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The Power of a Single Plank

It’s the core exercise everyone should be doing.

Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash

When I was a young, naive, high school cross-country runner, I thought that doing loads of crunches would give me abs of steel and propel my race performances to new heights. I was severely mistaken.

And while my thinking may have been flawed, I did get one thing right. To become a fitter, faster, more powerful athlete, you need to have a strong core.

Once I got to college and started training at the division one level, I received a much more structured weight lifting routine, which included a series of abdominal exercises. Only, these exercises focused on efficiently strengthening the entire core. Guess what? Traditional crunches weren’t even on the list.

What did make the cut was a simple yet powerful exercise — the plank. Surprisingly, planks had never been a key part of my core routine up to this point. As it turns out, planking offers key benefits that go far beyond aesthetics or athletic performance. Thus, here are some of the main reasons why you should consider adding planks to your own workout routine.

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The plank engages a multitude of muscles.

If you think that planks only fire up your abdominal muscles, you’ll be happy to hear that they reach far beyond your core.

In fact, Runner’s World states that:

“When done the right way, plank exercises not only fire up your core, but the muscles in your shoulders and legs, too.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to optimize my time spent exercising, especially since my work days are incredibly busy, and I’m always juggling multiple projects at once.

Filling your core routine with meaningful exercises like planks could help you get the most bang for your buck. Think about it. Theoretically, you could invest the same amount of time doing crunches vs. a simple plank, but benefit far more from planking. This is because when you plank, you also work muscles in your shoulders and legs. The crunch just doesn’t engage those muscles in the same way.

It’s an extremely efficient exercise.

Most people would argue that working out harder or longer will help you get stronger and fitter. But when it comes to the plank, you don’t actually need to hold it for very long to reap the benefits.

In fact, research shows that:

“For most people, holding a plank for one minute at a time creates a resilient torso.”

Thus, the plank is an extremely efficient core exercise. One minute is all you need to strengthen your torso. When I was in college, many of the different variations of the core routine that my coach made for me included a one minute plank hold.

Furthermore,

“Long planks do more damage than good. With a four-hour plank, you’re not creating tension and strengthening your muscles — you’re just holding the position.”

Therefore, limiting your plank hold to a reasonable amount of time (i.e. 60 seconds) optimizes the exercise in terms of effectiveness as well as efficiency. It’s a double win.

3. You will improve the following immensely.

If you tend to hunch over your computer all day like me, or your posture in general just isn’t the best, a weak core certainly won’t do you any favors. Luckily, the plank can help improve your posture.

Jereme Schumacher, PT, DPT, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in San Diego, notes that:

“Strengthening and challenging your core is very important, because it will help improve different bodily postures you might find yourself in throughout the day,” Schumacher says. “Everything from picking up a heavy box, to just standing up, requires a strong core.”

As my core became stronger throughout college, so did my posture, running efficiency, and overall performance. For example, in my sophomore year, I ran a personal best of 4:56 in the one mile race. This was over ten seconds faster than the time I ran my freshman year.

While those abdominal muscles may not seem like they would play a significant role in your overall strength, that’s actually not the case. Everything is intertwined, so a strong core will only help you become a stronger individual.

Thus, by adding planks to your core routine and developing abs of steel, you’ll have better posture and perform daily physical tasks much more easily.

Final Thoughts

By performing key exercises that target your whole core, you’ll be able to properly strengthen your entire body while still optimizing your time spent working out.

I no longer waste my energy doing endless crunches. Instead, I engage in key exercises, like a one minute plank hold, which provide greater benefits for the same amount of effort.

You can do the same. Develop a routine that is made up of a variety of exercises that target your entire core, and you will also reap the rewards of improved athleticism, sports performance, posture, and overall strength.

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