If you’ve ever incorporated planks into your core routine, then you know the shake is REAL. And though this stability exercise is best known for sculpting and toning your abs — believe us, plank exercises do so much more! While holding a plank, you may notice that your shoulders, back, and chest start to fatigue, your glutes and thighs engage, and your skin pours out sweat as your heart rate increases! But, then it’s over — and you feel amazing! So are they worth it? We say absolutely. In fact, the benefits of planks make them one of our go-to exercises for reaching our fitness goals in less time.
So if you’re ready to uplevel your routine, read on for everything you need to know.
What is a Plank?
A plank is an isometric core exercise that challenges your entire body. You may be familiar with the traditional forearm or straight-arm plank, but there are also a number of other variations beyond the basics! For example, if you want to up the intensity, there are plank variations like side planks, mountain climbers, hip dips, and plank up-downs (all of which are brutal… in the best possible way).
And if you’re a beginner, we’ve got you covered! There are plenty of plank modifications for those wanting to build strength and stamina before attempting a traditional plank hold.
So, now that you know what a plank is let’s get to the best part — plank exercise benefits!
6 Benefits of Planks
#1 You’ll Burn More Calories
When your heart is racing, and you’re ready to call it quits on your plank — don’t do it! Instead, remember these calorie-busting benefits! It may be all the motivation you need to not give up.
Unlike most core exercises, the majority of planks activate major muscle groups beyond the core alone. Why is this important? Because the more muscle you activate, the more calories you burn! And, this calorie-burning effect happens both during your plank exercise and after completion!
#2 You’ll Build Strength in Your Lower and Upper Body
Speaking of total body movement, that’s exactly what plank exercises are. Although most people recognize the plank as a core exercise, it’s really a total body toning machine. In addition to activating your core, the prone positioning of a plank challenges your upper and lower body in order to stabilize and maintain proper form. This means if you want to perform a plank properly, you’ll have to engage your shoulders, chest, back, core, booty, and thighs. Phew!
#3 You’ll Improve Your Posture
One of the benefits of planks? A taller standing, more confident you! All thanks to an improvement in posture from plank exercises. When it comes to maintaining good posture, core strength and upper body strength are the main components — and they just so happen to be activated when holding a plank position!
#4 You’ll Improve Your Balance
Balance comes from your stabilizing muscles, starting with the muscles in your core. Lucky you — a plank targets these deep abdominal stabilizer muscles and the stabilizing muscles in your hips and lower body!
#5 You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Injury
Studies suggest that building core strength is one of the best ways to reduce your chance of injury. However, if you’re only strengthening your rectus abdominis (or your six-pack muscles) with core exercises like crunches, you may be missing the mark. Planks target all the stabilizing muscles both in and around your core (like your obliques, transverse abdominis, and glutes, which help to protect your lower back from injury during daily activities and workouts.
#6 You’ll Feel Better!
Planks stretch out muscle groups that tend to carry tension and stress in the body. When stress in the body is released, so is stress in the mind. One of the best plank benefits, if you ask us!
How to Do a Plank
Step #1: Start in an all-fours position with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Step #2: Come down onto your forearms, so your elbows are under your shoulders.
Step #3: Engage your core by pulling your belly button up towards your spine.
Step #4: Straighten one leg and then the other, so you’re on the balls of your feet. Make sure your booty isn’t above your shoulders, and make sure your lower back doesn’t start to arch down towards the ground.
Step #5: Squeeze your glutes and make sure your hips are in line with your back.
Step #6: Press up through your shoulder blades and keep your gaze down at the ground.
Step #7: Keep breathing as you hold the plank for as long as you can. We recommend starting with two sets of 30-second planks and working your way up to 4 sets of 60-second planks!
How to Modify a Plank
If you notice that you can’t hold proper form in a traditional plank or your lower back starts to hurt, a modified plank is a great place to start building the strength to do a full plank properly and safely. Don’t worry, you’ll still get all the benefits of planks — so, take your time and build the proper alignment and strength!
To modify your plank, simply hold the same position but with your knees on the ground. Make sure your hips still stay in line with your back, so your upper body makes a straight diagonal line down to your knees. If you raise your hips, you won’t engage your core. Plus, you run the risk of injury. Alignment is key!
A Plank a Day…
Planks are a low-impact exercise that can literally be done every day! And if you’re on the go or don’t have access to equipment, they’re one of the best bodyweight exercises to perform — especially if you want to maximize both your time and results. To start benefiting from planks, aim to add them into your routine a few times per week.
And, if you haven’t joined our community yet, download the FitOn App for free, search our library of workouts, and start planking!