If you’re looking to build yourself a six-pack set of abs, a strong core, and an athletic physique in general, it’s certainly worth seriously considering incorporating planks into your weekly training regime.
Core training is very difficult, and anybody that tells you otherwise is either lying or just happens to have the best ab genetics in the world.
When training the abs, the benefit of plank exercise movements quickly becomes apparent, especially when the dreaded ab cramp sets in, but why are we so obsessed with planks?
There are numerous abdominal and core exercises out there, so why do personal trainers, bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts, in general, tend to focus solely on planks, and are the benefits of plank exercise movements really as prominent as people would have you believe?
If you’re looking to take your core training up a level and want to incorporate planks into your workout routine, here’s a look at everything you need to know about planks.
- 1 What Are Planks?
- 2 The History Of The Plank Exercise:
- 3 The Benefits Of Plank Exercises:
- 3.1 1. Great Marker For Core Strength
- 3.2 2. Great For Your Posture
- 3.3 3. Great For Strengthening The Core
- 3.4 4. Reduced Back Pain
- 3.5 5. Doesn’t Take Long
- 3.6 6. Can Be Done Anywhere
- 3.7 7. Accountability
- 3.8 8. Strong Glutes
- 3.9 9. Great Accessory Exercise
- 3.10 10. Improved Balance
- 3.11 11. Build A Six-pack
- 3.12 12. Burn Fat
- 3.13 13. Easy To Modify
- 3.14 14. Improved Flexibility
- 3.15 15. Improve Your Mood
- 3.16 16. Great Finisher Exercise
- 3.17 17. Great For Deadlifts
- 3.18 18. Build Muscular Endurance
What Are Planks?
No, we’re not talking about those long planks of wood that you use to build things within your garden, the planks that we’re talking about today are in the form of plank exercises.
Planks, or the plank, as it is sometimes called, is a basic bodyweight exercise that you perform to strengthen and tone your core and abdominal muscles.
With a plank, you will begin by getting down into a standard push-up position, with your toes planted firmly on the floor, both elbows resting at the side of you, roughly level with your ribcage, and your fingers facing ahead in front of you.
You’ll lift your stomach up off the ground and the idea is basically to stay in this position, keeping your stomach off the floor for as long as possible.
The longer you perform a plank, the harder it will get.
If you have a weak core, 30 seconds of the plank will feel like torture, to begin with.
The stronger your core is, however, the longer you will be able to perform the exercise before you begin to fatigue.
Every person is different so when it comes to planning, forget anybody else’s time and focus solely on yours and yours only instead.
By the time you have finished the exercise and you do start to struggle, you’ll feel as if your abs are on fire as if you went through the most brutal stomach crunch and sit-ups routine in the history of ab training.
Athletes and sportspeople do a lot of planks because one of the main benefits of the movement is a strong core, and a strong core will promote strength everywhere else, but we’ll get to all of that and more besides a little later on.
The History Of The Plank Exercise:
If you’re familiar with plank exercises, you may be wondering what kind of sick, twisted, and sadistic individual would think up such an extreme method of torture just to build a six-pack?
Well, wonder no longer, because now we’re going to embark on a bit of a history lesson back in time, as we look at the history of planks.
When it boils down to who actually created the plank exercise, the simple truth of the matter is that nobody knows for certain, because things are so complex in the exercise world.
What historians can agree on, however, is the fact that we almost certainly have Joseph Pilates to thank for this ab-burning movement.
Yep, that’s right, the man responsible for Pilates is also believed to be responsible for plank exercises.
As part of his Pilates training system, Joseph Pilates would perform an exercise which he called the ‘leg-pull front’.
This exercise wasn’t like the plank we know now, though.
This one was instead performed for repetitions.
We would see several variations of this movement, but in 2005, a man named Brian Mackenzie created his 101 Evaluation Tests for athletes, whereby the variant we know as the plank today, was used to measure the core strength of said athletes.
The longer the athletes could stay in the plank position, the stronger their cores were.
A man named Stuart McGill also played a part in the history of the plank, as he would talk about the benefits of side bridges, and bridges for strengthening the lower back and avoiding injury.
Bridges are of course not planks, but you can certainly see the similarities and when you take exercises like the ‘leg-pull front’ and cross it with an exercise like a bridge, or a side bridge, it’s easy to see why the plank came about.
So, the plank is not the creation of just one man, it is instead a hybrid of different exercises and movements created by different experts in their respective fields.
What is clear, however, is that planks are highly beneficial which is why they’re such a prominent part of fitness and exercise in general.
The Benefits Of Plank Exercises:
Okay, so, we now know more about the history of the plank and we know how it’s performed, but what makes this exercise so special?
Why do athletes, Olympians, bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen, gymnasts, swimmers, and more besides, all include planks in their training routines?
Here’s a look at several benefits.
1. Great Marker For Core Strength
Fitness tests are important for so many different reasons.
When we see our Dr for a check-up, we have our fitness evaluated.
When pro athletes join a new team, they have a fitness test before switching teams.
When you join the army, you have your fitness assessed.
While there are plenty of ways of determining how to fit somebody, the plank is a fantastic marker for assessing core strength and power.
Want to see whether or not somebody has a strong core?
Just have them do a plank and see how long they manage it.
2. Great For Your Posture
Right now, the number of people suffering from bad posture and the ill effects of poor posture is higher than ever before.
Poor posture can lead to headaches, neck issues, back issues, loss of height, and more besides.
One of the best things about plank exercises is the fact that they help to straighten out and fix your posture.
3. Great For Strengthening The Core
As we keep talking about when it comes to the benefits, one of the biggest advantages of planks is the fact that they help to strengthen the core.
4. Reduced Back Pain
If you happen to suffer from back pain, or just general discomfort in the back region, plank exercises are ideal.
Performing planks help to strengthen the back, it helps to reduce back pain and back issues, and it is, therefore, the perfect way to treat and manage back pain, without relying on prescription drugs and painkillers.
5. Doesn’t Take Long
Unless you’re an absolute sadist, you will likely not particularly enjoy doing planks and like all things we don’t enjoy, the sooner we can get them over and done with, the better.
Plank exercises are ideal because, despite being so beneficial, they don’t really take that long, although obviously the stronger your core is, the longer the exercise will last before you start to become tired.
6. Can Be Done Anywhere
If you want to perform a bench press, you need access to a gym, or at the very least, a barbell and an adjustable weight bench in a suitable location.
You are, therefore, limited in terms of where you can do this exercise.
If you want to do planks, however, you are not limited at all, because planks can be done virtually anywhere.
Plank exercises don’t require gym equipment, all you need is some fairly open space and you’re all set.
Because planks do not require any specialist equipment and because they can be done anywhere, this means that you will be held accountable.
You don’t have the convenient excuse of having anywhere to do planks, or not having the time to do planks, and so now you’re accountable.
If you don’t do them, it’s because you are choosing not to do them.
In the fitness world, accountability is so important and planks certainly hold you accountable.
8. Strong Glutes
It isn’t just your core that will become stronger when you perform planks, it will also strengthen your glutes.
Another of the key benefits is the fact that, because of how the exercise engages the glutes, activates the core, and strengthens the lower back, your glutes also benefit hugely and become much stronger.
Not only will strong glutes give you a much rounder and shapelier butt, but they’ll also help to make you stronger as well, which is very useful.
9. Great Accessory Exercise
There’s a reason why so many athletes involved in so many different sporting disciplines tend to focus on planks as part of their training regimes, and this is largely down to how beneficial they are for other sports.
Because planks help to strengthen your core, they make you stronger in general, which is useful for so many different sporting reasons.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to run faster, jump higher, lift more weight, or become more flexible and agile, planks will help you to achieve these goals, and more besides.
10. Improved Balance
Balance is so important, not only in the sporting world but in everyday life as well.
If you feel that you’re uncoordinated and unstable on your feet, it could be down to poor balance, which is where it pays dividends to perform planks.
Planks are great because they can help you to balance much easier and become lighter and more agile on your feet.
11. Build A Six-pack
Let’s face it, a flat stomach and six-pack abs are some of the most aesthetic and desirable looks that a person could ever wish for, and if you want to achieve this very look, planks are vital.
Planks work your abdominal muscles and like any other muscle in the body, the more you work them, the larger and more pronounced they will become.
Does this mean that you’ll build a six-pack if you’re sitting at 38% body fat when doing planks?
Of course not.
It does mean, however, that if your body fat is low enough, your abs will soon become visible if you make planks a part of your weekly training regime.
12. Burn Fat
One of the most underappreciated benefits is the fact that planks can also help you to burn off considerable amounts of body fat.
Planks are very physically demanding and as a result of this, they will burn calories, like, a lot of calories.
If you are looking to lose weight, achieving a caloric deficit is essential and planks can help you to do that.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that planks don’t take long to do, they’re still extremely physically demanding and they will help you to burn fat and lose weight while building an aesthetic physique such as Andrei Deiu.
13. Easy To Modify
If planks are somehow getting too easy for you, or if you simply want to try something new, another fantastic benefit of planks is the fact that they’re so easy to modify.
Of course, you can do a standard regular plank, but you can also perform side planks where you lay on your side.
If you really want to push yourself you could even try planks with one arm instead.
14. Improved Flexibility
Another very useful benefit of doing planks on a regular basis when working out is the fact that planks help to boost and improve flexibility considerably.
Planks help to boost circulation, they’ll get the blood circulating, they help to elongate the back and spine, they help to pull back the shoulder blades, and of course, they help to strengthen the core, as we keep saying.
Roll all of these benefits together into one and you have the perfect recipe for flexibility and mobility.
Being flexible will only improve your overall quality of life, but it can also help to reduce your risk of injury.
15. Improve Your Mood
So far, we’ve only really focussed on the physical benefits associated with performing planks on a regular basis, but what about the psychological advantages instead?
Studies have proven that exercise and physical exertion can help to lift your mood and improve your mental health for numerous reasons.
Perhaps the main reason is the fact that exercise promotes the production of happy chemicals and hormones in the body known as endorphins.
The more endorphins you produce, the happier you’ll feel.
Planks are an exercise that means that you’ll produce endorphins as you do them.
Not only that but as your physique improves your mental health will also improve because you’ll feel more confident and happier.
16. Great Finisher Exercise
Another fantastic advantage of doing planks on a regular basis when working out is the fact that they’re an awesome finisher exercise.
After going through a brutal abs session, what better way to really tax the abs and finish them off than by doing the plank for as long as you possibly can?
In truth, you can do plank at the end of any exercise or workout routine and use it as an awesome finisher.
When you know that you’re almost done, all you have to do is endure a few minutes of plank and then you know you’re free and have got yourself a constructive workout in there in the process.
17. Great For Deadlifts
In truth, planks are fantastic for assisting with all exercises because they build a strong core, yet if you want to bring up your deadlift, always be sure to include planks in your warm-up routine before you get started.
Andy Bolton, who was the first man in history to deadlift 1000 pounds is a strong advocate of planks, both in regular form and inside the form.
Planks help to engage muscles that will be utilized when pulling a deadlift, plus they also help you to brace your core which again will assist with generating strength and power.
If you are looking to deadlift more weight and bring up your deadlift, one of the best benefits is the fact that planks work wonders on this particular exercise.
18. Build Muscular Endurance
Finally, another one of the key benefits of plank exercise movements, is, that if you are looking to improve your fitness and your strength, planks are very beneficial for building muscular endurance.
One session if you perform 30 seconds of planking, next time aim for 40 seconds, then 50 seconds, and so on.
The more plank you do, the stronger you will become, and before you know it you’ll be doing it for 4 – 6 minutes at a time.