Maybe you remember planking as that short-lived online craze way back when; lying face down on top of random objects and posting pictures on Twitter and Facebook. Well, the kind of planking you may be more familiar with is the dreaded minute of holding a firm position on the ground during your workout. You lie face down and support your body with you elbows, bringing in your core and keeping your back straight. This simple exercise that requires no pricey equipment or gym membership provides some fantastic benefits to your body and mind.
The Benefits of Planks
#1 Sense of Balance
Planking forces you to find your center of gravity, relying on your strength to support your body weight. An athlete’s center of gravity is the exact middle of the body around which it can rotate freely in any direction and where the weight balanced on all opposite sides. It exists at a point along the midline of the body at about 55% of the athlete’s height. (1)
Performing side planks or planks using a stability ball are excellent alternative exercises which can help to improve our balance and coordination. A 2012 study revealed the complex relationship between muscle strength and posture for dancers. For women who exercise, planking and stability control can lower the risk of injury.(2)
#2 Body Posture
Maybe postpone that trip to your chiropractor if you aren’t planking often. Healthy posture can increase productivity, alter mood and aid breathing. (3) Planking helps your posture by allowing you to straighten and support your back safely.
#3 Strengthens Core
Planking is only effective when done correctly. Ensure you are not arching your back, and that it is in line with your shoulders and legs. Pull your abdomen in toward your spine, and then you will certainly feel the burn. Your core and muscle strength are vital to performing many daily activities. The four major muscle groups you are exercising are:
- Exercising your Gluteus Maximus will give you a robust and toned behind
- Training your oblique muscles is great if you love the burn of bicycle crunches, and planking is just as healthy for them. Planking will cause a greater capacity for bending and twisting in your core
- Working out your Transverse Abdominis will allow you to lift heavier loads without throwing out your back or straining your shoulders.
- The muscle group Rectus Abdominous is critical as it holds your center of gravity and allows for a toned tummy (4)
#4 Spine and Back Support
#5 Mental Health
Good posture has been linked to three key psychological benefits. The first relates to confidence; assuming a more upright position exudes strength and makes you feel powerful, and can often have significant effects on job interviews, social encounters and speech making. Exuding confidence can strengthen relationships and help to build new ones.
The second benefit relates to stress and mood. Erik Peper carried out a range of experiments to test how posture affects positive and negative thoughts. He found that participants who were upright and dynamic felt livelier and happier. Inversely, those who had slumped posture reported feeling depleted and isolated. (6)
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Stress not only causes poor posture but also perpetuates it! A recent study found that adopting an upright posture when stressed can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood. Therefore, sitting upright might be a simple strategy to help build resilience to stress.
The third benefit of planking is that your improved posture will make you more alert, leading to a more productive mind. When your back is hunched over, your lungs inhale up to 30% less oxygen than you would when sitting straight. A lack of oxygen can drain your energy and obstruct your memory. A study found that infants’ ability to learn is affected by their posture. Being upright enhanced their faculties that map new experiences. (7)
#6 Higher Flexibility
Expanding and stretching out the shoulder blades, the clavicle, feet, toes, and hamstring during the plank will increase flexibility capabilities. Side planks also engage the oblique muscles. Flexibility is vital in supporting body weight.
#7 Faster Metabolism
Planking and the improved posture that result can help you lose weight. Sitting upright can help you burn up to 350 more calories a day. (8) A 1972 study revealed that posture position influences the metabolizing of hormones found in the body.
How to Plank
Tips for Proper Plank Form
- Try to hold an elbow plank for one minute
- Don’t look at the clock! Instead, read a magazine to take your mind off the burning
- Make your planks dynamic by turning out a few side planks
- Incorporate other movements in your plank, like hand presses
- Work out your core by pretending someone is going to punch you in the stomach
- Plank in front of a mirror to ensure you maintain the correct position
- Do planks in sets; if one minute feels like a breeze, repeat it three more times and see how it feels.
Planking is a full body exercise that aids strength and flexibility while providing long-term prevention of injury and improving mood and mental health. If you really want to prevent injury when exercising, make sure you’re wearing proper footwear like these. No matter your age or gender, planking is the easiest and most effective equipment-free exercise to perform in your home.
(1) Murray, M. P., Seirig, A., & Scholz, R. C. (1967, December 1). Center of gravity, center of pressure, and supportive forces during human activities. American Physiological Society, 23(6), 831-838.
(2) Ambegaonkar, J., Caswell, S., Andre, M., & Winchester, J. (2012). Upper-body muscular endurance in female university-level modern dancers: A pilot study. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 3-7.
(7) Morse, A. F., Benitez, V. L., Belpaeme, T., Cangelosi, A., & Smith, L. B. (2015). Posture Affects How Robots and Infants Map Words to Objects. PLOS ONE PLoS ONE, 10(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116012
(9) Flood, C., Hunter, S. A., Lloyd, C. A., & Longcope, C. (1973). The Effects of Posture on the Metabolism of Androstenedione and Estrone in Males. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 36(6), 1180-1188. doi:10.1210/jcem-36-6-1180
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