A few years ago I posted about the benefits of planks. The exercise that is, not the long pieces of wood. The same benefits still apply, and during recent days of self-isolation and social distancing, finding the time to do them was easier than ever. Now, I am addicted to them.
The Benefits of Planks
I still swear by planks to keep my lower back from getting sore during the gardening season. I also rely on them to keep my abdominal muscles in shape during the long winter months when my gardens are sleeping. We can all agree how much nicer toned abdominal muscles look compared to the lazier, invisible ones.
Planks are the best form of exercise because they are easy to do, can be done anywhere, and work many muscles at the same time, especially the all-important core muscles. You do not need fancy equipment or clothes or an expensive gym membership to perform planks. All you need is your body and floor space.
Find a Version That Works for You
There are a few guidelines to follow to maintain the proper plank position:
- The elbows are directly under the shoulders
- The legs are stretched out like when doing pushups.
- The buttocks (gluteus maximus) are tensed
As a beginner, start with the simplest variation (level 1) where your knees and forearms rest on the floor. As your core and other muscles get used to the planks, you can progress to the next level. These variations with the forearms on the floor are great for those who suffer from arthritis when wrists or hands cannot support their weight. If your arthritis prevents you from trying the other variations, simply do the level one variation more often and for longer periods of time.
I do the (easier) forearm version as it is easier on my arthritic wrists. Start on your hands and knees, then lower your forearms to the floor, lining your elbows up beneath your shoulders. Moving one foot at a time, step back until your body is straight from your head to your heels. Like a plank. Suck your belly button in while tightly squeezing the abdominal muscles. Hold this position for as long as you can, without compromising the (plank) straight line. That means no sagging stomach or hips, arched back, or raised butt. Keep your head in line with the rest of your body and don’t forget to breathe!
Don’t be surprised that you will not be able to hold this plank position for very long the first time. Each time does get easier. Really. I promise.
Other, more complicated and strenuous variations of the plank are also available:
Start slow and let your body decide when to move to the next level. You will be amazed at how great you feel and look!…
photos from Pexels