A 1-minute plank often feels like an eternity. Like most core strengthening exercises, planks are tough to pull off -- it can take a lot of time and effort to ace its correct posture and then build endurance towards longer planks. But did you know there are ways you can slowly build towards acing the perfect plank?
Before we deep dive into how you can do that, let’s first look at the many benefits of planks -- we hope these motivate you to hold that plank for an extra 30 seconds the next time!
Benefits of Planks
Improves core strength
Planking strengthens the four most significant muscular groups that make up your core:
- Transversus abdominis: Innermost layer of muscular sheet found on the anterior and lateral sides of your abdomen
- Rectus abdominis: Fibres that run vertically from the bottom of your ribcage to the front of your pelvis (ab muscle)
- Oblique muscles: Inclusive of external and internal obliques, these allow the lateral flexion and rotation of the trunk (side abdomens)
Planks also help to strengthen your glutes -- muscles that begin in the pelvis and continue in the femur (hips and butts).
Remember, a strong core can help you improve posture and prevent joint tension.
Since planks help fully engage your core, they help improve body flexibility too if practiced daily.
Helps with backache
We know it might sound confusing but when done correctly, a plank strengthens the muscles of the back and aligns your backbone helping ease the pain gradually.
Planks work the core muscle group of your body which results in stronger, healthier muscles. The more muscles you have, the more energy your body burns. And thus you store fewer calories as fat.
Now that you know the health benefits of a plank, let’s dive into a step-by-step walkthrough for it.
The Right Way To Do A Plank
To perform a plank, begin by placing your palms and forearms on the ground, making sure your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Slowly extend your knee and hip to the point where you start to feel your entire body-weight on your toes and arms. Try holding this position for as long as you can.
If you’re a beginner you might plop the plank in less than 30 seconds but do not stress, you’ll ace it with everyday practice.
Tip: Always make sure your hands are directly below your shoulders and in alignment. This helps engage your core.
Now that you know how to ace a full plank, you can slowly advance towards trying out different variations of a plank.
Different Types or Variations of Planks To Try
It can feel boring to do the same kind of plank every time. But fret not, we’ve got a wide variety of variations you can try. These will not just make doing planks fun but also help you build endurance to plank for longer durations.
#1 High Plank
High plank is quite similar to a full plank but is relatively harder on the abs. For this, you’d need to place your forearms on the floor rather than just your palm and slowly elevate from the floor, ensuring that you align your forearms just below your shoulder. This is also the basic version of a plank and can be easily incorporated in your exercise regime as a beginner.
#2 Side Plank
For a side plank, you need to lie down sideways and then stack your one leg over the other, slowly elevating from the ground using your elbows and holding this position. Side plank mainly targets your oblique muscles, which is the reason why the sides of your abdomen might feel sore after performing these.
#3 One Arm, One Leg Plank
Get on an elbow plank position, then slowly raise your right arm and opposite leg (left leg), hold this position and then repeat with the left arm and right leg. Keep your abs tight and engaged, making sure your body is straight. This variation of a plank is sure to work your abs and glutes (yes, please!) in addition to giving you a toned back.
#4 Plank leg lifts
Like most other variations, this one too starts with an elbow plank position. You can then slowly begin lifting each leg to a 45 degree angle, hold it, bring it back and then move on to the other leg. Try repeating this for as long as you possibly can. We suggest you start with 3 sets of 20 seconds each alternating between legs. This helps work your core, legs, glutes and shoulders.
#5 Plank Jacks
Plank jacks are a bit tougher than the others on this list. As you’d have guessed by its name, it’s a fusion of planks and jumping jack. For this, you’d need to get down in an elbow plank position and hop your feet outwards and inwards. Do not raise your butt while performing this; rather keep your body straight as a plank from head to toe. Plank jacks help improve stability and aid in burning those extra calories as well.
#6 Mountain Climber Plank
Trust us, mountain climbers can feel difficult at first but become way easier with daily practice. For this plank, you’d need to get down on a full plank position and then alternate between knees bringing them near your chest. This targets your hips, arms, chest, shoulder and legs, and since it’s a full body workout it also improves flexibility over time.
#7 Reverse Planks
This version of a plank is a little different from the rest since it begins by lying on your back (yes, how else would it be reversed?) and then slowly elevating your hips and torso towards the ceiling with the help of your hands. Ensure that your hands are in alignment with your shoulder and your fingers are well spread for a better grip. Hold this position and then slowly bring back your hips and torso to the floor. Do not forget to tighten your core while performing a reverse plank.
Pro tip: We suggest aiming for a 20-30 second plank (irrespective of the variation) while you initially start and then increasing the time, depending on your ability.
How To Increase Reps After First Few Sessions?
The maximum advisable time for a plank is 2 minutes. Once you’ve started with 20-30 seconds, you can slowly try ascending towards a set of 20-30-10 seconds and then finally changing it to 4 sets of 30 seconds each. No matter how you decide to do it, remember to follow the rule of quality over quantity. Since it’ll engage your muscles for the same amount of time, it would gain similar benefits irrespective of the set.
Tips To Follow When Doing Planks
- Make sure that your elbows are in line with your shoulders
- Ensure that your body is straight and your torso isn’t pointing upward
- Do not try and hold a plank for more than 2 minutes, rather opt for one of its tougher variations
- Keep your neck in a neutral position
- Avoid holding your breath while performing a plank
Safety & Precautions To Be Kept In Mind
- Avoid doing a plank if you have a prevailing back or shoulder injury
- Engage your core to avoid straining your back
- Use a yoga mat or a non-slippery floor to perform a plank
With this article, we hope we’d made planks seem less mundane to you. So add it to your exercise routine, mix it up, challenge your core and go get those abs that you’ve always been dreaming of. More than anything push your limits but also know where to stop.