What Muscles Do Planks Work? Benefits And Variations
What muscles do planks work? Planks engage multiple muscle groups throughout the body, targeting not only the abdominal muscles but also the back, shoulders, and hips.
This comprehensive activation of various muscle groups makes planks a popular choice for individuals looking to strengthen their core and improve overall body stability.
In this article, we will explore the muscles that are primarily targeted and worked during plank exercises. Understanding the specific muscles involved can help you maximize the benefits of planks and enhance your overall fitness routine.
The plank is an effective workout for toning and strengthening the upper body, abdominals, and legs.
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Even though you're supporting your weight on your arms and toes, your core is doing the bulk of the effort in a plank. Specific abdominal muscles (including the six-pack muscles) are used.
The uppermost layer of abdominal muscles is called the rectus abdominis. These muscles are usually referred to as a "six pack" when body fat percentages are low.
However, the transverse abdominis is the "corset" muscle located deep inside the abdomen. It aids in reducing the size of your waist and strengthening your back muscles.
The plank also works the spinal erectors (back muscles) as well as the inner and outer obliques. When the obliques on each side of your body are working together, they help keep your ribs and hips in place.
The plank also requires significant effort from the muscles of the upper body, including the trapezius, rhomboids major and minor, latissimus dorsi, pectorals (chest muscles), serratus anterior, deltoids, biceps, and triceps.
Because of the strong connection between your abdominal and lower body muscles, you can use both to maintain a stable plank position.
Your abs and lower back muscles benefit from working the quadriceps and gluteal muscles (front of legs and buttocks, respectively). These muscles work together to provide your hips more stability and strength.
Hamstrings are also important. In a plank posture, your body is aligned by fighting against the force of gravity. When holding a plank position, your hamstrings assist with hip extension so that your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.
Doing the plank exercise has several positive effects on one's body.
Having a strong core helps keep you steady. It serves as the hub (both physically and metaphorically) for many of your everyday activities. Your core has got you covered whether you're playing pickle ball or scooping up supermarket bags.
Strength in the core and stamina in the muscles may be greatly improved by practicing planking. An 8-week core training program enhanced collegiate athletes' static balance, core endurance, and running performance, according to a short study published in 2019.
Researchers found that having strong core muscles helped stabilize the body and reduced the amount of strain exerted on the spine.
Planking sometimes may thereby reduce the risk of future discomfort, strain, or injury, whether you're a golfer or just attempting to rearrange your living room.
When compared to other core workouts like sit-ups and crunches, planks are less taxing on the back, neck, and spine.
Planks may be helpful if you suffer from back or neck discomfort. (First, you should probably see a doctor.) Building abdominal muscle helps stabilize the spine and reduce stress.
The stability of your lower back and your capacity to shift your pelvis are both enhanced by strong abdominal muscles. Core strengthening activities, such as planks, were shown to "significantly" alleviate participants' lower back discomfort in a study conducted in 2016.
The Benefits of Plank Exercises
There are several methods for achieving the ideal plank, but here's a step-by-step guide on how to execute a high plank.
- Place your shoulders precisely above your wrists and your hips in line with your knees in a tabletop posture.
- Extend your legs back to straighten into a plank and hold, engaging your stomach, shoulders, back, and glutes.
- If possible, do the exercise in front of a mirror to ensure that your buttocks are not elevated.
Blades recommends falling to your knees instead of standing on your toes for a modified plank. Get on all fours and walk your hands forward so your body forms a slanted line from your head to your knees, like you would in a modified push-up.
Keep your feet up toward your buttocks to stimulate the glutes and hamstrings. After you've mastered this version, you may go to a forearm plank by resting your forearms on the ground.
Start with a goal of holding a plank position for 15 seconds, then gradually increase your time to 30, 45, 60, and so on. Set a timer so you don't have to keep an eye on the clock.
You won't have to carefully monitor the passage of time if you do it this way. Remember to utilize your breath as well, drawing in deep breaths and releasing them slowly.
During the time when you are feeling uncomfortable, if you keep your attention on your breath, you will be able to help put your mind at peace.
The greatest approach to keep a plank position for a longer period of time is to practice. The more often you do the exercise, the more strength and endurance you will acquire, and the longer you will be able to maintain the position for as you continue to train.
If you feel like you're ready to give up, you should force yourself to hold the plank position for a few more seconds. You can do it!
Planks are an excellent exercise for strengthening the core muscles, but like any exercise, they require proper form and technique to be effective and safe. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when doing plank exercises:
- Sagging or Dropping Hips: Allowing your hips to sag or drop is a common mistake during planks. It puts excessive strain on the lower back and reduces the engagement of the core muscles. To correct this, maintain a straight line from your head to your heels, engaging your core and glutes to keep your body in proper alignment.
- Raising Hips Too High - On the other end of the spectrum, raising your hips too high in a pike position reduces the engagement of the core and places more stress on the shoulders. Aim to maintain a neutral spine and avoid excessive elevation or sinking of the hips.
- Improper Hand Placement - Placing your hands too far forward or backward can lead to improper alignment and put strain on the wrists, shoulders, or lower back. Align your hands directly under your shoulders or use forearm planks if you experience discomfort in the wrists.
- Holding Your Breath - Holding your breath during planks restricts oxygen flow and can increase tension in the body. Remember to breathe deeply and rhythmically throughout the exercise to maintain a steady flow of oxygen to your muscles.
- Not Engaging the Core - One of the key purposes of planks is to engage and strengthen the core muscles. Failing to actively engage your core and relying solely on your arms or legs reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Focus on contracting your abdominal muscles and maintaining tension throughout the plank.
- Overarching or Rounding the Back - Excessive arching or rounding of the back can strain the spine and lead to discomfort or injury. Aim to maintain a neutral spine position, with a slight natural curve in the lower back, throughout the duration of the plank.
- Holding for Too Long - While it's important to challenge yourself, holding a plank for an excessively long time without maintaining proper form can lead to fatigue and compromised technique. Focus on quality rather than quantity and gradually increase the duration as your core strength improves.
- Neglecting Variation - Performing the same standard plank variation repeatedly can lead to plateaus and reduced effectiveness over time. Incorporate different plank variations to target different muscle groups and challenge your core in various ways.
Planks are a versatile and effective exercise for building core strength and stability. By targeting multiple muscle groups simultaneously, planks help improve posture, balance, and overall functional fitness.
If you're looking to challenge your core in different ways and enhance your plank routine, here are 10 variations to incorporate for total core strength:
This variation targets the obliques and improves lateral stability. Support your body weight on one forearm, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe.
Reverse plank primarily works the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and place your hands behind you, lifting your hips off the ground.
This variation adds instability and targets the core muscles and shoulders. While in a plank position, lift one hand off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder, alternating sides.
Spiderman plank engages the obliques and hip flexors. From a high plank position, bring your knee toward the same-side elbow, maintaining a stable core and controlled movement.
This variation challenges the core muscles while engaging the glutes and lower back. Begin in a forearm plank position and lift one leg off the ground, keeping the rest of your body stable and aligned.
Plank jacks are a dynamic variation targeting the core, shoulders, and legs. Start in a high plank position and jump your feet apart, then jump them back together, mimicking a jumping jack motion.
This variation targets the obliques and incorporates rotation. From a high plank position, bring your right knee toward your right elbow, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Dolphin plank engages the core and shoulders while stretching the hamstrings and calves. Start in a forearm plank position, then lift your hips upward, creating an inverted V shape with your body.
This variation challenges core stability while engaging the shoulders and upper back. From a high plank position, extend one arm forward, parallel to the ground, and hold for a few seconds before switching sides.
Hip dips work the obliques and improve lateral stability. From a high plank position, lower one hip toward the ground without rotating the rest of your body, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Incorporating these 10 plank variations into your workout routine will help you develop total core strength, improve stability, and enhance overall functional fitness.
Start with variations that align with your fitness level and gradually progress as you build strength and confidence. Remember to maintain proper form and technique throughout each exercise to maximize results and minimize the risk of injury.
Planks primarily target the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques.
Yes, planks also engage the back muscles, including the erector spinae, rhomboids, and trapezius, to provide stability and support during the exercise.
Planks engage the muscles of the arms, including the triceps and deltoids, as they help to support the body weight in the plank position.
While planks primarily focus on the core muscles, they also engage the leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles, to maintain stability and alignment.
Yes, planks also activate the gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, to help stabilize the pelvis and maintain proper alignment during the exercise.
What muscles do planks work? Planks are a highly effective exercise for targeting and strengthening the core muscles. By engaging the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques, planks help to improve core stability, posture, and overall body strength.
Additionally, planks also engage the muscles of the shoulders, back, and hips, providing a full-body workout. Incorporating planks into your fitness routine can contribute to improved performance in various physical activities, better posture, reduced risk of injuries, and enhanced overall body strength.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced fitness enthusiast, adding planks to your workout regimen can help you achieve a strong and stable core. Remember to maintain proper form and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your planks for optimal results.