Planks are still having their day in sun when it comes to fitness trends. This is one fitness fad that’s actually a positive, with some caveats. I’ll get to those in a moment. But, first, here’s yours truly in my debut instructional video How to Plank:
Now, to the reasons why you should be planking and the things you shouldn’t do when it comes to planks.
First, it shouldn’t be used as an ab workout, as in, toning your abs to a perfect six-pack. Planks are an isometric exercise. Meaning, the exercise is performed by stabilizing and holding the muscles for as long as one can. There is no movement and, therefore, the exercise isn’t meant to increase the size of the muscles involved. Planks provide a far more important function than abdominal toning.
Planks strengthen the abdominal muscles as well as the muscles along the spine – all the muscles that make up the core. The core is the stabilizing unit of the body from which all movement originates. Without a strong core, we risk dysfunctional movement and are at a greater risk for injury. Prolonged sitting weakens the core, so our society needs to be performing planks. Far more than we need crunches for toning ab muscles.
Secondly, with the trendiness of planks comes a misuse of the exercise. Plank challenges that encourage people to hold planks for five minutes or more are an example of this.
Planks are excellent for those who have perfect form. But, holding a plank with incorrect form will undo all the good that a proper plank does plus increase the risk for injury. When one holds a plank beyond the point when the core muscles are fatigued, she’ll fall out of form and begin to engage muscles away from the core that aren’t meant to hold the body in that position. This is counterproductive and risky. If you’re holding a plank beyond two minutes, it’s time to progress the exercise to something more challenging.
There you have it, the how and why of planks. Stay tuned, I’ll be adding more instructional videos to my Fit & Happier YouTube channel in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, plank away!