A plank exercise is a workout that everyone loves to hate but it is the most effective. If you are looking to get those six-pack abs then the plank exercise is a must-have in your routine. It involves very little movement but despite that provides immense benefits. If you have never done this before you, the plank exercise looks simple and needs no special equipment as it uses bodyweight. But when you get into the plank position you will soon realize that holding it for more than a few seconds can be quite an ordeal. The following write-up will give you more information on the benefits the plank provides, the technique to follow and the variations to adopt for greater results.

What muscles are targeted in a plank exercise?

Before you head to learn about how to do a plank exercise, it is essential to understand what muscles it targets. It is considered a full-body exercise and targets the core and the upper and lower body.

  • Upper body: In a plank, the upper body muscles are worked out. The chest muscles, triceps, biceps, deltoids are utilized the most.
  • Lower body: The thigh and the buttock muscles which are connected to the lower back muscles and the abdomen are worked out during a plank.
  • Core muscles: In a plank, a strong core is important as it does the most work despite the arms and toes doing the balancing. The obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis are the most utilized.

How to do a plank exercise?

A perfect plank can be achieved in different ways, here is a simple step-by-step approach to getting the plank exercises right for beginners.

  • Start by lying face-down on the floor. Place your elbows under the shoulders and your forearms flat on the ground.
  • Use your toes and lift the body up from the floor. The shoulders should be over the wrists and the knees and hips in the same line. This is called the tabletop position.
  • Ensure that the body is in a straight line from the head to the toes. The hips should neither be raised nor kept too low. To keep the hips straight, look down.
  • Engage the core, shoulders, glutes, thighs, and back and hold the plank position.
  • If you are a beginner hold it for 20 seconds and then when you get comfortable increase the time. Do not compromise the form when you are holding for a longer period.

How long to hold a plank?

Plank exercises for beginners are quite tough. So they should try to hold it as long as they can even if it is for a few seconds. However, there is a debate on the duration the plank should be done as the form and posture go for a toss when held for a longer duration. Engaging the core and staying in the correct position is more important than time goals as per experts. But if you are someone who likes to set time goals, here are some time goals to set your sights on based on the level of expertise.

  • 30s - Starter
  • 1m - Average
  • 2m - Good
  • 3m - Excellent
  • 5m - Expert

Benefits of Plank exercise

Plank to reduce belly fat is one of the popular benefits of this exercise. However, it offers many other advantages too. It includes:

Promoting a healthy posture:

by correcting the slouch and improving the alignment of the spine. Sitting for a long duration causes many problems which can be corrected by doing plank exercises. It engages the back, shoulder, neck, legs, thighs, and pelvic muscles and improves posture.

Better balance and coordination: 

Plank exercise engages the core muscles which provides the right balance. It also improves muscle stability thus promoting body balance.

Improves core strength: 

Planks for belly fat not only give you a flat tummy it also aids in making the core stronger which is essential for many daily activities. Include different types of plank exercises or other workouts to remove the monotony of doing a standard plank all the time.

Adds more flexibility:

Are you a yoga exponent and want to do Sirsasana? Start with a plank workout. It helps to improve flexibility and also makes the core stronger than is needed to do a headstand.

Boosts metabolism: 

A plank to reduce belly fat is a popular form of exercise. That is because it boosts metabolism and improves circulation thus helping burn more calories. So regular plank exercise burns calories and also boosts metabolism.

Plank Variations

A plank workout is a great exercise until you can hold for more than two minutes. When you reach that stage it is time to upgrade to other types of plank exercises. 

1. Side plank: 

This is a variation that is better than standard planks for belly fat reduction. The side plank engages the sides of the core or the obliques. To do this lie on the side with both legs stacked on top of each other. Pull up your body on the elbow and move up and down. To make it more difficult, raise the opposite leg or arm in the air. 

2. Single-leg plank: 

This is another variation of the standard plank that is a great plank exercise for belly fat. In this version, get into the standard plank and remove one leg off the ground alternatively. Try to lift the leg as far as possible toward the ceiling without compromising on the posture. At all times the hips should be parallel to the ground.

3. Plank with underreach: 

This is an additional challenge to the traditional plank. To do this plank exercise, get into a plank position. Engage the core, lift your left arm from the ground and touch your right hip from under. Next, lift your right arm and reach the left hip alternating for 30 seconds. While doing this exercise, keep the body straight and do not rotate the hips or shoulders. 

4. Star side plank: 

This is a relatively tougher variation of the plank exercise for belly fat but it reaps good benefits. Get into a side plank, raise the free arm to the ceiling and lift the upper leg. All the limbs are extended in such a way that it looks like a star shape.

Mistake to avoid while doing a plank exercise

  • Not engaging the core or pulling the belly button in and compromising the lower back. To keep the spine safe, engage the core.
  • Keeping the butt high or too low. It should be neither towards the floor nor to the ceiling, it should be flat.
  • Allowing the head to drop. The head and neck should be an extension of the back and in a neutral position.
  • Not breathing denies oxygen to the muscles and leads to dizziness.
  • Focusing on time rather than form and posture. When your form gives away quit it rather than stick to the stopwatch.

Plank exercises for beginners get easy with practice. The key is to not watch the clock as the seconds seem to tick slowly but instead focus on the breath. That will put the discomfort aside and put your mind at ease. The more you practice, increases more strength and helps you hold longer. After a hard workout session opts for a comforting recipe of Kashmiri Tea Kahwa during the day to do away with any pain or discomfort.

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July 7, 2022

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