An Exercise For Better Balance, Back, And Overall Fitness: Planking

Almost every movement we make engages our core muscles, and this is why strengthening our core is so beneficial for overall well being.

Core muscles, which include abdominal, side, back, pelvic, and hip muscles, give the spine stability and strength, protecting the back from injury and chronic pain. A strong core improves posture, equilibrium, and our ability to safely perform daily tasks such as lifting children, or carrying groceries.

As part of a varied workout routine, exercises that strengthen and tone core muscles also help us maintain a healthy weight. That, in turn, lowers our risk for cardiovascular disease, and helps people manage type 1 or 2 diabetes symptoms.

Building Our Core With Planks

An excellent way to build core strength is performing basic plank exercises. Planks buildup our core by gently stressing the abdominal, hip, shoulder, and lower back muscles.

Successful planking also requires the exercise of patience. By gradually increasing our endurance level we can avoid injury as we try planking techniques:

  • Beginner’s Basic Plank. Stand about three feet from a wall. Press hands into the wall with elbows straight, and weight on the toes. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • We can also do the basic plank on the floor by getting into a bent knee push-up position, hands pressing into the floor, elbows straight, and with shoulders, buttocks, and thighs in a straight line; hold for 30 seconds.
  • The Up-Down Plank Starting with the basic plank floor position, bend each elbow and support the body’s weight with forearms against the floor; hold for two or three seconds. Now, go back to the straight arm position. Up and down equals one repetition. Start with three to five repetitions, and gradually work up to 20 - or whatever you can do.
  • Plank with Leg Raise. Starting with the basic plank floor position, pull one leg up toward the ceiling, as if a cord were pulling on the leg from behind the knee. Hold for one or two seconds, and lower the leg down. Repeat with the other leg. This is one repetition. Start with three to five repetitions, and gradually work up to 20 - or whatever you can do.

A video of these and other plank variations is available at the Mercola Fitness website (link given below).

Plank Tips

People who are out of shape, with underlying medical conditions, or injuries should consult with a doctor before engaging in any new type of exercise. Those who are ready to incorporate planks into their exercise routine are wise to follow these tips:

  • Keep shoulders, buttocks, and legs in a straight line.
  • Keep shoulder blades pulled down.
  • Keep the head in neutral position - not bent back or forward - by always looking 8 to 12 inches ahead.
  • Keep derriere and abdominal muscles tight, and hips tucked-in.
  • Keep the lower back in neutral position (not too low, or high) to avoid the strain of excess lower back curvature.

Regular planking gives our spine the support it needs to enable our body’s movements, and we may find that plank exercises make everyday tasks and other fitness activities easier to perform.

Source: Mercola Fitness/Plank Video
Photo credit: donjd2/flickr

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