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Anyone who says that one minute isn’t a long time at all has definitely never tried planking. It’s an exercise that works our lower backs, glutes, hips and abs muscles so intensely that holding our form just for a mere 45-60 seconds makes us feel like we’ve gone through two lifetimes.
But, its effectiveness in targeting the core muscles makes it a superb exercise, especially for runners. Stronger core improves our running posture, which prevents the onset of fatigue, and reduces risks of running injuries (win and win).
So, hold our “no pain, no gain” banner high (or perhaps have someone hold it for us, we’ll need all the arms that we have for this exercise) and get planking.
Yup, we did bold, underline, put it in all caps and if we could, we would set fireworks on it. Starting with a proper form and maintaining it while planking is extremely crucial. It’s the only way to do planks. So, what is a good planking form?
It’s a compliment when someone says that you’re stiff as a board because that’s kind of the whole point of planking. There shouldn’t be any curves in your form; your lower back shouldn’t dip down and your butt shouldn’t be shooting up.
To help maintain a flat and sturdy posture, engage your abs muscles by pulling the belly button to your spine, kind of like how you suck your abs in an attempt to hide fat rolls when wearing form-fitting pants or dress (one of those date night experiences, huh?).
Don’t forget to keep the head position in checks too. Lengthen the spine by keeping the head away from the shoulders. A good rule of thumb is to set your eyes on the floor about a foot away from your hands.
“Being able to do a plank for 5 minutes doesn’t prove much other than you have an exceptionally high tolerance for discomfort and your willpower is as strong as LEGO bricks. It’s best to perform planks in a succession of short durations when you still can maintain your perfect planking form thus giving the maximum benefit for your core muscles.”
Yup, there are enough plank positions and variations out there to do a full body workout. Most of us stick with the standard plank, forearm plank, or when we’re feeling extra hardworking, side plank.
But, there is a slew of other planks that could tone not just your core muscles, but also the arms, chest and shoulders.
So, if you’re looking to add some flavour to the same, old vanilla planks (or you somehow develop Wolverine’s healing and muscle regenerating ability to go on a full body plank workout), try some of these out.
Leg Raise Plank
Get into a push-up position and lower yourself down resting on your forearms. Keep your abs tight (do the belly button sucking trick) and raise your left foot above the ground. Maintain this position for 30 seconds. Lower the foot and do another set with your right foot. Are you feeling the burn in the abs already?
Get into a sitting position and extend your legs straight in front of you. Place the hands firmly onto the floor right below the shoulder. Lift your hips off the ground so your body forms a straight line from the shoulder to the feet. Maintain this position for 45 to 60 seconds and voila you’ve just worked both the core muscles and the triceps.
Plank on Medicine Ball
Now, are we exercising or are we practising for the circus? Because the amount of endurance, strength and balance needed for this exercise are on a different (medicine) ball game. Instead of planting your hands on the floor for a standard plank, rest your hands or forearms on a medicine ball. Since the medicine ball is less stable than the floor, your core muscles will have to work harder.
Since planking is one of the simplest, most fuss-free exercises, you can do it anywhere and anytime, in your living room, at the gym or the office (if you don’t mind the confused and slightly judgy stares you’ll get).
But, for runners, planks are best done after a run. The muscles have warmed up and thus they are less likely to strain. You can also include planks in your rest day exercises.
When we think about strength and endurance, we immediately associate them with the duration of the planks we can hold. We strive to do plank for as long as we can and we long for the day we can plank comfortably while reading the newspaper and sipping our coffee like it’s no big deal. But, when it comes to planking, quality is preferred over quantity.
Being able to do a plank for 5 minutes doesn’t prove much other than you have an exceptionally high tolerance for discomfort and your willpower is as strong as LEGO bricks. It’s best to perform planks in a succession of short durations when you still can maintain your perfect planking form thus giving the maximum benefit for your core muscles.
Planking is one exercise that’s easy to do but tricky to master. You have to be fully aware of your body and be in control of your form to effectively strengthen the muscles. But, if done well, you can’t ask for a more fuss-free, one-stop exercise than planks. So, who’s counting to 60?
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