What Muscles Do Planks Work

A plank is a full-body workout exercise that works almost all your muscles from head to toe.

It’s not a very good situation when you see yourself in the plank pose, but it’s one of the most beneficial and straightforward exercises without any equipment requirements.

At this moment, it is prevalent to think about what muscles do planks work on. Will it help you get in shape, or are you doing this exercise correctly?

What Is A Plank

A plank is a straightforward exercise that you can do even at home. This impacts your core significantly and helps build stability and strength in your body.

You can imagine yourself in a push-up position where you have stretched your arms fully, and you aren’t coming down to the ground.

You might feel it to be an easier exercise than push-up, but it can get on your nerves real quick. Try being in the plank position for 1 min.

What Muscles Do Planks Work

A plank is a proper workout exercise that targets a significant chunk of your muscles from the upper body, core, and lower body.

Upper Body 

The plank works your upper body muscles like the rhomboid(both major and minor), trapezius, pectorals(chest muscles), deltoids, biceps, serratus anterior (shoulder stabilizing muscles), and triceps. (1)

Lower Body

There is a high-level interconnection between your lower body and core muscles; this connection helps stabilize your body in the plank position.

To be very specific, plank targets your quadriceps(front part of thighs) and gluteal muscles(buttocks) connected with your lower back and abdominal muscles. This muscle combination does help increase the strength and stability of your hips. (12)

Then we have our hamstrings performing their role while working against gravity’s pull to keep our body in the plank position. As we face down, hamstrings help in the hip extension and maintain a straight line throughout the body.

Core Muscles 

You might feel all the work in a plank workout is done by your elbows and the feet(specifically toes), but core muscles are the ones playing their role the most.

Talking about the core muscles like obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis are engaging in a way to keep your body from not falling on the ground. (134)

When you are in the plank position, rectus embodiments(the topmost layer of the stomach muscles) are pretty visible, and these are the ones commonly known as “six-pack.” (5)

The transverse abdominis(the “corset” muscle) helps you cinch your waist and brings stability to your back muscles, these are present in the deep abdominal region. (56)

Read: What muscles do squats work?

Then, your back muscles like spinal erectors, inner and outer obliques are pretty engaged in the exercise. These muscles work together in keeping your ribs and hips in a stable position. (134)

As we have been saying, a plank is a full-body exercise involving most of your upper body, core, and lower body.

Summary

Most of the time, people consider plank a full-body workout, and it’s true. But being very specific, it impacts your lower back and abdominal muscles.

When we learn about such impact of a simple but not-so-simple exercise like plank, we begin to wonder how to do a perfect plank? What is the proper form for a plank?

How To Plank Like A Pro

You can find several ways of doing the plank position, but here we have the step-by-step procedure for a plank:

  1. Start by getting into the tabletop position.
  2. Your wrists should be shoulder-width apart and precisely below the shoulders while hips are correctly in line with knees.
  3. Extend your legs backward to get in a straight plank position. Hold the position while engaging your back, shoulders, abs, and glutes.
  4. It’s preferable to do this exercise in front of the mirror to check if your butt is raised. (This is a common mistake in which people keep their butt raised and their body isn’t flat)

Many people do a different form of plank,i.e., a forearm plank, in which they rest their elbows on the ground instead of their wrists.

Keep in mind that doing fewer planks with proper form is better than doing more with the wrong one. The appropriate state keeps you away from unnecessary pain or injury.

Different Types Of Plank

  1. Plank with side taps
  2. Side plank on the forearm
  3. Plank with reach under
  4. Forearm plank with knees bent

Anyone can do plank variations, whether beginner or advanced exerciser. Do not try advanced variations if you aren’t yet able to do a standard plank.

Benefits Of Doing a Plank

We have seen many benefits of performing plank exercises above also. Let’s get through them one by one.

Brings Down The risk of injury

Some core exercises can cause injuries if not done correctly. To be very specific, exercises like situps and crunches put a lot of pressure on your neck and lumbar spine. (1)

On the other hand, plank exerts less compressive forces, significantly reducing the risk of injury. (1)

A strong Killer core

You need a strong core in almost everything you do, from bending to picking something from the ground to playing golf.

Plank helps improve your muscular endurance(your muscles’ capability to do the exercise for more extended periods). It’s one of the isometric exercises, which means that your muscles are focused and exerting force while being in the same position throughout. (78)

According to a 2019 study on college athletes, the people who include planks in their daily workouts have better endurance and core strength. ( 78 )

Improved performance

While planks have a significant impact on your core muscles, they also connect your upper and lower body.

When you research athletes, the ones with great strengths and capabilities have a strong core as a common factor. It increases your power output, helps in upper body rotation, lowers your risk of injury, and impacts your running performance (12,13).

Core stabilization exercises like plank, when included in your regular workout program, can help improve your overall performance remarkably (13, 14)

What muscles do planks work

May Reduce Lower Back Pain

Studies have shown that a strong core helps reduce the risk of back injury and lower back pain. Planks help build the strength of your abdominal muscles.

The lumbar spine(lower back) is supported by the abdominal muscles, which provide structural stability and help with your pelvis movement. A stable lumbar spine helps lower down your back pain.(910,11)

But very importantly, if you are somebody who regularly faces back pain, getting an appointment with your doctor is always the best thing.

Summary

You will love to add plank into your workout routine if you want to increase your core strength, improve your athletic performance and diminish your chances of back injury.

How Long Should You Hold A Plank? 

Start by doing a plank for 15 seconds. Once you can do them, start increasing your plank time to 30, 45, 60 seconds, and so forth. Having a stopwatch timer is a great thing to keep a check. Just unlock your phone and start the timer.

And and and, do not forget to breathe. That’s one of the most common mistakes people make (They stop their breathing while in the plank position). Take deep breaths. Inhale and Exhale. Inhale and Exhale.

Focusing on your breath will distract your mind from being concentrated only on the pain and the uncomfortableness you were in.

Not able to hold a plank longer? Don’t worry! Everyone starts with zero. Practice, practice, and it will get better with time. It seriously gets better, I have been in a position unable to plank longer than 30 seconds, and now I can plank for 2 minutes after three months of regular practice.

The more you do it, the more it will develop your muscular strength to hold the position for more extended periods.

Common Mistakes While Doing Plank

Hips Near The Ground: Many people tend to lower their backs so that their bodies almost touch the ground. This is not a suitable form and can cause back pain.

Hanging Loose Stomach: If it’s difficult for you to tighten your stomach and draw your belly in during the plank, try to focus on drawing your abdominals inward.

Hunching The Back: Many people tend to hunch their back which lowers the focus on your core and decreases the effectiveness of the plank. Try to engage your body and maintain a neutral position.

Holding The Breath: This is a widespread mistake. People tend to hold their breath while doing the plank position. It makes the exercise much more complex and can put undesirable stress on your body.

Raised Butt: If you lift your butt, you shift your weight towards the upper body, not the abdominals. Tuck your pelvis forward and engage your core to prevent this weight shift.

Just be sure that the whole of your body makes a flat line, and your hips alignment is in line with your knees, feet, and shoulders.

An easy way to engage your core is to draw your belly button inward towards your spine. Maintain a neutral spine position. This activates your core muscles like the transverse abdominis deeply. (15)

SUMMARY

Just make sure you engage your core, breathe properly, and maintain a neutral spine. Keeping this in mind will ensure that you perform plank correctly and target the right set of muscles.

Final Takeaway

Plank trains your muscles all over the body and improves athleticism. Also, you can do them anywhere and anytime you feel like without any equipment.

For beginners, it’s necessary to start slow with proper form, so you target the right muscles and don’t injure themselves.

Planks are available in several variations; you can include these in your workout for any exercise level from beginner to advanced.

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