Why the Plank Exercise is the Best Abdominal Workout

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We’ve all been there. You feel like you’ve done all you can to get the abs that you’ve always wanted – sit-ups, crunches (both on the floor and on an exercise ball and its ENDLESS variations such as the long arm, vertical leg or reverse crunch), using the torso track or doing the captain’s chair leg raise, among others. Then you look down and it’s still there – the flab, the bulge, and still no abs. By now you’ve probably begun to experience lower back pain too due to an unhealthy combination of all that exertion and carrying around the extra front load. Or perhaps that’s not you. Perhaps you’re a pretty fit person and you just need a little bit of help toning those external obliques (love handles) and rectus abdominis (ab muscles).

If you can relate to the above description, then you probably haven’t heard of or tried plank exercise – the simplest, easiest and the best abdominal workout that can finally give you the abs you’ve been dreaming of. And you can do it anytime and practically anywhere – all you need is your body and a mat. There’s no need for any special equipment at all! Plank exercise isn’t a fad workout routine. It’s scientifically proven and has been around for ages. It’s even been featured on Oprah!

Try a basic plank exercise – lie face down on the floor, straighten your body, place your elbows closely by the side of your chest with your arms pointing forward. Then slowly raise your body using your toes and arms with your elbows ending up directly below your shoulders, remembering to keep a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold that position initially for 10 seconds, tightening your stomach as you do, then slowly lower yourself down again. Do this three times. And you’re done. After doing this a few times, add ten seconds, and another ten after, until you’re able to maintain the position for two minutes. It’s that easy. Here’s a demonstration:

Plank exercise demonstration.

Plank Raised Position

 

Lowered Plank Position

Lowered (relaxed) Plank Position

And now the side plank exercise – lie on your right side this time, with your left arm firmly planted along your side and your right elbow tucked under your shoulder and the arm facing forward. Slowly raise yourself up with your right arm, keeping your right elbow aligned with your right shoulder. As in the basic plank exercise, hold the position for 10 seconds initially, then slowly lower yourself down starting at your hip. Here’s the side plank demonstration:

Side Plank Exercise

Side Plank Extended – Demonstration

 

Side Plank Retracted

Side Plank Retracted – Demonstration

That’s all it takes! Sounds too simple? Here’s what those two plank exercises do to your body:

Your abdominal muscles are a group of six muscles and other exercises are effective in targeting the outer abdominal muscles particularly the Rectus abdominus (the muscle you want to turn into a “six-pack”) and the External obliques (located on the sides of your torso). Plank exercises not only work out those same muscles, they also reache deep down from your Internal obliques to your transverse abdominus – these are the muscles that lie beneath those two other muscles that other exercises don’t reach.

While there are other exercises you can do that can also work out all six muscles, they come with a price. For example, they may come with unwanted side effects or unexpectedly high difficulty obstacles such as lower back pain; they can be very hard to do; or they may require special equipment that can be very expensive.

Plank exercises also have added benefits. Aside from helping strengthen and tone all of your abdominal muscles, they also exercise the other parts of your body that make up what is known as your “core” muscles including your hips and the upper back muscles that protect your spine. This gives your more stability and better balance which results in a much better posture.

With all the benefits you’ll get, in addition to the fact that it’s so simple and easy to do and requires no special equipment, plank exercise is simply the best abdominal workout out option for people who are serious about toning their core and working their abs.

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