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The Plank is One of the Best Exercises Ever — Seriously?

  • 5 min read


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

If someone asked you to name the top exercise for core strengthening, chances are crunches would first come to mind. However, many overlook the fact that while crunches can be effective, the plank reigns supreme when it comes to developing true core power.

Planks are remarkably efficient, requiring minimal time, space, and zero equipment beyond your own body. An added perk — you’ll start noticing results relatively quickly.

While planks are commonly associated with building a rock-solid core and sculpted abs, their benefits extend far beyond that.

In this article, we will dive deeper and learn more about the benefits of the plank.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program, making changes to your nutrition plan, or adding any new supplements to your current regimen.

Benefits of the Plank

Below are some of the most important benefits of the plank:

1.     Improves core definition and performance

Planks are an excellent exercise for core strengthening, engaging all major abdominal muscle groups. They target the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, external oblique muscles, and glutes, enhancing overall performance.

Here’s how each muscle group benefits from planking:

  • Strengthening the transverse abdominis increases your ability to lift heavier weights.
  • Developing the rectus abdominis enhances sports performance, especially in activities involving jumping, and contributes to a six-pack appearance.
  • Toning the oblique muscles improves stability for side-bending and waist-twisting, helping in other workouts.
  • Strengthening the glutes shapes the buttocks and supports the back.

2.     Improves posture

If you’re suffering from back pain from sitting at a desk all day, planks can offer relief by improving your posture.

This exercise strengthens your back, chest, shoulders, neck, and abs, making it easier to keep your shoulders back and your lower back in a neutral position while sitting or standing — both essential for good posture.

Planks also build isometric strength in your core muscles, which helps prevent hunching during long periods of sitting or standing. This added strength supports better posture and can reduce back pain.

3.     Reduces back pain

Forearm planks, along with other variations, can be a great addition to an exercise regimen aimed at preventing or reducing lower back pain. This exercise stabilizes the spine, promoting proper alignment and efficient movement.

Unlike crunches and sit-ups, planks do not involve spinal flexion, which can increase back pain.

With approval from a healthcare professional, incorporating planks into your routine can help reduce lower back discomfort and contribute to overall spinal health.

By strengthening the core muscles, planks provide the necessary support to maintain a healthy and pain-free back.

4.     Improves balance and coordination

Core-strengthening exercises, like planks, can enhance your balance and coordination.

Planks require you to engage deep abdominal muscles and maintain a straight back while balancing your weight on your hands and toes. This exercise demands controlled movement and stability, making it an excellent way to improve your balance.

5.     Easy to modify

While the classic plank is effective, you can modify it to suit your needs. One modification is dropping to your forearms in the plank position.

You can also increase the duration of the hold to maximize the benefits. Start with a 15- to 30-second hold and gradually increase your time. You should aim for a maximum of two minutes.

For those looking to boost athletic performance, research suggests that repeated 10-second holds might be the most beneficial workout.

6.     Boosts overall metabolism

Planking daily burns more calories than traditional abdominal exercises like sit-ups and crunches. Strengthening your muscles with regular planks helps you burn calories even after your workout. This is particularly beneficial if you have a desk job.

Incorporating a minute of planks before or after work boosts your metabolism and keeps your metabolic rate high throughout the day.

7.     Helps with breathing

The diaphragm, an important muscle for respiration, relies heavily on the support of the core’s abdominal muscles. Engaging in exercises that target core strength, such as planks, has been demonstrated to improve respiratory function and enhance breathing rates in adults.

When you strengthen your core, you provide better support for the diaphragm, allowing it to function more effectively. This not only helps in better breathing but also contributes to overall respiratory health.

Regular plank exercises can thus play a significant role in improving how well and efficiently you breathe, making them an important addition to your fitness routine.

Common Mistakes When Doing a Plank

To get the most out of planking and avoid strain or injury, steer clear of these common mistakes:

  • Do not arch your back. An arched back means you aren’t engaging your abdominal muscles properly, placing more weight on your arms. Ensure your shoulders are down and wide, and your back is straight.
  • Don’t tilt your head up. Your neck should align with your body, not tilted upwards, to avoid neck strain. Keep your eyes directed at the floor.
  • Avoid sagging your hips. Hips tend to sink when your abs are fatigued. This signals it’s time to stop. If your hips sag at the start, try widening your feet and focus on engaging your core muscles.