Planks are a sneaky exercise; they don’t look like much, but try holding one for more than 60 seconds and you’ll be amazed at how difficult they can be. That’s probably why the five-minute plank challenge has gone viral during lockdown, with videos of friends trying to maintain the press-up position no doubt taking over your Instagram feed at one point or another.
Of course, boards have more benefits than just looking sturdy. “Planks are a great move for building functional and endurance strength in your core,” says Dottie Fildes, a personal trainer at Strong Women Training Club.
What is a plank?
The plank is a classic core exercise. Usually performed on the floor, you support your body weight through your limbs – on your hands or elbows and feet or knees. Here are some examples of plank variations:
All the benefits of boards
Planks can feel brutal if included at the end of a tough workout, but whether you do them alongside other exercises or on their own, there are so many benefits to performing a plank.
Strengthen your whole core
“The core has multiple layers,” says Fildes. “There’s the inner core, the side muscles called obliques, and your rectus abs, which are the top layer.” All of these muscles work together for stable movement.
Unlike many other abdominal exercises, such as crunches, the plank works each of these muscles. And it doesn’t stop there: you’ll also be using your chest, shoulders, and glutes to keep you moving.
Building strength in these areas goes a long way in the rest of your training. “Your core is crucial to your technique and form in exercises like deadlifts and squats. If you strengthen your board, you may find your lifts improve as a byproduct,” says Fildes.
We regularly talk about the benefits of exercise for pain relief, and building a strong core is key to supporting your spine and pelvis to reduce back pain. “The way you stand is a result of your core strength, so building a solid plank improves your posture while sitting or standing,” adds Fildes.
Try This Four Week Plank Challenge
If you’re convinced to add planks to your training routine, sign up for the Strong Women Training Club plank challenge. Coach Emma Obayuvana will lead a four-week plank challenge, starting now, designed to strengthen your deep core.
This holistic series will involve the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominals and multifidus muscles. Suitable for all levels, the sessions will last 20 minutes and a new lesson will be released every Wednesday morning. In the end, you might be able to hold a board so well that you’ll be the one to post it on Instagram.
Join the Strong Women Training Club today if you want to feel stronger, more mobile, and less prone to injury, especially if you’re a runner, yogi, or just starting your bodybuilding journey.