The full body benefits of the plank exercise
Updated: Oct 31, 2018
The plank has been gaining more and more attention in the last several years, and there are plenty of good reasons for that:
Not only is the plank one of the most easily-modifiable exercises out there, but you can also do it anywhere, and you need absolutely no equipment. Plus, the plank is an incredibly effective movement and when done properly, delivers tons of amazing benefits.
Let’s see what they are.
Planks improve your posture
The plank is primarily known as a core-training exercise, but its effects are far greater than just that. This simple movement trains your entire body, and more importantly, strengthens and develops your upper and lower back, shoulders, rotator cuffs, and trapezius.
These muscle groups play an important role and strengthening them will result in you having a good posture: shoulders back, chest up, and neck in line with your torso.
Planks reduce the risk of injury
Due to the nature and effectiveness of the exercise, the plank is considered to be one of the crucial elements of developing core stability.
Research has found that individuals who exhibit low-back pain also suffer from a lack of strength and an inability to properly engage their core muscles (1, 2, 3, 4). Current research and literature are largely in agreement that a strong and stable core reduces the risk of injuries (5, 6).
Planks reduce low back pain
There is a fair bit of research that has looked at the relationship between core stability and treatment/prevention of low back pain. Without a doubt, researchers agree:
Strengthening and stabilizing the core musculature helps reduce or prevent low back issues (7, 8, 9, 10). A notable systematic review from 2016 looked at a total of 14 studies (11). The researchers looked at core stability and the role it plays in low back pain. They concluded that core stabilizing exercises significantly reduced low back pain, by nearly 80%!
4. Planks effectively increase trunk strength, core stability, and muscle endurance
Transverse abdominis is a deeply-rooted core muscle that resembles a weight belt. This muscle is beneath the abdominals and obliques and is often left underdeveloped and underused by most people.
Research suggests that eight weeks of core stabilizing training (exercises including, but not limited to planks) resulted in superior activation of the transverse abdominis (12). The researchers also suggested:
When compliant with the exercises, such a program may increase trunk strength and muscle endurance.
Strengthening your core and learning how to engage your transverse abdominis properly will not only reduce your risk of suffering from an injury, but it will also make you more athletic and better able to handle heavy weights.
Planks are safe and beginner-friendly
Traditional flexion and extension of the torso (think sit-ups) can do more harm than good because they’ve been shown to create a great compressive force in the spine (13). This is especially true when the exercise is not done properly, or the motion is repeated numerous times, as is often the case for beginners.
The plank, on the other hand, is a much safer, less dynamic movement that poses reduced risk for spinal or another injury. In fact, the plank is probably the safest movement (or non-movement if you like that term!) you can do, especially when it comes to strengthening your core.
The plank is also very simple to learn, and every good trainer out there should be able to teach you how to perform it within 10 minutes or so.
Alternatively, you can perform the plank using the free FlawlessPlank app – and let it do the work of monitoring your form and guide you as you hold a #FlawlessPlank!