If you had to choose one exercise that conditions, strengthens, and tones every muscle in your body, planks are it! It’s a total body exercise that strengthens multiple muscles simultaneously and gives your body the biggest bank for its hard work!
Planks require no equipment and can be done virtually… anywhere! Plus, there are many variations to challenge any intensity level. It’s a ‘go to’ exercise that accomplishes many beneficial properties for the entire body too.
Since the plank is a total body exercise, it strengthens multiple muscles at once. A regular plank practice not only develops strength in your abdominal muscles, but it also provides spinal support for daily activities.
- The primary muscles involved include: rectus abdominis, internal/ external obliques, transverse abdominus, erector spinae (lower back muscles), gluteus medium and gluteus minimus.
- The secondary muscles include: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, ankles, spine, joints of the shoulders & hips. These muscles and joints work synergistically to stabilize, mobilize, and support the muscles being activated during the exercise.
When executing the plank properly, every muscle is ignited and works together to maintain the body’s horizontal position.
BENEFITS OF PLANKS
There are many amazing things that will happen within your body when you include planks to your daily regimen.
Improves Core Strength
Your core is activated in the daily movements you perform. Bending, lifting, turning, reaching- your core is engaging! The core supports your spine and protects you from injury. This is why developing core strength, stability, and stamina is so important. Holding a plank position requires you to engage all the core muscle groups (transverse abdomens, rectus abdomens, internal/ external obliques, and erector spinae, and pelvic floor.) When core strength improves, everyday tasks become easier and athletic abilities improve too!
Reduces Back Pain
The plank exercise requires minimal movement while activating all layers of the abdominal muscles to strengthen the anterior and posterior sides of the core. The strength developed helps reduce lower back pain.
Strengthens Posterior Side
Planks strengthen the core on all sides of the body, which includes your lower back muscles. Strengthening the posterior side of your body helps reduce low-back pain and contributes to better posture!
Plank-work not only builds strength, but it also increases flexibility. Basic planks do this by expanding and stretching the muscles around the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and the arches of the feet and toes. When performing a side plank with the top arm extended by the ear, the obliques, IT band, lat, shoulder and tricep are stretched.
Proper form is essential when performing a plank correctly. This will ensure you get the most out of the exercise and prevent any injury from occurring. When performing a basic plank with arms extended, follow these guidelines:
- Assume a quadruped position (all 4’s): Place the palms of both hands on the floor directly under your shoulders with the fingers pointing towards the head and the knees bent at 90 degrees directly under the hips.
- Keep the arms extended long with your shoulders relaxed and retracted away from your ears.
- Transfer the weight into your arms as you extend the legs long behind you to assume a ‘push-up/ plank’ position.
- Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Keep your hips, head, and shoulders aligned without dropping.
- Engage the core by drawing your navel to spine at all times and breathe! By drawing in your navel, you begin to contract the inner transverse abdominal muscles.
- MODIFIED: Use the same set up as above, except instead of extending the legs, keep the knees on the floor to form a straight line to the head.
- Hold the full plank or modified version for 10 seconds to start. Increase the duration depending on what you can withstand keeping proper form. (It’s better to maintain proper form for shorter time periods rather than struggling though longer durations with improper form.) Eventually you will be able to hold for an extended period of time without sacrificing the positioning.
- Repeat as many sets to increase your core strength and stamina.
- Practice planks daily to improve at a rapid pace.
If you feel any lower back pain, your hips could be dropping which creates an ‘arched/ swayed’ back. Try to realign your spine by slightly tucking your hips under and draw the navel upwards or modify the plank position by dropping the knees to the floor and work from here until your core strength improves.
Planks are anything but easy, especially when done with proper form. This incredibly popular exercise should be part of everyone’s workout routine.
INCLINE PLANK ON THE TOTAL GYM
The Total Gym will assist you to achieve an incline plank (feet at base, head towards the tower) by using the glide-boards incline level. The higher the incline, the easier the plank will be to achieve. The lower the incline, the resistance will be harder since the incline angle is closer to the ground.
Choose an incline that allows your body to perfect its form first before lowering the angle. This will develop your core strength and stamina along with your wrist and upper body strength. Modify by lowering your knees to the ground or onto the glide-board at any time.
Here’s a fun workout for you to try …
INCLINE PLANK WORKOUT
Because planks are one of the best exercises to condition your entire body, I’ve created a circuit workout composed of 5 Incline Plank variations that you can perform on your Total Gym.
- Choose an appropriate incline for your fitness strength. Change the intensity by lowering or raising the incline at any time.
- Perform the following plank variations in circuit form, one after the other, with little to no rest between exercises.
- REPS or TIME: Aim to perform 10 REPS of each exercise or choose a set TIME to perform each exercise. (ex: 20, 40, 60+ seconds)
- SETS: 1-3 SETS depending on your workout timing. (suggested 2 SETS)
- Conclude with a post workout stretch to recover and stretch the muscles worked.
- GB = Total Gym Glide Board
- Incline Plank
- Place hand on glide board and feet at base. (an open GB is more challenging)
- Hold this position to develop strength and stamina.
- Open the glide board and place hands on each side.
- Modify with a closed GB or keep knees resting on the GB.
- Lower into a push-up by keeping elbows close to the body and letting the GB move down the rails as you lower.
- Assume the plank position with the GB open.
- Push the GB up the rails.
- Pike the hips upward and slightly close the GB while keeping the torso, arms and legs elongated. (body forms a triangle position)
- Return back to starting position and repeat.
- Plank Slides
- Assume a straight arm plank position with the GB open.
- Lower to the forearms as the GB moves down the rails.
- Return to the straight arm plank position as the GB moves back up the rails.
- Maintain an elongated
- Mountain Climbers
- Assume a plank position with the GB closed (modified) or open (more challenging).
- Alternate knees towards the arms. Change the knee angles to challenge different core muscles.
Check out the video to see how these incline plank exercises are performed and how you can incorporate them into your next workout routine.
PEACE, LOVE, & PLANK OUT
Planks are one of the best exercises to boost your fitness level. They will condition, strengthen, and tone every muscle in the body. So, challenge yourself and add planks into your workouts to build up your inner core endurance, stamina, and strength.
Stay tuned for more planks from a decline position. In Planks- part 2.0, I will highlight more plank benefits and provide another workout that can be integrated with the incline versions.
Get your plank on!