Plank pose is a very basic pose used as a core and upper body strength builder in Yoga as well as other fitness regimes. Plank is truly a foundational pose – not only does it bestow you with the power and strength to hold your body together when staying in a pose, it also helps you to achieve grace when making transitions during your practice.
Performed correctly & consistently it has many benefits:
- Strong wrists, arms and shoulders.
- Strong and toned abdominals.
- Quads strength builder.
- Great for spinal support and strengthening and a better posture.
- Builds up wrist integrity.
- Improves nervous balance and develops a sense of inner equilibrium and harmony.
Which muscles it works on:
As you must have figured out by now that holding the plank pose stretches and strengthens many muscle groups at the same time. If you spend the bigger part of your day sitting in a chair, planks can be a wonderful way to achieve a full body strengthening. Starting from the top, it lengthens the neck, builds up the strength in your shoulders and your biceps. Moving along, it also works on the chest although this is a secondary muscle group that is worked. One of the major muscle groups that we work in planking are the abdominals. And obviously we work the muscle groups directly on the opposite side of the abs – the lower back muscles. Moving along, we are also working on our buttocks, thighs and calf muscles. So there, you have it. An end-to-end work out and you do not need an equipment other than your body to reap the benefits.
But in order to achieve these benefits, it’s important that the pose is executed correctly. I once heard a teacher saying – “hold your plank stiff as a board but light as a feather”. And this is what I practice and teach now. When you find the correct alignment in plank, there’s a clear line of energy running from the crown of your head through your hips and your heels.
How to Plank:
- Begin on hands and knees with wrists below the shoulders and knees below the hips.
- Grasping the mat with your toes stretch the feet back until the body is straight. Scoop your tailbone slightly in.
- Engage your abdominals, press down flat into the palms and lengthen the neck.
- Focus your gaze at a fixed point to the front so that you lengthen your neck in line with the spine.
Do not practice if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or hernia or if you have a history of degenerative lower back problems.
The 5-minute Plank Challenge:
I have put together a five minute plank workout plan that you can try out. It uses relative inactivity to challenge the abdominal muscles and strengthen them. To get the maximum benefits, tense your abdominal muscle group in each pose. So just five minutes a day and you get strong abs, strong core, more power, better coordination, stronger arms and shoulders plus you look more toned. Here’s how to execute:
- High Plank – hold for 30 seconds
- Elbow Plank – hold for 30 seconds
- Wide Legged Plank – hold for 30 seconds
- Superman Plank – hold for 30 seconds
- 3-Legged Plank – 30 seconds on each side
- Knee To Elbow Plank – 30 seconds on each side
- Side Plank – 30 seconds on each side
In your practice, try to consciously find pockets of tension and relax them. As always, listen to your body and approach each pose carefully and respectfully. Good luck planking!