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
- Have a wrist watch or clock nearby to track time
- Place forearms on floor, shoulder distance apart (see above) and elbows directly below the shoulders as demonstrated below
- 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
For a more challenging workout: In the plank position, alternately lift and move each leg outwards (see demonstration below)
The 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!
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