A defined midsection and strong core are common hallmarks of an effective fitness routine. The core is made up of several muscles, including the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus. In addition to flexing the torso, the core stabilizes and protects the spine.
The plank is one of the best exercises for the oft-neglected transverse abdominis and requires little to no equipment, is simple to learn, and can be scaled according to someone’s fitness level.
Table of Contents
- 1 The 5 Best Plank Benefits
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
- 3 Other Exercise Posts
- 3.1 The Top 5 Bench Press Muscles Worked
- 3.2 The 7 Best Compound Chest Exercises
- 3.3 Leg Extension Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.4 How to Bench Press with Perfect Form
- 3.5 How to Front Squat with Proper Form
- 3.6 Side Plank Benefits, Form, and Muscles Worked
- 3.7 Barbell Row Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Form
- 3.8 Arnold Press Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.9 Hack Squat Muscles Worked and Benefits
- 3.10 Inverted Row Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.11 The Top 6 Muscles Worked by Glute Bridges
- 3.12 Lat Pulldown Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.13 The 8 Main Muscle Groups Worked by Squats
- 3.14 Front Squat Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.15 Incline Bench Press Muscles Worked and Benefits
- 3.16 The Top 10 Muscles Worked by Planks
- 3.17 Arnold Split Workout + Example Spreadsheet
- 3.18 How to Deadlift with Proper Form
The 5 Best Plank Benefits
- Strengthens the core
- Reinforces good posture
- Requires no equipment
- Easily modified
- Engages several muscle groups
Here are the top 5 benefits of plank exercises:
Strengthens the core
Unlike most abdominal exercises, such as crunches, sit-ups, and leg raises, the plank strengthens all core muscles through isometric contractions. This means that the muscles aren’t lengthening and shortening but are holding a static contraction.
A traditional plank specifically targets the transverse abdominis, which is critical in pelvic stability and creates abdominal wall tension. Other plank variations emphasize other muscles of the core. For example, a side plank engages more external and internal oblique muscles than a traditional forearm plank. Regardless of the plank variation, the entire core will be firing to maintain that position.
Reinforces good posture
Weak core muscles are often associated with poor posture, including an anterior pelvic tilt, where the pelvis is rotated forward, causing the spine to curve. Anterior pelvic tilt is common in people who sit for an extended period of time. This postural deviation can quickly lead to knee, hip, or back pain, weak glutes, tight hip flexors, decreased performance, and higher injury risk.
Beyond building an aesthetic midsection, planks can help improve overall posture by correcting anterior pelvic tilt. When performing a plank, it’s important to contract the core and glutes simultaneously to create a posterior pelvic tilt and keep the body in a straight line.
A good cue for this position is “tuck the tailbone,” which adds more challenge but makes the plank more effective by engaging the core properly.
Requires no equipment
If you have some floor space, the plank can be performed anywhere. The plank exercise is challenging enough for most people with just their body weight. This feature makes it easier to track progress because there’s no variance in equipment to account for.
That said, some people use equipment to make the plank more or less challenging, but it’s not a requirement. We only recommend a mat or padded floor to make it more comfortable on your hands, forearms, and/or elbows and a stopwatch to keep track of the time.
Along with virtually no equipment required to perform a plank, this exercise can be modified to suit the person’s fitness level regardless of experience.
Here are some plank variations listed from easiest to most difficult: knee forearm plank, straight-arm plank, forearm plank, straight-arm plank, forearm to full plank, side plank, walking plank, plank with shoulder tap, and leg lift planks. Try one variation with proper form for 30 seconds or more, then increase the challenge by trying a more difficult one.
Engages several muscle groups
In addition to the abdominal muscles, the plank trains the glutes, quads, upper and lower back, shoulders, serratus anterior, and chest muscles. Depending on the plank position, you may also engage other muscles.
Frequently Asked Questions
The plank exercise is great for correcting and/or preventing anterior pelvic tilt because it doesn’t actively engage the hip flexors. Many ab exercises are performed incorrectly, resulting in the hip flexors taking over the movement.
This can further increase core weakness, low back pain, and hip flexor tightness, leading to a worse anterior pelvic tilt. The plank engages the abdominal muscles and glutes simultaneously, arguably the best way to learn how to correct an anterior pelvic tilt.
Reducing fat in one area by doing specific exercises, also known as spot reduction, is a myth. However, a plank exercise can help you learn how to draw in your waist properly by contracting specific abdominal muscles. It also increases muscle mass and core definition, so you may get away with a higher body fat percentage and still have visible abs.
Increasing the difficulty is a good idea once you can hold a plank position for 30 seconds or more. To increase core strength, it’s better to do multiple sets of 30-second holds rather than increase the duration of time. Having plank exercises in your exercise routine consistently is the most effective way to improve core strength.