No expensive equipment, no fitness membership required, and just as effective – it’s no surprise that home fitness and weight training are growing in popularity. Another benefit of self-weight workouts is that you can do them practically anywhere. The plank exercise, also known as forearm support in Germany, is without a doubt one of the most effective self-weight exercises. It not only stresses the abdominal and arm muscles, but also the legs and buttocks and is an asset to any training plan. How to do a plank correctly, what are the most common mistakes and many plank exercise variants and a plank challenge can be found right in our article!
The plank is a classic isometric exercise. This means that you put yourself in a certain position and then stop moving for a certain time. This is a special form of strength training in which the muscles are effectively trained by tension. Done correctly, the plank exercise has a number of benefits. It ensures better posture, tightens the stomach, reduces back pain and improves our endurance and stamina. In addition, the exercise has so many variants, with which different muscle groups are trained and you can challenge yourself again and again, that it is guaranteed never to be boring.
Plank exercise correct execution for best results
The forearm support is an excellent way to train all important muscle groups at once in a very short time. Mainly the abdominal muscles are used. But in order to maintain the position, the shoulder, chest, back, buttocks and leg muscles are also tensed. As with all workouts, quality comes before quantity with the Plank exercise. You can only achieve good training results if you do them as correctly as possible. In addition, improper execution can result in injury to the back and spine. There is no single answer to the question of how long to hold a plank. If you are a beginner, we recommend starting with shorter sets of around 20-30 seconds and gradually increasing the length of time.
And this is how the correct plank exercise goes:
- Lie on an exercise mat and place your elbows shoulder-width apart under your shoulders. Tighten your belly button and tense your stomach.
- Now slowly lift the entire body with the tips of your toes and forearms, making sure that it forms a straight, horizontal line.
- Make sure there is a 90 degree angle between your forearms and upper arms.
- To straighten your neck, look down.
- Then hold the position for as long as you can while breathing deeply in and out.
- It is important that the body does not sag and that the back, stomach, shoulders, legs and buttocks remain very tense at all times.
What are the forearm support benefits for our health?
The plank is not only the ideal exercise to train the whole body and all major muscle groups at once, but it also offers plenty of benefits for our health.
- Plank exercise for a strong back – The forearm support primarily strengthens the lower area of the back. Strengthening this part of the body is also particularly important for everyday life. This improves our movements and enables us to carry and lift heavy loads. In addition, the plank exercise helps relieve and prevent back pain.
- Reduces the risk of injury to the back and spine – More and more people suffer from a herniated disc at a young age. Planks strengthen the back muscles and ensure that not too much pressure is exerted on the spine and that this is relieved. Especially for people who have to sit all day, the risk of back pain is significantly reduced.
- Stimulates the metabolism – Unlike other abdominal muscle exercises such as crunches or sit-ups, planks work on several muscle groups at the same time. Strengthening the entire body brings another great benefit – a faster metabolism. With just 5 to 10 minutes a day, not only is the metabolism stimulated, but the heart rate is also increased in retirement. This in turn leads to higher calorie burning.
- Planks for better posture – Regular planks strengthen the function of the spine and core muscles. This has a positive effect on posture and thereby our coordination is improved and back pain is prevented. In addition, people with good posture look healthier, more confident, and slimmer.
- The plank exercise has a stress-relieving effect and ensures a better mood – Regular planks and workouts ensure that the production of the happiness hormone in the brain is stimulated. The reason for this is that precisely those muscle groups are used with the plank that we tense most frequently during stress and psychological stress. If you have to sit in a chair all day, it often leads to tense shoulders, a stiff back and pain in your legs. These are all conditions that put a strain on the muscles and nerves. By adding the Plank exercise to your daily routine, stress will be relieved and symptoms of depression and anxiety will be alleviated.
The most common mistakes in planking
Although the plank exercise looks very simple at first glance, very often it is done incorrectly. In the worst case, incorrect execution can lead to serious injuries to the back and joints. Below are the most common plank mistakes.
- The body does not form a straight line – Fitness newbies in particular, who do not yet have enough strength in their abdominal muscles, tend to let their upper body sag. This reduces the effectiveness and the hollow back that arises puts a lot of strain on the lower back. Therefore, it is recommended that you start with shorter sessions until you learn to keep your body in a straight line from shoulders to feet.
- High buttocks – By stretching your buttocks too high in the air, the tension in the abdominal muscles is reduced, which in turn reduces the training effect and is more likely to be counterproductive. To avoid this mistake, try to keep your bottom so low that the body forms a straight line.
- Incorrect head position – Many people tend to look up or down while planking. This creates a lot of tension in the neck area and can cause uncomfortable tension or even injuries. The neck should also be in a neutral, straight line with the body. Try to keep your eyes on the floor and straighten your neck as much as possible.
- Bent knees relieve the gluteal muscles and lead to decreased body tension. Try to keep your legs nicely straight.
- Shifted hands and arms – Especially with a high plank on the hands, the angle between the upper body and the upper arms is often increased in order to reduce the tension a little. Try not to straighten your arms too much and try to keep them at right angles to the floor.
Create more variety with different plank exercise variants
The plank exercise is very versatile not only in terms of its health and body benefits, but also in terms of the myriad of ways in which it can be performed. Each variation activates and trains different muscle groups. Here are some of the most popular and effective exercises to add to your home exercise routine.
- Side plank is ideal for exercising the lateral abdominal muscles. In addition, a study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine found that the side forearm support reduced the curvature of the spine in people with scoliosis. Lie on your side and lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line. If necessary, you can put your other hand on the floor for more balance. Hold the position for a certain time and then switch to the other side. To increase the level of difficulty, try dynamically raising and lowering your hips or incorporating a rotational movement. Rotation plank is done by extending the arm up and then below the waist.
- Reverse plank specifically trains the bottom and lower body. Sit on an exercise mat and place your hands palm down under your shoulders. Now lift your thighs and buttocks off the floor and slowly push your whole body upwards. Hold the position for a period of time. So that it doesn’t get too boring, you can alternately stretch your legs upwards. Try to do about 10 repetitions on each leg.
- Stretch arms and legs – It is a wonderful variation of the plank exercise to train the shoulders and glutes. Go to the starting position of the classic high plank and alternately stretch your arms slowly forward until you are horizontal. Lift the diagonal leg slightly off the floor to activate the gluteal muscles.
- Plank exercise with leg raises – Starting in the classic plank position, lift your leg a few inches off the floor and hold it for a few seconds.
- One-legged forearm support with leg adduction and abduction is one of the most effective self-weight exercises for lean and firm thighs. Go into the classic plank and lift one leg off the floor. Then move it slowly outwards and back again so that it crosses the other leg. Above all, make sure that the whole body remains tightly tensed.
- Side plank with crunches mainly stresses the oblique abdominal muscles and the lower back and is more suitable for advanced users. Start with the side plank, place your lower leg on your knee and bend it back slightly. The upper leg remains raised and the upper hand is behind the head. Now take your leg and arm together so that your knees and elbows are drawn towards each other. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise about 8-10 times on each side.
- Mountain climbers are a classic exercise for the abdominal muscles, train our endurance and are actually a dynamic variant of the classic plank. Start from the classic high plank position and then quickly pull your legs towards your chest. It is particularly important to make sure that the body forms a straight line while moving.
- Plank Jacks are another dynamic variant of the plank exercise and stimulate fat burning even more. Start in the classic forearm support and place your feet a little wider than your hips. Then jump with your legs and immediately jump back to the starting position.
And how about a plank challenge for 30 days?
The main aim of the Plank Challenge is to do the plank exercise for 30 days, with the amount of time increasing from day to day. Since the first results in the abdominal area are already visible after a few days, it is certainly worth the effort to try the Plank Challenge. This not only tightens the entire body, but also increases endurance and stamina. If you wish, you can take a day of rest every 10 days so that the body can rest and the muscles can regenerate.
- Day 1: 10 seconds
- Day 2: 20 seconds
- Day 3: 30 seconds
- Day 4: 40 seconds
- Day 5: 50 seconds
- Day 6: 1 minute
- Day 7: 70 seconds
- Each day up to day 30, increase the time by 10 seconds at a time until you can hold the plank for 5 minutes at the end of the challenge.