Plank (plank) or standing up
This exercise has recently gained popularity not undeservedly. It has several obvious advantages. First of all, it can be performed more or less anywhere, so not only in the gym, but for example at home, outdoors, or even on a break in the office. Secondly, it is relatively simple both technically and for strength, but can also be made harder and longer so that even an experienced exerciser will sweat.
In addition to the abdominal muscles, Plank also engages other muscle groups, plus it is very safe when performed correctly. It actually involves endurance in the overhead crank position, while keeping the body in one plane (like a plank). In this position, one then stays as long as possible to the best of one’s ability, but subject to maintaining proper technique. Attempting to last longer at the cost of sacrificing technique not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise, but also increases the likelihood of injury (which is negligible anyway, but it is pointless to take the risk).
Exercise technique and the most common mistakes
There are two basic variations, namely the already described lunge (the upper crank position), or the so-called elbowplank, when one leans on the elbows. The effectiveness of both variants is similar, with the difference that the prone lunge engages, among other things, the triceps and the front of the shoulders, while the elbowplank focuses explicitly on the middle of the body.
The plank may be one of the easier exercises, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes with it. The first thing a person should check on themselves is the alignment of the body and the curve in the lumbar spine. One should consciously engage the abdominal and gluteal muscles, which should result in a stocky pelvis and the same in the lower back. At the same time, the pelvis must not be pushed upwards (into the roof), as this makes the exercise unnecessarily easier.
To check the technique, a mirror or a camera placed at the side is useful to see if the body is properly braced and in one plane, if it is relaxed and sagging or, on the contrary, lifted up into the roof. Of course, a colleague or friend can also serve the same purpose. Unfortunately, we cannot see our own backs, and the feeling that we are doing something right is not always indicative. Even if we technically master the exercise, it is necessary to continuously watch whether the body does not make the effort easier, especially when it is already tired.
Last but not least, then keep an eye on the shoulders and shoulder blades. The shoulders should not be raised to the ears, but instead pulled “down” (away from the ears), and lightly pushed to the ground, which, however, should not be manifested by a pronounced hunching of the upper back. The shoulder blades should merge with the back and not become dislocated.
When performing elbowplank on a hard floor, it is of course a good idea to pad your elbows with something soft (towel, mattress) for comfort. While joints and bones are built for pressure, adding extra pain to the exertion is unnecessary. If you don’t perform the Plank on a flat surface, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You should never have one supporting side (for example, the left) lower, for symmetry of muscle involvement, but by raising or lowering your legs you can correct the difficulty. When your feet are slightly higher than your elbows, Plank will be harder, and by elevating your elbows (or hands) you will in turn make the erection easier.
If your back hurts when performing the exercise, you are either not following proper technique, trying to hold the position too long, or your back is having trouble continuously. If the problems are long term, you need to find out exactly where on your back the problem is occurring and how to work with it. Muscle soreness during exercise is natural and desirable, but a sharp stabbing pain or a persistent feeling of stiffness and blockage is a warning sign.
Strengthen your core at home with your own weight
Once you know how to effectively make your body a solid plank, you just need to get started. If the exercise is challenging at first and you can only hold the position for, say, ten seconds, don’t despair at all. After a week of ten-second attempts, you’ll find that you’re getting better at it, and you can cheerfully increase the duration.
There is no definite prescription as to how often and how intensely one should train, but regularity and consistency will always win out over extreme commitment. You’ll do far better if you Plank for two minutes every day (either in a row or with breaks if you need them) than if you torture yourself until you drop twice a week.
It should be noted that despite all the listed benefits, i.e. that it is a comprehensive exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, requires no equipment, and is not time consuming, you cannot in good conscience promise “a steel pan of buns for three weeks of two-minute Plank”. You will indeed strengthen your midsection, and noticeably so after a few weeks, but the coveted 6-pack will only show up on someone who has a very low percentage of subcutaneous fat. However, body appearance shouldn’t play a key role for motivation anyway, because thinness alone doesn’t really say anything about health or fitness at all.
Try starting with a minute of weightlifting a day for the first week, and then add ten seconds every week thereafter. Before you know it, you’ll be performing feats you couldn’t have imagined at first. The moment you perform a perfect three-minute Plank without pause, it will be time to add difficulty. You can choose a harder variation, or perform other exercises beforehand so that when you get to the rehearsed pull-up, you’re no longer at full strength.