Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will probably never go out of fashion.
KPLR’s ‘Doctor Is In’, Dr. Sonny Saggar, is here to talk about this simple exercise that’s quick, free and simple, if not always easy.
- Dr. Saggar, why are planks so effective?
2. What’s the main benefit of doing planks?
Your abdominal muscles provide support for your trunk and upper body, just like your back and spinal column do.
I like to think of the abdominal muscles like a ‘front spine’ which, unlike your real spine (made of bone and already strong and tough), needs to be constantly hardened and tempered!
So the stronger your abdominal wall muscles, in your core, the less likely you’ll experience back pain and back injuries, because you’re SHARING THE LOAD between the abdominal muscles and the back.
Doing plank exercises every day is a great way to strengthen your core, and in doing so, help support your spine.
1. Specifically which muscles are helped by doing planks, and what do these muscles do?Planks engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle, and the glutes.
All of these groups serve their own purpose.
If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:
- Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights. These muscle fibers wrap around your spine to help keep them stable.
- Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
- Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
- Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely bottom!
2. Is it safe to do planks?Yes they’re safe. Planks allow you to build muscle while making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips.
According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces and prevents back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.
3. Doing planks aren’t exactly cardio, are they?Actually, planks will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups!
The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a daily basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when you’re not doing anything!
This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer.
Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you’re asleep).
4. Do planks improve your posture?Doing planks greatly improves your ability to stand with straight and stable posture. Through strengthening your core you will be able to maintain proper posture at all times because muscles in the abdomen have a profound effect on the overall condition of your neck, shoulders, chest and back.
5. What about balance?If you can’t stand on one leg for more than a couple of seconds, it’s because your abdominal muscles aren’t strong enough to give you the balance you need.
Side planks and planks with extensions will boost your balancing skill.
6. And flexibility?
Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shoulders, shoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes.
With a side plank added into the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.
7. Any other benefits of planking?Plank exercises have a particular effect on our minds, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood.
Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves.
The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.
Now, the last thing left to do is to give you a sample plank exercise you can do to achieve great results in only 5-10 minutes a day.
Here is a great infographic that shows some of the best plank exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:
Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.
Here’s a 30 day ‘plank challenge’ for my family, friends and patients:
Complete a front & side plank (both sides) every day for the time specified on the calendar.
1. Start in a pushup position and then slowly lower your forearms to the ground
2. Ensure that your elbows are lined up under your shoulders.
3. Keep your abs & glutes tight and lifted.
4. Do NOT let your hips sag. Do NOT arch your back.
5. Keep a neutral neck and spine
“Dr. Saggar is an emergency and urgent care physician, and he’s also an internist.
You can reach him at STLHealthWorks.com or STLPrimaryCare.COM, or
Twitter @DoctorIsInSTL | Facebook: DoctorIsInSTL | Blog: DoctorIsInSTL.com”