When it comes to building your core and abs, the plank is one of the first exercises which comes to mind. It’s because of the simplicity of the exercise and the results it has on the body.
Other reason may be because no equipment is needed to perform planks as it is a bodyweight exercise and the difficulty can always be increased by increasing the duration for which we perform this move.
The advantage that the plank has over sit-ups and other ab exercises is that it puts the majority of the emphasis on the core region and less strain on the lumbar region thus preventing lower back injuries. In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise, performing planks on a regular basis not only strengthens the core muscles but also the muscles of the upper back, thus playing a vital role in reducing back pain.
Well, it does have a lot of positive effects on the human body but there are some negative ones associated with it too. For example, hundreds of plank lovers suffer every year from costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum.
The plank is an isometric exercise and isometric exercises are basically not recommended for people with high blood pressure as they are said to raise blood pressure. So, if you have high blood pressure, you should definitely visit your doctor first before performing this exercise. If not, you need not be worried as the percentage of people who suffer from costochondritis is very low.
Aiming to lose body fat? Well, another reason to perform planks is that being in the plank position for a while is said to increase the metabolism of the body, resulting in fat loss. The benefits of performing planks easily overpower its negative effects and also increases muscle endurance and builds awareness of optimal body alignment. Here is a tutorial video if you want to see the exact way to perform a plank.
Of course, it helps in getting abs but so do many other exercises so you may ask what does the core strengthening part of this exercise do to the body? Well, each core muscle serves its own purpose, for example, the oblique muscles improve the capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting. The rectus abdominis improves sports performance, especially exercises involving jumping. The transverse abdominis increases the ability to lift heavier weights, that is why performing planks can help you break through your deadlift plateau for sure.
Estelle Underwood, a certified personal trainer wrote the following statement about the plank in the Huffington Post:
“If you feel any neck or low back pain while doing the exercise, this may be an indication of weakness in the upper or lower regions of the spine. If the core is too weak, the spine will sag, causing compression in the vertebrae, pressure on vertebral discs, and/or shoulder joint inflammation.”
In short, if you have terrible form and are still doing it the wrong way, it could lead to major problems. So, it is best to ask someone professional to help you with the form in the gym.
The intensity level can always be increased. One change the advanced athletes make while doing the plank is that they lift one leg, another change one can do is by putting a weight plate on one’s back.