Bellevue Personal Training | Planking and Your Core

One of the best exercises you can do for your body, bar none, is planking, and it only takes a few minutes!  If you are unfamiliar with a plank it can look a lot like someone is beginning a pushup, either fully supported by hands and toes, or forearms and toes.  Why is planking so important?  Because almost every move you make, on a daily basis is dependent on your core muscles firing first, hence the need for a strong core.

What muscles do I mean when referring to ‘core’?  Your abdominal muscles, many of your back muscles, hips, pelvis and buttocks.  A weak core can often lead to poor posture, and over time neck and shoulder pain, plus sore knees and hips. By far the biggest issue with a weak core is low back pain.  There are other exercises that can help target that area, but planking addresses a weak low back plus strengthens other muscle groups! If your core is weak your body will ‘ask’ other muscles to do the work, which can lead to strain and later on injury and pain.

Well, why not perform the standard ‘crunch’ exercise that’s been around for millennia?  Because it truly only targets some of the muscles needed for a strong core, ignoring all the rest.  Additionally, it can strain the neck and low back.
The great thing is that just about anyone can do a plank:  If you feel very strong and have no issues with weak or injured wrists, you can do a plank using hands and toes.  If not as strong or have wrist issues you’ll get every bit as much benefit doing a forearm plank! It can even be performed on your hands and knees if you have low back issues.

There are different schools of thought on how long a plank should be held.  The world’s record is more than four hours ~ no kidding!  New research shows between 10 and 30 seconds is plenty, with multiple sets being the way to go. As you get stronger you can work towards one or possibly two minutes. For myself I prefer anywhere from 45 to 60 seconds, while my clients tend to achieve anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds.  All experts are in agreement that there is no benefit in going beyond two minutes.  

There are no real ‘rules’ as to how often planking could or should be done. They can be performed every day or just on the days you do your workouts. One terrific bonus is a plank can be performed anywhere ~ even at the airport while awaiting a flight! To your health ☺

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