If you haven’t tried planking, you may be missing out on the most efficient exercise you could do. We’re not talking about the fad of hanging out in odd places imitating an ironing board. “Planking,” as an exercise, is not even in the same position as the fad. Planking is raising yourself from a prone position to hold your weight on your elbows and the balls of your feet. Research shows it is an extremely effective core exercise.
Pennsylvania State University published a study that showed forearm plank exercises result in more than twice the muscle activity of traditional exercises. The study says “a routine that incorporates [planking] would be optimal in terms of maximizing strength, improving stability, reducing injury, and maintaining mobility.”
However, John Sifferman , of Physical Living has developed instructions for refining the basic forearm plank so that it does much more than just strengthen the core. According to Sifferman, by adjusting your breathing, positioning, and muscle contractions, planking becomes a full-body workout.
The pose is so efficient that you may feel benefits starting with only 30 second intervals:
7 Steps to Turning Planking into a Full-Body Workout
Regulate Your Breathing
1) Breathing – As you plank, you’ll be contracting your abs, glutes, and quads. During this contraction, gently exhale as much as as possible, then passively inhale.
Get the Correct Positioning
2) Arms – Place elbows directly below shoulders. Keep your weight over your elbows, so that you can freely move your forearms and hands.
3) Shoulders – Push your shoulders down, so that they are not shrugged up under your neck or ears.
4) Spine – Lengthen your spine and neck, without rounding the spine or extending the neck.
5) Feet – Choose a foot position that is comfortable for you, but try to keep your feet at least hip-width apart.
Putting it Together with the Right Muscles
6) Ab and Glute Contraction- As you begin to slowly exhale, gently contract the abs and glutes, causing the slight tailbone tuck that will help to lengthen the spine. When you have exhaled as completely as possibly, passively allow the lungs to inhale.
7) Leg and Forearm Drive or “Arch” – Pay special attention to this move: Rather than simply balancing on the balls of your feet, create a slight push backwards, driving your feet backward, while at the same time, creating a slight push forward, as if pushing your forearms forward. Try to keep 50% of your weight on your arms and 50% on your legs.
Throughout the exercise, keep the body essentially straight while feeling the muscles maintain this “arch” of tension. Good luck!