Five Top Benefits of Planks
Planking involves holding your body off the ground in a straight line. To perform one, start off on your hands and knees, then lower your forearms to the floor so your arms form a 90-degree angle.
Move your feet back and, with only your toes on the ground, hold your body and legs stiff. Be sure that your low back is not sagging, your knees are straight and your abs are tightened. Now hold for at least 30 seconds. What can you gain from this straightforward bodyweight exercise (which uses your own weight to provide resistance)?
1. Strong Core Muscles — Planks not only work your transversus abdominis muscles, which are the deepest layer of abdominal muscles, and other primary core trunk muscles, they elicit the greatest activation compared to other exercises like a traditional trunk flexion and extension exercise.
In fact, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that "the forearm plank variations required over two times the average activity of the rectus abdominus, external abdominal oblique and lumbar erector spinae," than another core exercise, which suggests they may "be optimal in terms of maximizing strength, improving stability, reducing injury and maintaining mobility."1
2. Reduced Back Pain —Because planks build up your core, they're excellent for preventing back pain. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), "Because the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, it is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain. As the deep abdominal muscles become stronger, your midsection tightens."2
Further, research shows that exercise focused on activating the deep trunk muscles, such as planks, may be beneficial for low back pain.3
3. Increased Balance and Flexibility — Planks target the muscles needed for proper posture, stability and balance. According to Dwight Chapin, team chiropractor for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, "Planks strengthen the muscles that make holding a neutral spinal posture possible, reducing the stress to your back even when sitting.
Improved abdominal strength and core stability will also enhance your balance and flexibility, making your movements more efficient and reduce the risk of injury."4
4. Improved Athletic Performance — Endurance plank tests are associated with measures of athletic performance, and being able to hold a plank longer may be a marker for better endurance as well an ability to quickly change directions (such as while playing soccer).5
5. Better Posture — Planking requires engaging the muscles necessary to stay upright and maintain proper posture, including your back, chest, shoulders abs and neck. According to Glenn Wright, professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, "They [planks] maintain the stability of the core muscles, which support proper posture by safeguarding an erect position and proper alignment of the spine."
Five Top Benefits of Pushups
Pushups share some commonalities with planks, including keeping your body stiff and straight during the exercise. Planks are sometimes described as a pre-pushup. From the plank position, but with your palms flat on the ground and elbows straight, lower your body all the way down, allowing your sternum to gently touch the floor.
Next, do a full range of motion by pushing up all the way with your elbows, paying attention to their alignment. The ideal angle from your sides is about 45 degrees. In the video at the top of the page, Darin Steen demonstrates the perfect pushup.
You'll notice that it's a slow, controlled movement with a three-second contraction. Control is key, as an improperly performed pushup will not yield the same benefits. However, done correctly, pushups can offer many benefits, including the following:
1.Build Strength — Pushups target your chest muscles, shoulders, back of your arms, abdominals and the serratus anterior (the muscles under your armpits), simultaneously. A typical pushup requires you to lift 50 to 75 percent of your body weight,7 which will help you build strength8 in your upper body and core.
2.Protect Your Shoulder Joint — Weak muscles around your shoulder joint leave it vulnerable to injury. Pushups target the shoulder muscles, building strength and helping to protect the area from stress and injury.
3.Boost Your Metabolism — Bodyweight exercises like pushups work multiple muscle groups at the same time, requiring your heart to work harder and ultimately raising your metabolic rate for increased fat burning and weight loss. As noted by the National Personal Training Institute:9
"When done properly, pushups are a great metabolism booster because of the inherent physical exertion needed to perform them properly.
As your muscles call for more oxygen, your heart responds by pumping blood around the body faster to deliver the goods. The increased metabolic rate helps you burn more calories and you've started a cycle of the gift that keeps on giving."
4.Build Stronger Bones — Weight-bearing exercise like pushups is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis, because as you put more tension on your muscles it puts more pressure on your bones, which then respond by continuously creating fresh, new bone.
5.Tone and Strengthen Your Arms — In a study evaluating eight triceps exercises commonly used by people looking to tone their arms, the triangle pushup was among the most effective, as it registered the highest levels of muscle activation. Cedric X. Bryant, ACE chief science officer, explained:10
" … [T]riangle pushups not only produced high levels of muscle activation, but these exercises can be safely performed by the vast majority of exercisers, require little to no equipment and a relatively short amount of time to produce a positive result when included in a regular fitness routine.
These exercises are the perfect example of how fitness can be achieved, no matter how limited on time or access to equipment an individual may be."
A triangle pushup is performed similar to a standard pushup, except your hands are placed in a triangle shape on the floor, with your index fingers and thumb touching to form a triangle.