Strengthen your Core, Mobility and Balance with Planking: Benefits and Techniques

I remember about 10 years ago when I was first introduced to the concept of “planking”. It happened when a friend of mine laid across their little niece’s pak-n-play, body in a perfectly straight line, and said, “Look, I’m planking!”

I’d never seen such a thing, and just laughed because I thought it was a joke. And at the time, it was really. People (mostly teenagers) were going out and planking pretty much anything they could lay across. But a few years later, I realized there were a lot more people doing this – albeit not across a baby’s play-pen – as a form of legitimate exercise.

Now, a few more years down the road, there’s been time for fitness experts and physicians to research the efficacy of planking, and it does actually have some major benefits. In fact, it’s been labeled one of the most all-inclusive forms of exercise in existence because, when performed properly, planking can work every muscle in the body, from your core to your furthest extremities.

Planking benefits the whole body, helping to improve core strength, mobility and balance. It’s not just for veteran fitness buffs either.

Personal trainer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Nathan Jackson said in a recent interview, “The plank is extremely important for both beginners and more experienced lifters because it teaches body awareness and creates stability required for all exercises, not just the big lifts.”

Planking is unique because it harnesses the progression of physical aptitude in so many ways, it would take a regimen of other exercises – weight lifting, running and even yoga – to get the same results. And from the other side of the coin, the act of planking benefits all other forms of exercise you may undertake.

The most important thing, though – as with all forms of exercise – is to use proper technique in planking.

Proper Planking

Planking can be done on any flat surface, but preferably a comfortable one. Using a mat, towel or blanket is recommended at home. The following link leads to a brief video by health-first fitness coach John Sifferman of PhysicalLiving.com, providing a ‘1 Minutes Summary of Proper Plank Form’.

This image gives a detailed description of each muscle groups’ task and body parts’ position during a plank.

Proper Plank Form

To ensure you are performing a proper plank that will not result in injury, Sifferman recommends following these steps, and avoiding some common mistakes.

Proper Planking Techniques Common Mistakes to Avoid
  • Get setup on your elbows/forearms and balls of feet.
  • Letting the hips or lower back sink
  • Place elbows directly beneath shoulders.
  • Lifting the butt too high
  • Place feet at about hip to shoulder-width apart.
  • Tilting the pelvis forward (i.e. anterior pelvic tilt)
  • Relax your head and neck.
  • Rounding the upper back
  • Stabilize your shoulders on your torso.
  • Straining your neck or letting it hang too low
  • Lengthen your spine in both directions.
  • Not keeping your shoulders packed down and stabilized on your ribs
  • Squeeze your thighs and glutes.
  • Holding your breath
  • Lock your knees and slightly tuck your tailbone.
  • Sacrificing your technique for a longer time
  • Drive your heels backward.
  • Brace your core, draw your belly in towards your spine, and exhale slowly throughout the duration of your plank hold.

 

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