As you sloppily sit on the couch with flab hanging over your belt, your spine forcefully bent into a ‘C,’ and cellulite oozing from under your sleeves, your body is screaming ‘Get off your lazy tush, take care of your health, and do it right now!’
Seemingly easy looking and a bit too convenient to do (in terms of space), the plank holds a lot more sting than we give it credit for. So, a good way to tease your fat cells is by getting on all fours.
Why consider walking the plank…by doing planks?
1. It Strengthens Your Core
Along with your glutes (read: buttocks), these are the muscles you target when you perform a plank:
Transverse abdominis: These muscles prevent you from slouching over and maintains posture. Lifting your 30-pound toddler will feel less daunting.
Rectus abdominis: These muscles bend your spine forward imparting flexibility. Simple movements like picking up a pencil from the floor depends on their strength.
Obliques: They support your spine. It is those muscles that helped you turn back to talk to your crush in class without having to turn your chair around.
Glutes: Much like shock absorbers, strong buns reduce the impact of basic movements (like sitting) on your spine and back.
In addition to the muscle definition you will get around your venter, appreciate the ability to do basic generic movements with ease.
2. It Reduces Your Risks Of Injury
Because of the vast groups of muscles that the plank strengthens isometrically, movement in all planes of motion become easier and less restricted. As your mid-section becomes taut, your back and spine get better support–making you a less of a dainty darling. Think of it as the rigging of a ship. Tightened ropes help hold up the mast and sails.
Planks not only prevent you from being victimized by back problems by maintaining a neutral spine, it also helps ameliorate back conditions you may already be suffering from.
Being a strength-training exercise that is easy on the spine, planks are recommended as an alternative to spine-flexing sit-ups and crunches for those suffering from osteoporosis and spondylitis.
3. It Revs Up Your Metabolism
Any amateur would rightfully question how no movement can burn calories. It all comes down to your heart rate.
Muscles need fuel to contract–just as they do in the plank position. Fuel is obtained from nutrients. Nutrients are broken down by oxidation. Oxidation requires oxygen. Oxygen is carried by blood. Blood is pumped by the heart.
In summary, contracting muscles increase your heart rate.
Still can’t imagine an increase in heart rate when stationary? Have you felt your heart pounding when you were scared or nervous or anxious? That’s how.
Planks help burn more calories than sit-ups or crunches. They also increase your basic metabolic rate (BMR). This means you will be burning calories even when playing a couch potato or catching a few extra winks hours after the alarm goes off.
4. It Helps You Stand Tall
The phrase ‘put your back into it’ did not fabricate from thin air. A well-supported, strong back is what it takes for you to stand (or sit) tall even when you’re not intentionally doing so.
Posture is important to protect your neck, shoulders, chest, and back from damage. Of course you already knew that even as you hunch reading this page. Yes, go ahead and sit up.
Regularly practising planks will improve your overall posture, making it less likely for you to slouch over. Standing in line to apply for your driving licence may still be able to test your patience but not your spine.
5. It Improves Your Balance
A strong core is a stable core. Stability is key when trying to maintain balance.
Your abs bridge your pelvis and your back—both of which form the vertical axis of a correctly postured body. Planks help strengthen this bridge (read: abs) making hopscotch, drunken twirling, and tight-rope walking a whole new level of competitive.
6. It Makes You Pliable
A good stretch—the muscles around your shoulders, shoulder blades, and collar bones, hamstrings, arches of your feet, toes, and obliques (in a side plank)—is what a correctly done plank achieves.
Well-stretched muscles are required to improve flexibility.
7. It Tones Your Arms And Legs
As is evident from the muscles involved when doing the plank, your arms, thighs, and calf muscles will be toned to match your tight abs.
It will also help get rid of cellulite that most of us have nightmares about…
…and yet continue to eat and live unhealthily.
Now, coming down to actually doing the deed (read: planking).
When we think of planks, some of us think…
Most of us think…
But there are so many more variations…
Whichever variation you choose to do, maintain correct posture (think linear and straight) and incrementally increase the duration for which you hold each pose.
Start with 10-second holds and work your way up to a minute or two or even more. A good practice to adopt is to do a 3-minute routine in the morning before you go about your tasks and then again before supper.
Remember, the more you perform the plank, preferably every day, the sooner will you get results.
It is very rightly said…
A useful tip…
Hold the plank while listening to your favorite song–the entire song. That works up to about 0.2% of your day, which translates to good progress made.