Functional Training Series: The Plank

The plank is a core exercise. Often people refer to this category of exercises as “ab” workouts. For years the most famous “ab” exercises were the sit up or crunch. Although these two exercises may have their place in an exercise program, the plank is the best “ab” exercise. 

The plank is not just an ab exercise. It does work the abdominals which run both vertically and horizontally, but also the oblique muscles and the spinal erectors. Today many people spend many hours a week in a seated position which is a flexion position similar to a sit up or crunch. Our bodies need extension, and the plank develops extension strength and proper posture. 

In many ways the body operates as a three link chain with an upper body, middle body and lower body. Clearly if there are only three links in the chain, the middle link is most important. The body works in incorporation and integration. The plank exercise is essential to developing the connected musculature to assist the bodies’ natural design to work in an integrated manner. 

The American Council of Exercise states that the plank is one the top three exercises all people should incorporate. It does not require any equipment other than one’s own body. Planks should be performed 2-3 days per week for 3 sets of 20-60 seconds. The plank can be modified to decrease or increase difficulty very easily.

These are the steps to the basic plank. 

1. Lie face down on mat resting on forearms, palms flat to the floor.

2. Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on elbows.

3. Keep your black flat, in a straight line from head to heels.

4. From the ankle joints to the shoulder joints the body should be one straight line without any sagging or rising at the hips / glutes. 

Refer to the following videos to observe proper plank technique as well as plank modifications:

Plank School with Jonathan Ross

Plank Variations -