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! It 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 also notice that your mental clarity and focus also improves. In addition to helping you to tone your abs, 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.
Lengthen and Strengthen the Neck
You have 18 separate muscles in your neck and doing the plank regularly can 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.
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 also find that this helps to prevent and alleviate pain in the lower back area.
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 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 your right side. Mixing things up helps to keep your mind engaged whilst also targeting different muscle groups.