What areas does planking strengthen?
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What areas does planking strengthen?

Donna asks, “What areas does planking strengthen?”

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Donna,

You are not alone with this question as I feel like this is one of those exercises that people do and they really don’t know why. If you ask most folks, including the less-studied trainer, you will get the immediate answer that it works the abs or that it helps develop core strength. Both answers are not incorrect, they are just not completely correct. More importantly, if your goal is to develop deeper, more noticeable abs, this would not be one of the exercises on my priority list. However, it is still a good exercise to add to your routine, and here are the reasons why.

Planks work almost every muscle within your body and, for that reason alone, should be part of an exercise program where the goal is general health. Probably their best feature is that they can help improve posture when performed properly click for more. However, planks are stationary, non-dynamic movements, which means the muscles contract statically or isometrically – they don’t move like a normal full range of motion movement in a concentric-eccentric fashion. Isometric work is good for stabilization and control of the abdominal region since the ab muscles do contract, although the movement is halted by counteracting forces of the opposite side muscles, which are also contracting. Thus, the plank activity is really a true core exercise as it works all of the surrounding muscles. For overall body control, simultaneous activation of many muscles and the discipline to hold the position, this is a great exercise.

The plank is a strong posterior chain activator as it requires the scapula stabilizers, traps and rhomboids (depending on how you position your upper back), as well as the triceps, lower back, glutes, and hamstring muscles. On the front side you get some deltoid activation, along with the abs and quadriceps muscles.

As a pure abdominal training exercise, however, it is just okay. We know to best build muscle size and strength, the muscles themselves need to move through a full range of motion, and thus variations on sit ups and crunches still reign supreme for ab development. If you are planning to use the plank in your ab program, be sure to use it along with other dynamic activities that isolate the abs and not just use the plank as the only ab exercise. Realize also, that when first employing the plank in your program, you may get a sore lower back as part of the process of teaching the lower back to contract and stabilize – which of course is a benefit in and of itself.

Good luck and train hard,

David

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