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Monday, December 3, 2012

Introducing: The Plank by guest blogger Lauren LaLonde

The plank is a popular isometric exercise because it strengthens multiple muscle groups, improves balance and flexibility, stretches and strengthens the spine, and requires no special equipment. It requires maintaining one pose for an extended period of time or for intervals of time, the lengths of which vary depending on fitness level. Here’s a rundown of all the areas that will benefit from the plank exercise:*

Target body part: abs, back
Primary muscles: erector spinae, rectus abdominus (abs), transverse abdominus
Secondary muscles: trapezius (traps), rhomboids, rotator cuff, anterior and medial deltoids (delts), posterior deltoids (delts), pectorals (pecs), serratus anterior, gluteus maximus (glutes), quadriceps (quads), gastrocnemius

There are variations of the plank pose, but for the most basic one, follow these steps:

  1. Get in a pushup position, with your body forming a straight line, or plank, while your hands and toes support your weight. Alternately, you can put your forearms on the ground, beneath your shoulders and parallel to your body.
  2. Tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Maintain a neutral neck and spine. If you feel pressure on your lower back, do a slight pelvic tilt to bring your hips and glutes down.
  4. Hold the position. Don’t forget to breathe!
Click here for a photo of the pose. If this is your first time planking, try holding the pose for 10 seconds or until your hips begin to sag, then rest and repeat if desired.

You should not perform a plank if you have heart problems or high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant. As always, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your ability to do the exercise.

Fun plank fact!
The world abdominal plank record, set by George Hood on 12/3/11, is 1 hour, 20 minutes and 5.01 seconds.

*Source: American Council on Exercise.

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