We reported earlier on the five basic categories of exercise that your body needs: Push, pull, hip-hinge, squat, and plank. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but planking may be new to some people.
Planking is that group of exercises that strengthens the core: the muscles that are responsible for balance, stability, and movement of the limbs.
Planking generally refers to exercises where you raise yourself from a prone position to support your weight on your elbows and the balls of your feet. In these exercises, you generally hold the position till failure or repeat an increasing number of times.
According to a study by Pennsylvania State University…
“A routine that incorporates [planking] would be optimal in terms of maximizing strength, improving stability, reducing injury, and maintaining mobility.”
According to John Sifferman of Physical Living if you plank by properly adjusting your breathing, positioning, and muscle contractions, planking can become a full-body workout, rather than just a core exercise.
Patriot Health Report describes Sifferman’s instructions this way:
1) Breath – As you hold the position, you’ll tighten the abs, glutes, and quads. During this contraction, gently exhale until most of the air is expelled. Then passively inhale. Repeat as you hold the position longer.
2) Arms – Make sure elbows are directly below your shoulders, with your weight only on the upper arms and elbows. You should be able to freely move your forearms and hands to any comfortable position.
3) Shoulders – Pack your shoulders down into the ribcage. In other words, contract the long lats in your back to keep your shoulders firmly down in relation to your torso, not shrugged up around your neck or ears.
4) Spine – Lengthen your spine by lifting your head away from your shoulders, lengthening your neck. The spine will lengthen further when you contract the abs and glutes. Keep the spine straight and long. Don’t round the spine or extend the neck.
5) Feet – Hip-width apart is best, but as with your arms, place your feet in a position that is comfortable for you.
6) Ab and Glute Contraction- Activate the core muscles with a gentle contraction of the abs and glutes, which will result in a slight tailbone tuck. Remember to exhale.
7) Leg Drive – Don’t just balance on the balls of your feet, instead, push your feet backwards into the ground by tightening the quads (muscles on the fronts of your thighs), driving your heels backward, and locking the knees. Keep 50% of your weight on your arms and 50% on your legs, essentially pushing your arms in a forward direction and your legs in a rear direction.