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Why I Love The Plank

The Kelly’s Core Fitness 28 day plank challenge is well under way with challengers attempting to hold a plank daily and steadily increase the amount of time they hold for. It’s a great challenge that will encourage a positive habit and can be adapted for all levels from those that can’t hold a full plank yet to those that can plank for extended periods of time.

Below are my top reasons why as a Strength & Conditioning coach I love the Plank:

  1. The Plank, when performed properly, works all of your abdominal muscle groups but it particularly targets the Transversus Abdominis which is your deepest layer of abdominal muscle. Your core strength is crucial for keeping your spine in alignment, maintaining strength in your back, posture, balance and physical performance. It’s important to regularly train these deep muscles to help prevent strain and injury. People often focus on the Rectus Abdominus which are your ‘six pack’ muscles and only become visible at a sufficiently low body fat percentage but your deeper core muscles help you perform everyday movements and carry yourself better. Plank also trains your Oblique abdominal muscles which are responsible for twisting and sideway movements and are often overlooked in exercise sessions. It also works your neck, shoulders, glutes and leg muscles.

  2. I sometimes forget how poor my posture was before I started planking. Good posture prevents injuries but it also displays confidence. You will walk in a more upright manner if you strengthen your core through Planking. Don’t underestimate how self-assured this can make you feel! Your internal organs will also position better helping with digestive issues.

  3. It can help with back pain. Having strong abdominal muscles means that your body feels less of it’s weight and your spinal alignment will improve. You are holding up hundreds of pounds every minute you are standing and this strain goes on your bones, joints and muscles. Strong abdominals help to take some of this strain off your back. The Plank is also a low impact exercise. Other core exercises such as sit ups for example, can place quite a lot of strain on the lower spine as it is pushed into the floor and work your hip flexors more which is a struggle for some people.

  4. Working on your Plank will improve your balance. Balance perhaps isn’t considered as glamourous as power or some of the aesthetic benefits to exercise but anyone who has worked with me knows I’m big on balance. I love the fact that my balance has improved vastly through improving my Plank. The majority of your stabilisation comes from your core and good stabilisation brings functional as well as performance benefits. You will walk, run, swim and cycle better and you are less likely to fall. As we age balance can decline but if you can Plank well this decline will be less marked and you can continue to enjoy a full, active life.

  5. Planking is a mental exercise. It’s isometric (holding still) nature requires focus and determination. You will also become more aware of your body and how it can work as a single unit. Many people give up Plank too soon and can hold it longer than they think they can. Regular training of Plank can improve your grit and help you push through comfort barriers.

  6. Finally I love the Plank for it’s sheer variety. I’ve been giving my clients tips on how to progress the Plank and how to make it easier. You can train your body’s ability to rotate and resist rotation which are important functional and sporting attributes. There are side planks, weighted planks, three limbed planks, stability ball planks and more. So much fun to be had!

I’m excited to see how this challenge goes for my clients and hope they continue to Plank as part of their exercise routine. The beauty of it is that it’s quick, requires no equipment and can be done in the comfort of your living room.

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