The big trend in core training right now is the plank exercise, and for good reason. Planks are great for strength, flexibility as well as posture.
The plank exercise is an isometric (non-moving) contraction of your rectus abdominis, erector spinae and transverse abdominis. This means the plank works both the front and back of your core (or the abdominal and back region of your body).
The rectus abdominis is the muscle that makes up the visual “six-pack abs” that most people are striving towards. It is the muscle that makes up the front of your abdominal wall.
The transverse abdominis is deeper in your abdomen than the rectus abdominis that helps protect your organs and stabilize your spine. This muscle is key to keeping good posture and preventing low back pain.
The erector spinae is the muscle around your spine that allows you to extend your back and rotate your spine.
When doing a plank, you will also notice that other muscles besides your core are working. Your shoulders are working to hold your upper body up and your legs are working to keep your hips up. So really, the plank is a full body exercise that focuses on working your core muscles.
There are also variations of the plank exercise that can work your oblique muscles, or the muscles on the side of your abdomen.
When doing a plank, the correct form is to press through your hands and keep your shoulders away from your ears. This movement not only prevents injury from improper form, but also helps stretch our your shoulder girdle and the muscles of your chest and upper back.
When pushing through the balls of your feet to fully lengthen your legs in a full plank, you will stretch your hamstrings, or the back of your thighs, as well as the lower leg calf muscles. And as an added bonus, the bottom of your feet, the arches, get a nice stretch.
And by strengthening your core and stretching your upper and lower body, all with one exercise, you are improving your posture. Improved posture will not only help you look better, but feel better!
That’s a lot of benefits for one exercise. No wonder they are so popular!
Your challenge today is to try at least one variation of the plank exercise listed below. Hold it for as long as you can, rest for 1 minute, and then do it again, holding for as long as you can. If you feel any discomfort in your low back, stop the exercise. This should be challenging, but not painful.
Planks with support: http://www.livestrong.com/video/1008583-start-planking/
Modified plank (on knees): http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/modified-plank-5480.html
Standard Plank (on toes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHQmRINu4jU
Side Plank for all levels (Plank working obliques): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHQmRINu4jU