Do Planks Really Work? The Truth about Planking
Want to build a strong core and lose belly fat? Are you tired of doing crunches and sit-ups? If so, it’s time to change your approach and try something new. The plank could be exactly what you need. While it’s true that planking alone won’t give you ripped abs or burn fat, it definitely helps. Consistency is important too. In order for this exercise to work, you need to do it regularly and use perfect form.
The Science of Planking
The plank has quickly become one of the most popular core exercises out there. This move targets your abs as well as your arms, shoulders, and legs. When performed regularly, it improves mental focus and makes you stronger overall. Different variations of the plank will hit different muscles. Depending on your fitness level, you may try regular planks, side planks, reverse planks, rowing planks, and more advanced versions like the plank rollout or plank crunches.
Compared to crunches and sit-ups, this exercise puts less strain to the lower back. Your spine should be in a neutral position when planking. When done the right way, the plank targets your entire core region, which helps improve posture and prevents back pain. A strong core equals better athletic performance and enhanced balance. It’s no secret that core training plays a key role in any workout routine. With this exercise, you can train your core without movement. This allows you to do the plank anytime, anywhere.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Despite its apparent simplicity, planking is one of the toughest moves out there. But do the benefits outweigh the risks? Many gym buffs are skeptical about this exercise. After all, there are better ways to train your abs, such as hanging leg raises, butterfly crunches, reverse crunches, or the stomach vacuum. The key to muscle growth is to activating the muscles near fatigue. This process takes anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. Since the plank takes longer, it doesn’t address muscle size or strength.
Some experts claim that planking is overrated. Others say that it can be highly dangerous. It seems that hundreds of plank lovers end up in the hospital every year with costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum. Additionally, this exercise is isometric, so it might not be suitable for people with high blood pressure. In general, isometric training raises blood pressure. Another drawback is that planking puts pressure on the lumbar spine.
During a plank, there is no way to use added resistance – like you do when lifting weights. This limits muscle strength and potential growth. On the other hand, a good fitness professional can change the difficulty level to make the plank more or less challenging. As you progress, you can try advanced plank variations that require greater balance and strength.
How Effective Is the Plank, Really?
Just like anything else, planking has pros and cons. The standard version and the side plank strengthen the core muscles, increase muscle endurance, and build awareness of optimal body alignment. These attributes make them ideal for newbies and rehab patients. The downside is that your progress will stall unless you switch to more advanced versions as you get stronger.
When combined with a balanced diet and regular training, the plank can shape your body and build core strength. As your abs become stronger, your mid-section will tighten. This exercise helps you build the foundation for that six-pack look. Over time, it can also improve your flexibility and overall balance. However, planks alone won’t lead to those types of results. To reap their benefits, mix them with other core exercises as part of a regular workout routine. Remember that abs are made in the kitchen, so what you eat can make or break your progress.
Post written by Andra Picincu – a certified nutritionist and fitness trainer. She is dedicated to helping others achieve a strong, lean body and improve their health. For custom diet plans and personalized workouts, visit her blog at Shape Your Energy.