Plank Exercises – The Definitive Guide

All plank exercises start with: The plank, an older cousin of planking, is a common exercise used to strengthen core muscles around the torso, mostly targeting the back and stomach.

Termed “the plank” because its participants resemble planks of wood, this exercise is a great way to strengthen the abdominals and lower back muscles.

Not to be used at the expense of traditional strength training, plank exercises are rather designed to complement other forms of strength training.

Those who are in to plank exercises integrate them with other forms of strength training exercises to build core strength and muscle definition.

Plank Exercises

There are many plank exercise variations, the most common being standard planks, side planks and reverse planks.

In the standard plank, also known as the front plank exercise, you hold the form of a push-up, but with your forearms and elbows touching the ground rather than your hands.

The idea of a plank exercise is to hold the specific position for a certain length of time.

With a front plank exercise, holding this position for a few minutes will quickly strengthen the abs and lower back.

Side Planks

Side planks, as the name implies, are similar to front planks but done sideways.

In a side plank, the only body parts touching the ground are the forearm and elbow of the side nearest the ground, along with the feet. This specific plank exercise targets the abs on the side of the stomach, known as the obliques.

Side plank exercise is more challenging than the traditional front plank exercise, and will require quite a bit of core strength.

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Reverse Plank

The form of a reverse plank is basically a front plank switched around.

You will have your back facing the ground with both forearms and elbows touching the ground.

It is important to remember that with all plank exercise positions, the only parts of the body to be touching the ground are the forearms, elbows, hands and feet.

The reverse plank targets just about the same muscles as the front plank.

Total Body Workout

Now the question is how to transfer this knowledge of plank exercises to the gym. Integrating planks with other exercises is highly recommended.

Though they are perfectly beneficial on their own, planks are almost always integrated into a total body workout. As with any physical activity, the success of execution depends heavily on the fitness level of the body.

For front and reverse planks, starting out with just 30 second repetitions will be more than satisfactory. The great thing about planks is that within a few weeks you’ll notice rapid improvements in the amount of time you’ll be able to hold each plank.

For seasoned plankers, a typical front plank exercise consists of two to three minute repetitions, with anywhere from five to ten sets or more. A typical side plank exercise consists of one to two minute repetitions.

This is obviously a rough guide as each individual tailors plank exercises to meet their specific demands.

Variations of Variations

One of the best aspects of planking is the many variations that can be derived from each one.

For example, to increase the abdominal workout using the front plank, slowly lift one foot of the ground and hold the position.

The same method can be utilized in all forms of planks. For more in-depth plank exercises, try incorporating medicine balls.

Imagination is key here as they can be used in a number of ways. One of the more traditional methods of incorporating medicine balls is to take the traditional plank position, while putting the feet on the medicine ball.

Another common position reverses this, and has the forearms resting on the medicine ball. More seasoned plankers incorporate movements with planks, which also add the element of endurance.

Plank Exercise Benefits

There really is no reason not to mix up a traditional strength training session with some plank exercises. Plank exercise benefits are vast.

With any plank position, you’ll be strengthening core muscles, which are essential stabilizers for the body.

You’ll soon notice lower back problems improving, along with increased abdominal definition. Without a doubt, the best way to increase strength while minimizing back problems and improving posture is plank exercises.

While traditional stomach exercises, such as crunches and sit-ups, bend and twist the spine, the plank ab exercise straightens the spine, enhancing posture.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a planks exercise is that it’s free!

No gym memberships or fancy equipment are needed for these exercises. The only necessary tools are your body and a strong will.

Because planking lack equipment, you can do them anywhere. Take a few minutes during lunch or whenever you feel stressed at the office, get down on the floor with some office calisthenics, and reap the rewards.

You’ll soon feel rejuvenated and much less tired than colleagues who stuffed themselves at lunch. The most overwhelming pro about planking is that the cons are almost non-existent.

Because of the many variations, all fitness levels can enjoy planking. They’re also free, easy and convenient.

Improve Core Strength

Everybody can benefit from plank exercises.

Athletes of all sports use planks to improve core strength, the most essential element of just about every sport.

The military also encourages plank exercises because of their quick, core strength building. Even those who participate in planking, plank exercise’s cousin, benefit core muscles.

A planking exercise, similar to the front plank, gives core abs and lower back muscles quite a workout depending on the situation.

Final Thoughts

Even if you practice plank exercises a couple times a week, you’ll be doing your body a huge favor.

Along with building strength in key muscles, you be enhancing overall body definition. Due to the nature of plank exercises, not only core muscles benefit.

During a traditional front plank, along with stomach and back muscles, you’ll be using your hamstrings, quads, traps, pecs, glutes and a number of others. It would be hard to find a muscle that is not used in some form of plank exercises.
*This article was written by professional blogger and fitness enthusiast, Nick Davey.


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  1. Thanks for this information. It is very helpful. I had heard about planks but did not understand until now. It seems that sometimes my senior citizen pushups turn into front plank exercises. I am trying to become more fit so I can be like the fitness instructor who recently retired at 80.