Focus on Fitness – The Plank

July 7th, 2013
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Here is a word you might be familiar with if you have dipped your toe into the exercise or fitness world – “core”. It seems there are many different meanings of this word depending on your knowledge of fitness, muscle groups, and how the body works as a whole.  Generally, what is meant by the term “core” is those muscles and groups of muscles used to help support your spine.  If you think about it, the “core” then covers a very large area of the body.  So what can we do to strengthen it?

The “plank” exercise is a fantastic exercise that you can do with no equipment, and a couple extra seconds per day.  Generally a plank, done correctly, works your entire core.  This exercise is not only challenging, it increases the strength of your core, and you can modify it to your level and build from your own personal starting point.    Building a stronger core is necessary for back and spine health,as well as aides you in becoming a better mover and can help you stay balanced.

So how do we do a plank?  Luckily, there is a wonderful set of instructions that can be found here.  A modification to this exercise can be as simple as dropping to your knees instead of holding a plank on your toes if you are not quite ready to hold the full plank as you first start out.  Once you are holding the plank, some simple cues to get the maximum benefit out of the exercise are:

  • Squeeze the fronts of your legs, like you are trying to pull your kneecaps up with your quad muscles
  • Squeeze the backs of your legs, like you are trying to pinch a penny in between your glutes
  • Brace your abdominal muscles like you are about to absorb a punch in the stomach and breathe behind that brace
  • Look from side to side for a bit with your head so you can release any tension you are holding in your neck

So, try it out!  Test yourself by trying the knee version first and see how that goes.  If that is very easy for you, try the full plank on your toes.  Begin by holding it for just a couple seconds.  Build up your hold over time, and then gradually begin doing another hold or two throughout your day.  Of course, you should consult your medical professional to make sure that this exercise is a good fit for you.

 

 

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