1. You'll improve core definition and performance
Planks engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle and the glutes. In strengthening each of these muscle groups you will notice the following:
• An increased ability to lift heavier weights.
• Improved sports performance, particularly in relation to jumping.
• Improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting.
• A supported back and a strong, shapely buttocks.
2. A decreased risk of injury in the back and spinal column
Besides enabling you to build muscle, planks ensure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. The American Council on Exercise state that doing planks regularly will significantly reduce back pain and will strengthen your muscles ensuring a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.
3. An increased boost in your overall metabolism
Planking will challenge your entire body. As a result, when practiced daily, planks will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen in this exercise will enable you to burn more energy, even if you've spent most of your day sitting down. Practicing plank for 1 minute repeatedly throughout the day (up to 10 times), will provide an enhanced metabolic rate and will ensure that your metabolic rate remains high throughout the day.
4. Posture is significantly improved
Doing planks regularly will improve your ability to stand with a straight and stable posture. Through strengthening your core, you will be able to maintain proper posture at all times, because muscles in the abdomen have a profound effect on the overall condition of your neck, shoulders, chest and back.
5. Improve overall balance
If you've ever tried to balance on one leg and were unable to do so for more than a couple of seconds, one likely reason why is because your abdominal muscles were not strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Doing planks will give your balance the boost it needs.
6. Improved flexibility
Planks expand and stretch all your posterior muscle groups, your shoulders, shoulder blades and collarbone, while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet and toes. Add a side plank to the mix enabling you to work on your oblique muscles.
7. Provides mental health benefits
Planks have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent way to boost your mood. They do so by stretching out the muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. If you spend most of your day sitting down, your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy after being bent for several hours and tension develops in your shoulders after slumping all day. Maintaining such a posture for the most part of your days will therefore put too much stress on the muscles and nerves. Planks will help calm your brain, treating anxiety as well as symptoms of depression.
Alignment Cues for a Better Plank:
1. Start on all fours. Set up your hands, ensuring that they are shoulder-distance apart. The wrists should be directly under the shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and distribute the weight evenly through the whole surface of your hand.
2. Keep your arms straight, actively pressing the mat away from you and draw the tricep muscles towards each other. As you do so, you will feel the upper back and upper arms engaged and active. Draw your shoulder blades down your spine, with your shoulders away from your ears, this creates space in your neck. Keep your chest open.
3. Keep your legs strong. Allowing your legs to relax in planks, will cause your lower back to sag - a movement you really want to prevent. So switch on your leg muscles, pressing the tops of the thighs up, lengthening the tailbone towards the heels.
4. Draw the crown of the head forward while lengthening the tail and heels back, creating a strong line of energy from your head, down to your toes.
5. Keep your breath smooth and steady.