Health Newsletter

The plank is a deceptively simple exercise that tones and strengthens your core muscles along with those in your arms, thighs and calves. It’s a great full-body workout that you can do in under a minute. If you want to improve your health and fitness, here are seven reasons you should be doing planks on a daily basis.

1. It’s easy and convenient

You can do the plank anywhere that you have room to stretch out your body on the floor. You don’t need any equipment or a gym membership. You can work planks into a full exercise routine or just do one or two when you have a couple of minutes to spare. To perform a basic plank, get down on your elbows and knees and lock your hands together. Straighten your legs and raise your body so that you’re supported by the balls of your feet, with your feet hip-distance apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles and squeeze your navel toward your spine. Hold your body rigid with your head facing the floor and stay in the position for 45-60 seconds.

2. It strengthens your core muscles

The plank works better than sit-ups and crunches to strengthen your core. The core runs the entire length of the torso. It consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, including those of the abdomen, back, hips and buttocks. Core muscles enable us to stand upright, shift body weight and move in all directions. Strengthening the core muscles will improve the effectiveness of any exercises you do and allow you to perform them with minimal pain and a reduced chance of injury. Strong core muscles will also improve your balance and posture.

3. It helps to prevent backache

If you sit for long periods at work, excessive pressure is put on the muscles, tendons, and discs in the lower back. This strain can lead to lower back pain, especially if your posture is poor. When you hold the plank position, you strengthen the lower back muscles. Strong muscles are better able to support the spine in the correct position while you are seated. Sitting also causes tension in the trapezius muscles that run between the neck and shoulder blade. The plank strengthens these muscles to improve posture and help prevent shoulder pain, neck pain and headaches.

4. It helps to prevent osteoporosis

Approximately 55% of Americans aged 50 and older either have osteoporosis or have low bone mass, putting them at risk for the disease. There are usually no warning signs of osteoporosis and it’s often only diagnosed when a bone is fractured after a fall. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the plank exercise for building strong bones. Doing the plank regularly works the tendons that attach muscle to bone, which in turn boosts bone strength. It also improves balance, co-ordination and stamina, reducing the chance of a fall.

5. It will tone up your arms

Whether you’re a woman who wants to banish bingo wings or a man who wants to build bulging biceps, the plank can help. When you are in the plank position, you use your biceps to keep your upper body weight off the ground. The effect is similar to weight lifting without the need for any equipment. If you push yourself to hold the pose for more than 60 seconds at a time, you’ll soon see noticeable changes in the definition of your arm muscles.

6. It can help you get a six pack

The plank tones the rectus abdominis muscle which appears as a ‘six pack’ in people with trim, fit bodies. All of us have a set of washboard abs, but in most people they’re hidden under a layer of fat. If you already have a flat stomach, then doing the plank will help to build up the rectus abdominis muscle to reveal a well-defined six pack. If you’re overweight or have a flabby belly, you’ll need to combine plank exercises with a healthy diet and regular cardio workouts to boost your metabolism and burn off abdominal fat.

7. It can relieve stress

When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes out of your busy day to do the plank. Holding your body tightly in position while breathing deeply can act as a form of meditation to clear your mind. Staying in the pose for a set time can give you a sense of mastery when other parts of your life feel out of control. Tensing your muscles and then relaxing them helps to relieve emotional tension. Finally, the concentration required to hold the plank pose offers a distraction from daily worries and a chance to focus on your body.