From picking up something on the floor to twisting your body to look behind you, almost every move you make requires strong core muscles. Your core is made up of many muscle groups in different parts of your body. Typically when you hear the word “core,” likely you think of your abdominal muscles. Yet, your core muscles also include muscles in your back, hips, pelvis, and buttocks.
Signs of weak core muscles can include the following:
- Poor posture
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Sore knees and hips
- Low back pain
Strong core muscles help stabilize your body before any movement you make. When core muscles are weak, the other surrounding muscles have to compensate. The longer this goes on, the more those muscles will suffer leading to lingering pain. Performing planks is your solution for helping your body learn to hold a more natural and healthy posture helping eliminate pain.
Another benefit of doing planks to build strong core muscles is that your overall core stability will improve and this means fewer issues with chronic back pain.
There is a right way to do planks to achieve the most benefit from them. It begins with keeping your back straight without letting your hips rise or say. Holding yourself in this position helps you engage your core muscles at the same time protecting your low back from stress.
The length of time to hold a plank is anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds even though some suggest up to a minute. It’s best to focus on doing multiple sets of smaller amounts of time than to try to hold a pose past two minutes.
Try to perform planks every other day if not every day. If you’re a beginner to planks, start off slowly and work your way up. Here’s a step-by-step approach to perfecting planks:
- Lie face down with your forearms on the floor on a mat or towel, with your legs extended and your feet together.
- Push into your forearms as you raise your body so it forms a straight line from your head and neck to your feet without letting your hips rise or sag.
- Keep your gaze down and hold this position as you engage your abdominal muscles. Take steady, even breaths.
- Try to maintain the position for about 10 to 30 seconds and then lower your body and rest.
- This completes one set. Work toward completing two to three sets with rest between each one.
To make planking more challenging, try alternating leg lifts during the pose; raise one leg for a second or two and then repeat with the other leg.