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

Video: How to do a Pec Fly & Chest Press

I don’t do weights! But my trainer friends urge me to build muscle tone. “It will help your running,” they argue. I do anything which helps my running.
Continue reading “Video: How to do a Pec Fly & Chest Press”

Abs Express: Aphrodisiac Abs in 15 minutes

Here’s the Abs Express Class at our health club (Clubs at Charles River Park, Boston, MA). Its a quick 15 min class, once a week. But what a workout. Fast and tough! Give it a try and see if you can keep up with Certified Trainer, Pete ‘Rock’ Reynolds.

Pete entertains you during the entire routine. For this recording I pleaded with Pete to keep his comments PG, which he did. And he’s the go-to guy, anytime you need a quick workout tip. Thank you, Pete.

When you are onvacation, no more excuses, Just follow along with this video and do your crunches. 15 minutes, and as Pete likes to say, you’ll end up with aphrodisiac abs!


From My Archives: Simple exercises & Related articles

Heel & Achilles Tendon Stretch

Continuing my Health & Fitness Series, as published in our patient newsletter, Aches & Joints.

Following up on the Heel Pain (Plantar Fasciitis) article from a few weeks earlier, here is the first of a series of exercises that can help recovery from heel pain.

This is a wonderfully effective warm-up before running, going for a walk, or participating in any sports. Or just do this stretch because you want to. This stretches the Achilles tendon as well as the calf muscles. Runners especially need to do stretch these before heading out and after returning from a run too.

You don’t need to go to a health club or gym to do this. Stretch in your office or waiting in the coffee line, or even during a walk in the park.

Enjoy and Share with others. Live well!
heel achilles tendon stretch, Meg Vitter

  • When out for a walk, find a wall to lean against. Even a tree will do.
  • Stand an arms length from the wall.
  • Place the leg to be stretched about 12-18 inches behind you.
  • Keep your toes pointed forward and slightly inward.
  • Bend your arms and gradually lean towards the wall.
  • Make sure your leg is straight and the heel of your back leg is pressed to the floor.
  • Feel the stretch in the calf and heel of the back leg.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and return to starting position.
  • Repeat three times for each leg.

Stretches demonstrated by Meg Vitter of Boston, MA.


Also read:
Treating Heel Pain or Plantar Fasciitis
Precautions to Take Before Starting New Exercises
Article archives are available at www.AchesAndJoints.org

Treating Heel Pain or Plantar Fasciitis

I had previously published this article in our patient newsletter Aches & Joints.

If you are a runner, you probably worried about Plantar Fasciitis. Early in the summer when researching this article, I got a mild case of heel pain that left me distraught. My training for the Boston Half Marathon (Oct 7th 2007) was guarded and I am still tentative with my heel. But doing all the exercises linked at the end, I am good to go. Continue reading “Treating Heel Pain or Plantar Fasciitis”

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