EXERCISE OF THE WEEK: PLANK

By Dr. Mercola: https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/12/05/5-plank-benefits.aspx

With exercise, sometimes the simplest of movements result in the greatest gains to your fitness, and this is certainly the case with planks. To do a plank, you hold your body (the trunk portion) off the ground, making sure to hold it in a straight line.

If you’ve never tried one, a plank may look easy, almost too easy to be beneficial, but this is deceiving. While getting into the proper form is straightforward, holding the position takes strength and endurance in your abs, back, and core.

The plank is one of the best exercises for core conditioning but it also works your glutes and hamstrings, supports proper posture, and improves balance.

There are many variations you can try to add intensity and work different areas of your body. In the video above, personal trainer Jill Rodriguez demonstrates plank variations you can use to help improve your posture, balance, and overall fitness.

5 Benefits of Doing Planks
Planking has become increasingly popular for core strengthening, and for good reason: it works – in large part because it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. What are some of the benefits you can expect from adding this exercise to your regular routine?1

1. A Toned Belly

Planking will help build your deep inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for that six-pack look. As your abdominal muscles become stronger, your mid-section will tighten.

Keep in mind, however, that in order to really get “six-pack” abs, you have to shed fat. For men that would be a body fat of about 6 percent, and women around 9 percent, in order to achieve that classic six-pack. This is not necessarily healthy.

2. Reduce Back Pain

Planks work for back pain because they strengthen your core, which has the pleasant “side effect” of reducing back pain. They also strengthen your back muscles, especially those in your upper back. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE):2

“Because the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, it is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain.”

3. Flexibility

While building strength, planks also increase flexibility in your posterior muscle groups. The muscles around your shoulders, collarbone, and shoulder blades will expand and stretch (an area that often receives little attention), as will your hamstrings and even the arches of your feet and your toes.

If you do a side plank, you can also stretch out your sides (especially if you extend your arm up over your head in line with your body). To increase the stretching benefits, try a rocking plank – once in basic plank form, rock your body back and forth by moving your toes a few inches either way.3

4. Improve Your Mood

Virtually every exercise has the potential to give you a mood boost, and planks are no exception. Planks are unique, however, in that they help stretch and ultimately relax muscles groups that often become stiff and tense from prolonged sitting. The tension release that planks provide is uplifting for your spirit.

5. Improve Your Balance and Posture

To do a plank correctly, you must engage your abs to stay upright. Side planks or planks with extensions are particularly beneficial for building balance, as are planks performed on a stability ball. To test and strengthen your balance, try a side plank with a leg raise – get into side plank position, then lift your top leg and hold for one count. Lower it and repeat, then switch sides.4 In addition, planks work all the muscles you need to maintain proper posture, like your back, chest, shoulders, abs, and neck. If you do planks regularly, you’ll find you’re able to sit or stand up straighter with ease.

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