What is the plank?
The plank is a bodyweight exercise that targets the stomach (abdominals). The plank is a fantastic exercise to strengthen the abdominals because it is so simple to perform but such hard work on the abs.
This exercise requires the exerciser to hold a rigid position, using the abs to hold the body in place for the duration of the exercise.
The plank is a special bodyweight exercise. While the other bodyweight exercises, such as press ups and sit ups, are isotonic exercises (using dynamic contractions, that is, involving movement), the plank is an isometric exercise. This means it is performed still, in a static hold.
The plank is a static body position, rather than a lift. So performing the plank means maintaining the correct body position by using your abdominals to hold your core firmly in place.
The plank is so simple to perform and needs no equipment at all. You can do it anytime, anywhere for an intense abs workout.
What muscles does the plank use?
The plank is a compound exercise, so it targets more than one muscle.
It works mostly on the stomach (abdominals) but it also works the back (erector spinae), thighs (quads and hamstrings) and buttocks (glutes). The side plank also works the obliques (sides)
How to perform the plank
To perform the plank, lie out flat on an exercise mat, with legs stretched out behind you and head and shoulders raised up. Support yourself on your elbows with forearms flat on the floor.
To begin the plank exercise, simply raise your legs up onto your toes (as in the feet position for performing press ups). Your body should now be in a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
The position is similar as for the press up, only instead of having your hands flat on the floor, your forearms are now flat on the floor.
You now need to hold this position firmly, with a straight body line from shoulders to ankles, using your stomach muscles (abdominals) and lower back (erector spinae) to maintain the position.
There should be no sagging at the hips. Simply hold this position and let the abs and back do all the work. Keep your head in a straight line with the rest of your body.
You can also make the exercise harder by using just one leg and one arm to rest yourself, while balancing on your forearm and toes. An alternative is to raise your body up higher to rest on your hand and toes, as pictured below.
Because of the isometric nature of the plank exercise, you cannot perform reps in the standard way as with the other body weight exercises.
Instead, the plank can be performed in sets, holding the position for 30 seconds, then resting, then getting back into position for another 30 seconds and so on.
You can increase the time you hold the position and decrease the rest periods as your muscles get stronger.
Side planks are similar to front planks, as described above, only with side planks you hold the plank position on your side, supported on just one arm.
You can hold the position resting on your elbow or shift higher up and use your hand. You can also raise one leg up to make the exercise feel harder.
With side planks, your body is supported in a straight line using the side of your foot, your elbow and forearm. It is useful to hold the other arm up in the air or keep it on top of the body, laid down your side or with your hand on your hip.
Side planks tend to feel harder than front planks because you are using only one arm and more pressure is on the obliques (sides).