If your primary goal is to lose fat and build a strong midsection, but you are tired of doing endless reps of crunches and sit-ups, we have the perfect new solution for you. It’s an entirely different approach and new to what you have been doing. The answer is the plank.
The plank alone may not give you a 6-pack or burn lot of fat, but it most definitely will help. The key is consistency, as always. If you want to make the plank for you, you need to do it consistently and with a perfect form.
The science of the plank
The plank has quickly gained popularity as one of the best core exercises out there. This exercise stimulates the abs as well as the shoulders, arms, and legs. If performed on a regular basis, it can even improve your mental focus and make you a stronger person overall. Various types of it will stimulate different muscle areas. Depending on how fit you are, you can try doing standard planks, reverse planks, side planks, rowing planks or if you feel confident you can try the plank crunches or the plank rollout.
When compared to sit-ups and crunches, the plank has been proven to put a lesser burden on the lower back muscles. The spine is supposed to be kept in a neutral position when doing the plank. If executed properly, the plank stimulates the entire core/midsection area, which in turn helps with the improvement of body posture and prevents the development of back pain.
A strong midsection translates into improved athletic performance and enhanced body balance. It isn’t without reason that core training has an essential role in any training program. The plank is an isometric exercise, which means it allows you to train your core without moving. This also makes it very versatile, since you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Are there any cons?
It might look very easy and simple at first, however looks can be deceiving. The plank is one of the most challenging exercises of all. You might also ask if its benefits outweigh the risks. The majority of fitness enthusiasts are very skeptical about the plank. They figure there are superior ways to train the abdominal muscles, like the butterfly crunches, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, the stomach vacuum etc. As always, the way to optimal muscle growth is stimulating the muscles near to the point of exhaustion. The process lasts anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. Because the execution of the plank takes longer, it doesn’t directly increase muscle strength and size.
Some exercise experts think that the plank is overrated. Other even say it can be outright dangerous. It would seem that hundreds of people doing the plank end up in a hospital every year with a condition known as costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage that is connecting the ribs to the sternum. Plus, since the plank is isometric, it may not be suitable for those who are suffering from high blood pressure. Generally, isometric exercises increase blood pressure. Another significant drawback is that the plank puts pressure on the lumbar part of the spine.
When you are doing a plank, you cannot add additional load and increase the resistance, like you do when training with weights. This greatly limits your strength and potential muscle growth. A solid fitness professional, on the other hand, can help you play with the level of difficulty making the plank more or less challenging. As you become more efficient at it, you can start trying some advanced plank variations which will require you to be stronger and more balanced.
How good is it really?
As with any other exercise, there are pros and cons to the plank. The regular plank and the side plank make your core muscles stronger, they increase their endurance and can make you more aware of what the optimal alignment of your body should be. These characteristics make it ideal for beginners and rehab patients. One of the cons is that your progress will reach a plateau if you don’t switch to some more advanced variations as you get more efficient.
If you combine with a clean diet and consistent workout regimen, the plank can sculpt your body and strengthen your core. As the abdominal muscles become stronger, the mid-section also get stronger. And for all the guys out there, the plank provides the perfect foundation for the six-pack look. Given enough time, the plank can also improve your overall balance and flexibility.
Keep in mind that doing planks alone won’t give you that kind of results. To get all the benefits of it, combine it with other core exercises as a part of a consistent training regimen. It’s also good to note that abs are made in the kitchen, so healthy eating choices are the main reason for your success or failure.