Created on: February 18, 2013
Building a strong core is not only about six-pack abs; there are many other muscles that play a dominant role in strengthening the torso. Muscles that run vertically and encompass the entire length of the torso help stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder grid. Working these muscles by doing planks can provide a solid base of support for all these critical areas.
Having a strong core helps coordinate and control large motor movements, as well as transfer energy for the body to shift its weight for better maneuvering and agility. A stable core also protects the back, improves athletic performance, and helps prevent bodily injuries for people susceptible to falling due to postural imbalances. Anyone having such problems would benefit from core/plank exercises.
Below are instructions for doing standard and modified plank exercises. Because planks use your own body weight to stabilize and strengthen muscles of the torso, try modified planks once your core becomes stronger and more resilient.
Lying flat with your stomach on the floor, keeping the entire body rigid and straight as a plank of wood, lift yourself upwards by resting on the forearms with your toes pointed on the floor. Your body should be in a straight line from the ears to the toes, with no sagging or bending in the middle. Your head should be relaxed and your eyes looking at the floor. Beginners should try to hold this position for at least 10 seconds, but as you progress, the duration should increase to 30-60 seconds.
Plank with leg lift
Once your body becomes stronger and more stable, modify the basic plank by strengthening the legs. Using the above posture, lift one leg about 6 inches off the floor. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, then switch to the other leg. Beginners should do one set of 10 repetitions. As you progress, increase to two to three sets for a strong, powerful core.
Plank with arm lift
For whole body strengthening, the arms need to be worked as well. Planks with leg and arm lifts also help improve stability of both the upper and lower back. Starting from a standard plank position, shift your weight to the right forearm and lift and extend the left arm straight ahead. Keeping your core tight, hold this posture for about three seconds. Return to the starting position, then repeat with the left forearm and right hand extension. Do one set of 10 repetitions of this exercise, and increase to two to three sets as you progress.
Just as you strengthen the muscles that run along the back and front of the torso, the muscles on each side of the body need work as well. The side plank strengthens these muscles. To try it, balance straight on one arm while maintaining a plank posture to the side and stabilizing with both feet resting sideways on the floor, one foot over the other.
For good body alignment, coordination and power, build a strong core by doing planks on a regular basis. For planks to be even more effective, do crunches before embarking on a regimen of planks. Within time, you will enjoy incorporating these exercises into your daily fitness program and reap the healthful benefits of a strong core.
Learn more about this author, Ann Major.
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