When you hear the word "plank," you might be reminded of a piece of wood, or maybe you recall the expression "walking the plank." In the world of fitness, plank means something quite different. A plank is a full-body isometric exercise that provides strength benefits to many muscle groups simultaneously. If you've never tried a plank, your first one may be a challenge, as holding the position correctly takes core strength and endurance. But don't give up; there is a modification for every fitness level. If you are expecting to knock off some of that abdominal flab, remember that no abdominal exercise will do that for you. Fat loss comes in another package, one that combines healthy eating and "whole body" exercise (cardiovascular and resistance training).
• It works the upper and lower body, plus the core.
• There are many variations and progressions of plank exercises to keep your workouts interesting.
• It increases flexibility; tight and stiff muscle groups become fully stretched out.
• Strengthening the core helps prevent or reduce lower back discomfort.
• It improves balance; side planks and planks on a stability ball are particularly helpful for developing better balance.
• It improves posture and stability.
• In a front plank you will strengthen the trapezius muscles in your neck by keeping your neck in alignment with your shoulders instead of looking down.
• Shoulder and chest muscles become strengthened.
• Biceps strengthen when they help you lift and sustain your body weight off the floor.
• It strengthens the hips, pelvic floor and thighs; glutes and calf muscles also receive strength benefits.
PERFECTING A PLANK
Proper form is very important. Here's a look at what you shouldn't do:
• Do not let your lower back sag.
• Do not arch your back, with your hips up in the air.
• Do not let your head drop down.
• Do not forget to breathe.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.