Want to stay in shape but don’t have a lot of time for your regular work-out routine? Then do a plank exercise! Planks are one of the most effective exercises offering considerable results. They take a short amount of time, no equipment, and offer many benefits including:
- Not many exercises strengthen multiple muscles at the same time. There are movements that strengthen muscles in your arms or legs, but the plank exercise can help strengthen frontal upper and lower-body muscles and inner core strength, all at once.
- Planks can also help improve mental strength. If you have a sedentary job, tension can build if you tend to slump forward. Doing planks can help stretch muscles that may become stiff during the day, contributing to stress. They may also help calm your brain, reducing stress.
- Since plank exercises activate core muscles, they can help prevent swayback or flat back and improve your posture as a result.
- Plank exercises can help increase flexibility in muscle groups, stretching and expanding your posterior muscles including the hamstrings and even the arches of your feet.
Photo courtesy of Dana Dowling/Demand Media
How to do a Plank
A good plank requires proper alignment. Everything should be in a straight line, including your ears, shoulders, knees, hips, and ankles. Here’s how to do a standard plank:
- Start on all fours, kneeling on your hands and knees. You can use a towel or blanket folded underneath your knees if you need padding. Make sure your hands align directly beneath your shoulders. Feet should be hip-width apart, toes can be curled under.
- Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the floor. Your body weight should be on your forearms, not on your hands.
- Pull in your stomach, engaging your core muscles.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds, gradually adding time as you feel comfortable.
Sources: Women’s Health, 4 Secrets to the Perfect Plank, Roberts, A. October 28, 2014.
Huffington Post, Fix Your Form: How to do the Perfect Plank, June 5, 2012.
Livestrong.com, What Are the 4 Main Benefits of the Plank Exercise? March 21, 2016.
Written by: Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.
Reviewed by: Cheryl Spires, Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, Ohio State University Extension.