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Call me crazy, but I quite like the plank. I’ve always found it… relaxing – a break mid-cardio-frenzy, a “lie down and pretend to be dead” without actually lying down – and only your tum dying.
It’s WAY more than that though…
“A plank may seem like a simple core exercise, but it’s actually a really complex isometric full-body move (static contraction), so while you may feel it most in your core, it also stimulates the shoulders, chest, glutes and quadriceps,” explains internationally qualified master trainer and Fit Girl Training Method creator Aneeka Buys. “It won’t give you those washboard abs,” she says, “but if a flat, strong belly is what you’re looking for, this is the move for you!”
A chill move that chisels. Excellent…
It sounds like the logical thing to do when A) You’ve been toying with finding something that gets you away from your desk but that The Boss will also admire you for (win) and B) You covet flat tums almost as much as peachy bums. A daily plank it would be then. With friends roped in for the motivation factor. (I am nothing without them.)
But first, exactly how to do a plank
“Keep your spine straight,” says Buys. “Your head should be positioned naturally and your core engaged so your hips don’t dip lower than your shoulders (or lift too high). We want to keep good joint alignment – shoulders, hips, knees and ankles all in one straight line.”
And how long should you hold it for max results?
It really depends on your muscle endurance and genetics, but the time is actually irrelevant. The goal is always to strengthen – without hurting yourself. “You should be able to plank with good form and without any sharp pain in your core or lower back. Adding time in 10 second increments until it becomes really challenging is a good way to start,” says Buys.
30 days, 30 planks
We started out with a gentle 30 seconds and worked our way up, adding an extra 10 seconds daily. Besides the ab eina (it really, really works!), I found the simple act of planking, stopping everything else and doing a really focused move like that, really pulled me towards myself again – and it worked way better than, say, having another damn coffee when you’re already long past the buzz benefits, or worse: scrolling through social media. That stuff just scrambles your brain, man.
I was more efficient at work. Calmer. Sharper. Faster. And my tum was reaping all the benefits of being targeted on the regular.
What my planking pals thought…
“I felt the daily planks. Afterwards my muscles would feel worked and I’d often have an increased heart rate and even feel a bit light-headed,” says personal trainer with Sudor and owner of The Fit Nerd, Wanita Nicol, of her month-long plank fest. The biggest benefit was the break from the grind, though. “It was a lot more stimulating than just going for tea. When I got back to my desk my mind felt clearer, more alert and more focused. I felt sharper. And I felt like cobwebs had been dusted off my stiff-from-sitting body. I always worked more efficiently after planking.”
“I feel like my abs got stronger,” said Leigh Champanis-King, now a freelance copy editor and writer, of her team challenge. “I think it’s always beneficial (for the mind, body and soul) to take a quick exercise break at work. Doing a plank every day gave me a few minutes to take my mind off of work and, when we were done, I could return to it with renewed focus.
“As always, working out (and suffering) together is great for team morale and we bonded through the shared trauma of doing a 100+ second plank. It’s also really rewarding to set a task/goal and to achieve it day after day – doing that last plank felt like such an accomplishment!”
Amy Hopkins, now the owner of Amy Hopkins Media, agreed: “My core has certainly gotten stronger and I can see my ab lines are more defined – the planking in combination with running has done it! It was also a great way to just re-energise the mind before getting back to work.”
So we chose well then?
“You will definitely develop a strong transverse abdominus doing planks,” says Buys. But you can make even faster, more noticeable overall ab progress if you add variations. She suggests tossing in lateral planks and rotational movement.
Some quick biology for those who require a more detailed explanation for The Boss when she finds you on the floor attempting the above (if she hasn’t already noticed you’re ON FIRE with that latest report): “The core is made up of four muscles – the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominus (the pretty abs, or six-pack!), the internal obliques and external obliques. Although the transverse abdominus is the most important part of the core to exercise, it doesn’t operate independently from the rest of the core muscles.”
So while it’s important to switch it up, this seemingly-not-so-humble move is definitely a good place to start. Over time, you’ll flatten your tum, chill the F out, learn how to refocus fast – and, yeah, maybe even plank yourself to a promotion.