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Planks – Core Exercise

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Jeromie Williams, Crossfit Enthusiast & Blogger
Picture Credit, Jeromie Williams, CrossFit

Planks are a fantastic body-weight exercise that can be done nearly anywhere. And by nearly anyone.

Planks improve your core, namely your stomach and lower back. They’re one of the safest and most effective exercises I’ve encountered in 25 years of being a fitness nut. Besides improving health, they improve aesthetics, if you’re lean enough to show off your stomach. They build not only basic abs but all the stabilizers and obliques, too.

Further down the page, you’ll find an instructional video. 

Please don’t be intimidated by the muscle-bound, ultra-lean individual who demonstrates in the video. Again, most ages and body types can do these in varying degrees. Of course, consult your doctor, and/or listen to your body and use common sense!

Children are great at planks. Why? Their muscles, while not as strong as adults, are often more balanced. They haven’t developed all the bad habits we have. The same can be said if you have children do bear crawls — another stellar body-weight exercise — you will be beat! (Unless you’ve been practicing.) And it’s not just because they’re lower to the ground.

If you have kids, have a plank-off with them! They will love it…especially when they beat you fair and square… 😉

Planks have thousands of cool and beneficial variations, akin to pushups, but let’s start with the basics. Just hold the plank position for whatever time you’re comfortable with, pushing it a little at the end. Most people start with 3 sets of 30 seconds. If you need to start with 3 sets of 5 seconds, that’s fine. Planks are like yoga in that you work from wherever you are, then go step by step.

When your body gives out, notice what gives out first. That’s the weak link in your core. For me it was lower back. I was doing all these other big activities, hiking, running, weight-lifting, etc., with a very weak back. That affected my performance, my posture, and caused other bad habits! It may have led to some large injuries, including a torn ACL in right knee and LisFranc fracture and dislocation in left foot. Those two major surgeries cost about $50K and two years of my life; not to mention forever altering my body.

My lower back was so wimpy, after 20 years of poor posture and slouching (I’m 6’3), that even though I could run 10 miles I couldn’t sit down to dinner properly. I was always leaning back or slouching in my chair.

I believe posture is very important in first impressions, business meetings, and a thousand other activities. Planks single-handedly saved my lower back and posture. Of course there are lots of ways to improve your core, but for me, planks were the easiest on the body. No strain on my joints or weird motions that sent my me and my back to the chiropractor.

Here’s the video, and below that, I’m going to say more about the benefits of planks.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been in and out of gyms for 25 years. I also love outdoor activities, as I grew up in Northwest Montana. The Rocky Mountains are great for hiking, skiing, and a plethora of natural activities.

These days, I’m all about bodyweight exercises and functional, dynamic exercises. That’s worth repeating:  bodyweight exercises and functional, dynamic exercises. More often than not, these kinds of exercises are easier on the body, can be done by most people in varying degrees, and build cardio and muscle while also improving function and harmony in the body. I’m not talking about old-style bodybuilders, who are sometimes clumsy, disproportionate, and lack high function in many activities. I’m talking about cross-training,  swimming, yoga, running (if with good form), rock climbing (indoor is great too!), swimming, crossfit, some weights, and all the new styles these days that combine several exercises.

The actors that beefed up for the movie 300 did all kinds of bodyweight and dynamic exercises like above, though with high work loads. Plus kettle bells, tire flips, battle ropes, medicine balls, etc.

In another post I will discuss this new trend more.

My main point:  Planks are extremely good for core and provide a base of  functional, dynamic strength. Stuff you use every day in bending over, doing dishes, reaching for things, washing the car, taking care of children, walking with good posture, sitting with good posture, lifting, and so forth, as well as higher-intensity activities.

Many strains and injuries are caused by little things like bad daily habits in body function, built up over weeks and months and years. Planks help diminish these.

Core work is big in gyms these days, as well as with sports enthusiasts and Olympic athletes.

Give planks a try, and let me know how it goes!

Brendan

Brendan Magone, Lifetime Fitness, Summerlin Las Vegas

 

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