As exercises go the plank packs some pretty serious fitness benefits. Although it looks simple, it is actually quite difficult to hold this pose for an extended amount of time. However, the benefits of doing so daily are not to be overlooked!
The plank pose exists within yoga and is referred to as Phalakasana. You can also utilise this great move away from the yoga mat as a standalone exercise. It is a great workout for the core muscles, especially your abs!
Holding the plank pose is the perfect way to finish your existing workout routine and will really boost your fitness efforts with visible results, especially in terms of muscle definition. You could soon notice that your mental clarity and focus also improves. In addition to helping you to tone your abs and boost your focus, the plank can also help with the following things.
Improve the Strength of Wrists and Hands
In certain variations of the plank position your wrists will be bent back towards your forearms. Flexing in this way, whilst also applying pressure to the ground, helps to build strength in the tendons and muscles in this area. Having strong wrists and hands makes many common actions easier and helps to prevent your risk of injury.
As you become older your risk of injury in this area will become much more prevalent. This is sadly unavoidable and is something that many people will experience. Although you can’t protect against this entirely, you can work to limit your risk of injury by regularly doing this kind of strengthening exercise.
Lengthen and Strengthen the Neck
You have 18 separate muscles in your neck and doing the plank regularly can amazingly help to strengthen all of them. This can lead to improved posture and better comfort in certain positions, such as when you are resting your neck on a pillow to sleep. When you enter the plank pose correctly you will feel a slight pull as you stretch your neck away from your back, boosting both strength and length.
Working to maintain your posture as you age is a great idea for many reasons. For example, certain studies have shown that those with poor posture can actually be more prone to cardiovascular and pulmonary issues. Poor posture can also lead to joint pain when walking and also difficulty with walking itself. This can often be because when your posture is misaligned your joints are likely to also become misaligned, and this is when problems can begin to arise! It is possible to tackle this and to make sure you do not continue causing damage.
The plank can certainly help you to get started with correcting your posture, but you should also look to incorporate additional balancing exercises, and make an effort to always maintain correct posture.
Engage your Spinal Muscles
Your spinal muscles have many important jobs, not least of all keeping you upright and in alignment. When you engage your core during the plank pose, you will also contract your spinal muscles which then helps to strengthen them. You will find that this helps to prevent and alleviate pain in the lower back area.
Doing the Plank
To get into the plank pose, all you have to do is lie on the floor on your stomach and then push up on your toes and forearms. It is advisable to start slow and then build up your strength and stamina with this exercise. For example, start by holding the pose for just 30 seconds. The following day you can extend this time to one minute and then build yourself up every day in gradual increments. Increasing your time by just ten seconds every day can help to ease you into this exercise practice.
Once you get comfortable doing this pose for several minutes, you can start to mix things up by adding movements and even weights into your practice. You can also try alternatives, such as the side plank, where you rest on either your left forearm and left foot, or on the same body parts on your right side. Mixing things up helps to keep your mind engaged whilst also targeting different muscle groups.
Adding this exercise to your workout regime is a great way to boost your efforts. However, if you want to make a serious effort towards overall fitness then you must commit to a varied schedule! Working out several days a week, and targeting different muscle groups when you do so is the best way to succeed here. It is also very important to have rest days in between and to nourish your body properly every day of the week.
Remember, if you are exercising vigorously then you will be expending more calories than usual, so it is important to consume more food. Make sure you are opting for healthy choices though, or you could end up sabotaging your fitness efforts!