Understanding the Plank Exercise – The Most Under-Rated Core Exercise

You can retrain your deep abdominal muscles and increase your core stabilization by using the popular exercise known as the plank. Most people are sedentary, overweight, inflexible, and have bad posture, and all of these things can be associated with back pain.

In a study done by physiotherapists in Australia, the researchers concluded that people who suffered from chronic lower back pain had weak and uncoordinated core muscles. To improve core stabilization, the therapists used the plank as well as traditional strengthening exercises for the core and entire body.

In this study, there was an emphasis on the deep abdominal muscles, especially the transverse abdominus. And after the core training program, the participants demonstrated increased strength and coordination in their core muscles.

So in order increase the support for the lower back you must retrain the deep muscles and transverse abdominus to work more efficiently. In order to do this, I often recommend the plank and many variations of the plank.

The plank is a great exercise to retrain your ab muscles to work more efficiently. It is an isometric exercise. "Iso" means "same", and "metric" means "length". Isometric literally means same length, or isometric simply means that you hold one position without moving.

You do not need any special equipment. All you have to do is get down on the floor and balance on your forearms and toes. Simply hold yourself in a straight line forming a human plank.

The secret to getting the most out of this exercise is pulling your belly button towards your spine. When you pull your belly button towards your spine, you engage and retrain the deepest abdominal muscle to support your back. When personal trainers and pilates instructors say to pull in your stomach, they're saying this to cue you draw your belly button closer to your spell.

In the beginning, you should aim to hold the plank position for 10-20 seconds at a time, but as you get stronger aim for 30-60 seconds. If you have difficulty with the full plank, you can do a modified plank and balance from your knees and your forearms. Some people find that the plank may be uncomfortable on the elbows, and if you are uncomfortable on your forearms and elbows, you can balance from your hands and toes.

Once you master the regular plank, you can try the side plank version for the obliques and lower back. During the side plank, you can balance from your hand or your elbow, and you can change your foot placement to suit your comfort. If you stack your feet on top of each other, you will have less stability than if you stagger your feet on the floor.

The plank and the side plank are really great exercises for the core, and once you master the regular plank and the side plank you can create endless variations to spice of your core workout. Try 1 leg at a time, or place your hands or feet on something unstable like a stability ball. If you have not done the plank before, give it a try in your next core workout.