10 Reasons to Perfect Your Plank
Crunches have predominantly been the most popular ab exercise out there. But you’ve probably heard that crunches alone will not help clients achieve a six-pack. And this might spark change in a client's workout or exercise routine. Which is why trainers are left wondering what to prescribe clients whose goals consist of improving core strength. In this article, we explore the many benefits planks provide for clients.
The Essential Plank
The core is responsible for stabilizing the trunk during movements like flexion, extension, and rotation of other body parts. But most contractions in the core are isometric. Planks are simply an isometric core exercise.
The plank pose demands proper posture and core strength, making it one of the best strengthening exercises. For a client to maintain their body weight with good posture, their hamstrings must be fully engaged. This posterior muscle in the leg has constant tension during exercise planks. This tension leads to improvement in flexibility.
How to Help Clients Perfect Their Plank
To perform the standard elbow plank, have your client start in a push-up position. Have them lower their elbows to the ground, keeping their palms and toes on the ground. They’ll hold this position, keeping their spine in alignment from head to toe. Their elbows should fall directly under their shoulders. Your client’s butt should not be up in the air or dropping towards the ground.
When your client performs the plank use these cues to help them improve and stimulate the right muscle groups.
- “Squeeze or contract your glutes”
- “Squeeze or contract your quadriceps”
- “Keep a straight line from head to toe”
- “Shift or distribute your body weight evenly between your forearms, core, and feet”
- “Tighten your core”
There are many plank exercise variations. Once a client attains proper form and needs more challenging options, consider some of the following:
- Increase the set duration
- Raise one leg off the ground
- Perform an alternating leg lift
- Turn to the side
- Add resistance
These are great ways to challenge clients.
Top 10 Benefits of Planks
Many consider a plank workout as the most desirable core strengthening exercise. However, this exercise packs an even bigger punch than just that. Let's review the top 10 benefits of planks.
1. Core Strength
As trainers, we know how beneficial planks can be for strengthening the core. The muscles targeted during planks are the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, external obliques, and internal obliques. This isometric exercise allows for ample time under tension. This leads to an increase in overall strength gains and calories burned.
2. Glute Strength
When performing a plank, it is crucial to tell clients to squeeze their glutes. This helps activate the core and protects the lower back. Strong glutes support the lower back and alleviate any extra stress it could undergo. Clients who experience lower back pain tend to have a weak core, but also underactive glutes. Strong glutes provide the hips with more stability and pelvic floor strength.
3. Improved Posture
Planks allow for maximal muscle tension without extra stress on the spine. The exercise targets muscles in the lower and upper back that assist with posture. Clients must maintain posture and spine alignment while doing the plank. This produces proper muscle activation throughout the entire body. Tension stems from the hands and forearms all the way through the knees and feet.
4. Better Balance
The core is the midline of the body. It is responsible for all movement and rotation. In fitness and sports, clients aim to improve stability and balance. Planks can assist any routine to help with sports or just daily activities. The core connects the upper body to the lower body, so whether your client is an elite athlete or simply needs help holding their body in a standing position, core strength will help them maintain that stability.
5. Builds Muscle
Planks require muscle activation from more than one muscle group. They incorporate your arms, forearms, back, shoulders, legs, and core. The more muscle groups utilized in any exercise, the more recruitment of muscle fibers. This leads to a greater increase in muscle mass and metabolic rate. Learn how to develop an all-encompassing plan to build better abs beyond just planks.
Surprisingly, planks are a great flexibility exercise. Planks help improve flexibility in clients due to the position the body must be in. The posterior chain elongates in a plank position, providing a stretch in the hamstrings and calves. The toes also remain flexed on the ground, which stretches the feet.
Planks are easy to modify. This gives trainers the ability to prescribe all clients a variation of the plank exercise. Planks are adjustable according to the client's fitness level. This makes it simple to increase difficulty or modify it to be easier, which is useful in all fitness programs.
8. Muscular Endurance
A simple way to make a plank more challenging for clients is to increase the time they hold it for. Muscular endurance is built through the body's ability to perform exercise for an extended time. This helps improve endurance throughout the entire body.
9. Easy to Implement
Planks are easy to implement into an exercise routine. Trainers can add them to the beginning, middle, or end of a workout. Depending on the modifications and difficulty level of the plank exercise prescribed, you can even use it as a warm-up. This helps stimulate the core and other muscle groups for the workout ahead. Never be afraid to use them to burn the core out at the end of a workout also.
10. Many Variations
With planks being modifiable and easy to implement that leaves us with one more benefit to using them. You have many different plank variations to choose from. Between regular forearm planks, push-up planks, side planks, weight planks, plank walks, there is no shortage of exercises. Leaving you with lots of exercise variability.
Additional Health Benefits of Planks
Physical benefits of planks bring along health benefits as well. Planks not only create a strong and good looking body. They also enhance bone and joint health. Through low impact activity, you can expect safe and effective results on bone strength.
Exercise releases endorphins that reduce the feeling of pain in the body. This helps boost mood and relieve stress. The stretch that planks provide helps release tension in the body both in the neck and legs. Planks make for a great mid-day boost.
Stronger and bigger muscles help increase metabolism and more calorie burn. You can expect planks to help clients achieve a higher metabolism through consistency and workout progression.
As you can see, the many benefits to planks are endless for all clients and fitness levels.
Are you looking to continue expanding your knowledge as a personal trainer? Be sure to check out ISSA’s Corrective Exercise course. Learn to explain how movement is initiated, maintained, and modified through exercise.
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