This Pose Is Considered The Simplest, Most Effective Core Strengthener.

Pretty basic, but effective. It’s easy to do it incorrectly so study up.
Credit: Yoga Lily

“Plank, plank, plank,” says Jan, the exercise instructor at the head of our class.  After an hour of kick boxing, we start the floor exercises to end the session.  We get into plank position as she intones, “Plank, plank, plank”. The seconds roll by.

High plank or Phalakasana pose. The most glorious of simple exercises, body weight held in place by core strength.  Arms, wrists, shoulders, lower back, abs, gluts, all working to hold the position.

The proper plank position can be found by putting your hands under your shoulders, extending up to a full, high plank on your toes, body a straight line from heels to back of head, eyes focused about a foot ahead of you, chin tucked. Basically, it’s like the top of a push-up, making sure your body is straight and not sagging or arched. While you’re up there, you can flex your feet, bend one knee in, then the other. Put one foot’s toes on the heel of the other foot, then switch. If you hold yourself still, you can feel your muscles adjusting and keeping you balanced.

High plank can be modified by resting on your knees versus your toes. That might be a good place to start if you haven’t done core exercises in a while.

If your wrists are sensitive, you can support yourself on a pair of dumb bells or yoga blocks. If you have hand or wrist issues, like carpal tunnel or rotator cuff, you’ll have to get some advice from a physical therapist or yoga instructor to help mitigate those conditions.

You can also move from high plank to low plank, moving down to resting on your forearms, arms extending in front of you, one arm at a time.  Then, back to high plank.  And then down to low plank. Do this slowly while mindfully keeping your body in a straight line position.  Man, that’s a work out.

The benefits are impressive; you get toned up in the middle, and you will find yourself using those newly strengthened core muscles to support your back when lifting, twisting, even walking.  We’ve found that lower back problems can be addressed with a strong core.  Your posture will improve, too. Your mileage may vary, but plank and other exercises focused on the core can definitely help that lower back.

The experts say you should shoot for 30 seconds as a beginner to get into this.  Eventually, if you can hold plank for two minutes, you’re doing very well.

You can find more advice from experts on how to safely and properly do plank here.  Jen Reviews has a number of pointers and caveats on doing this exercise.  More advice from the Yoga Outlet here.   Jen Reviews sums up the major benefit of planking:

Planks are a very versatile exercise that target a lot of the most important muscle groups in the body. The core muscle groups are responsible in some way for helping us carry ourselves through almost every action we’ll perform in a day, so making sure your core strength is in check is absolutely vital for someone who wants to leave a healthy lifestyle.

Plank pose is also one of the Sunrise Salutation series of connected poses that cycles through all your muscles, flexing, and strengthening all of you.  We’ll talk about the Sunrise Salutation in another Fitness Focus because it is a really awesome way to start the day.

You can incorporate plank as well as last week’s squat exercise along with others in a regime of strengthening, stretching and flexing that will keep you feeling good.

As with all new activities, please consult your doctor, physical therapist or exercise professional if you have any issues that might cause concern.

 

 

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