The Plank: Strengthening the Core

The Plank is one of my favorite exercises in the Gym. Here’s my write-up cross-posted from Aches & Joints.

The core is commonly thought of as only your abs, but consists of multiple muscle groups in your abdomen, back and pelvis. Core muscles are engaged during all activities requiring a coordinated movement of the upper and lower body. They generate the force and power required for many activities, while simultaneously playing a foundational role in stabilizing the torso.

Our modern sedentary lifestyle does nothing to working these important core muscles and over time result in their weakening, and the consequent injuries from seemingly simple tasks.]

There are various ways to strengthen these core muscles. The PLANK, for instance, is easy to perform, effective and appropriate for any age and fitness level. With no special equipment, the plank can be performed on a carpeted floor or mat in your living room, in the gym between sets of other exercises, or at the end of a workout. Also, the plank literally only takes a minute!

In performing the plank, you hold a steady position by isometrically contracting the deep stabilizing abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus), while keeping the lower back (erector spinae and multifidi) stable, fighting fatigue and simultaneously building endurance. This exercise is not appropriate if you have any shoulder weakness or injury.

Step by Step: How to perform and hold the Plank
Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

  • Have a wrist watch or clock nearby to track time
  • Start with palms on the floor, shoulder distance apart (see above), then lower to forearms only with and elbows directly below the shoulders as demonstrated below
  • It may be easier for many to start with knees and elbows on a mat
  • Extend legs back, one at a time, straightening the knees and balancing on your toes
  • Keep your body straight as a plank (see below)
  • Relax your neck and look down at the floor
  • As you fatigue, there will be a tendency for your hips to sag. Squeeze your deep abdominal muscles and glutes, and hold your hips in line with the rest of the body
  • For starters, hold the position for 30 seconds and work up to 60 seconds or longer
  • Rest on your knees; when ready, repeat plank for two additional sets

Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

For a more challenging workout: In the plank position, alternately lift and move each leg outwards (see demonstration below)
Plank Strengthening the Core Aches & Joints

Julie Schlenkerman, Personal Trainer, Clubs at Charles River ParkThe Plank was demonstrated by Julie Schlenkerman, certified personal trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park, Boston, MA.

Julie is an avid runner and ran the 2009 Boston Marathon in 3:16:14!

Here is wishing Julie the very best for the Boston Marathon tomorrow.

Run Julie Run!

From My Archives: Simple exercises & Related articles

8 thoughts on “The Plank: Strengthening the Core

Add yours

  1. Hi Arun,
    The two things I wanted to mention was about getting in position from the hands to the what point …can you do the exercise first w/the hands and then again with the forearms on the floor?
    Also, would suggest using a mat or some cushion..we used one in Pilates when we did this.Feet can remain on floor but so much better with arms on matt or some soft/padded material under them.
    G-r-e-a-t exercise !

    1. Lynne,
      Thank you for catching the detail about starting on the palms and then getting onto the elbows. I did update the text to reflect that. And you are absolutely right about using a mat – added that as well to the text.

      Thank you and always great to see your enthusiasm in the Gym.

  2. Thanks for the exercise Arun, I suspect this will be an excellent workout first thing in the morning. I love that it only takes a minute or two and I feel like I’ve done something positive even though I’m not sweating.

    1. Srini – It is a deceptively simple exercise.

      When do it in class, everyone groans. Remember to keep the hip ‘up’ and in line with the rest of the torso and try and not clench you hands together when doing this.

      Yes, a great workout.

  3. Hi Arun,

    Lovely exercise, I have been doing this and the results are excellent. Very Strenuous but effective.

    Thanks for the lovely post. Hey I’m waiting more of M&M posts from your recent visit which you promised.

    Take care


    1. Thank you Shilpa,
      yes, strenuous but effective.
      Every time I don’t feel like working out, I do this – a quick way to ‘get in.’

      yes, yes. will pull some M&M out 🙂

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