. Hold an angle of around 60 degrees and feel your abdomen burning with this exercise.
- Breathe in and out slowly to regularise your breathing. Hold this plank for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Repeat four to five times for a great workout. Increase your holding time by 10 seconds each time your repeat.
5. Walking Plank:
A walking plank is an exercise which gives you a comprehensive upper body workout.
For walking plank:
- Start by pulling yourself up in a push up position and instead of pushing yourself down.
- Spread your arms and move to the left, then move to the centre and then to the right. This movement or walking will give you a full upper body workout where you exercise your shoulders, chest, abdomens and obliques.
- To increase the difficulty level of this plank, you can cover a whole circle while walking. This will then engage your lower body and upper thighs as well.
- Try and do three reps in the advanced version and 20 movements in the easier version for great results.
6. Plank Jack:
A plank jack is variation of the standard jumping jacks but on the floor with a plank.
For plank jack exercise:
- Start off with the old the basic plank position. Place your feet as wide apart as you can, do this with a hop. Hop to pull your legs back in. This is one repetition.
- Do 20 repetitions for great results.
- Do not put pressures on your hips even though you will be tempted to do so in this exercise. Instead focus all your energy on your abdomen muscles? You will feel your abs get a good workout out of this plank jack exercise routine.
7. Plank Twist:
A plank twist is a great exercise for your obliques and lower abdominal.
For plank twist exercise:
- Hold a basic plank but lift your arms so that only your palms are on the floor.
- Shift your weight from the front of your body to your toes. Take your right leg and push it inside, towards your left arm by twisting your hips.
- The weight and pressure should be on your lower abdomen and not on your back.
- Repeat with your left leg and right arm. This is one repetition.
- Do 20 repetitions, or as much as you can for great results.
8. Plank Pikes:
Plank pikes a great plank exercises for toning and strengthening your shoulders.
For this exercise:
- Hold the basic plank position and raise your arms so that only your palms are on the ground.
- Now, place your legs on a large exercise ball.
- Gently lift your legs in order to lift your hips, to form and arch. Push your body back down. Your legs should be on the exercise ball all the while.
- Repeat this 20 times to get great toned shoulders.
9. Side plank with leg raise:
A side plank with leg raise is a wonderful plank exercise and an advanced level version of the basic side plank. This exercise works your obliques hard and gives a good workout to your thighs as well.
For this plank exercise:
- Hold the side plank position and now instead of being still raise the upper leg as much as you can.
- Push your shoulder towards your neck.
- Do 20 repetitions and switch sides.
- Do three set of this exercise to reap the great plank exercise benefits from this routine.
10. Wall Plank:
A wall plank is an advanced level of the basic plank and works on your abdomens and shoulders.
In this workout:
- Hold the basic plank position.
- Raise your arms and keep only your palms on the floor.
- Raise your legs and place them on the wall for support.
- The position should look like you are pushing the wall with your two feet.
- Hold this position and keep your hips straight and not arched.
- You will feel pressure on your shoulder and abdomen.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds at the least.
While coming down, do not jump down as this will hurt your hips. Do three sets and try and hold this plank for a minute in at least one of the sets. While exercising, the human body tends to form two types of muscles: the short bulky ones that body builders have, and the long lean ones that dancers have. With plank exercises, you develop long and lean muscles that give you a defined look and make your core strong.
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Always try to incorporate at least three plank exercises in your daily workout and see the difference in your physique, specially your core and abdomen!