Planks are one of the most popular forms of core exercise. We have learned a great deal about the body since the time planks were invented. There are several major misconception that have developed over the decades about why they are part of exercise programs and what they can do for you. Your time is valuable, your energy is even more valuable and your body is one of your most valuable resources you have. Let’s take a big step back and look at the what why and how of planks.
- What they do:
- Planks are thought to strengthen the core muscles, to help treat and prevent back pain.
- They strengthen the core muscles but that does not mean they improve the function of the core muscles to do their job in movements of daily life.
- Isolating the core muscles teaches them to work alone, not with the rest of your body as they are designed to do.
- The position of planks puts the spine in a position of strain by asking it to do something it is not designed to do. While your body can do the movement, its like asking a dog to walk on its hind legs – they can do it but its not how they are designed to move and over time it will cause greater wear and tear.
- Why they are popular:
- Core exercises are often marketed as a way to slim and chisel your middle.
- Your body does not burn belly fat when you do core exercises. Its just not the way your body works. Core exercises do not reduce fat around your middle.
- They are hard to do, painful even, giving the impression they are ‘good’. Pain is inflammation and strain, slowing the process of growing stronger. Pain does not mean gain, it means something needs to change.
- How to get what you are trying to get from planks:
- The whole purpose of exercise is to function better so you feel better as you move in daily life.
- The way the body gets stronger is very specific to the exercise you do for strength
- The way to a strong core is to use all the muscles there together (including your pelvic floor) to support the center of your body while you are doing movements that mimic daily life movements.
- To reduce fat around your middle, science says reduce cortisol and other stress hormones, do cardiovascular exercise and raise your metabolism through strength training.
- To use your core to prevent back pain:
- Practice using your core muscles to support your spine when you move in daily life. Use your brain to turn on your core muscles with every movement you do, while allowing your breath to move freely. This takes practice but a much more practical use of your exercise time than planking. 🙂
- When you are not moving, put your spine in a position it can hold you up with ease so those muscles are not working and can rest and recharge. Avoid holding in your stomach in when those muscles don’t need to work so they can recharge their strength for when you do need them.
Take this same approach with any exercise that has been around a while and look at it with a new, practical and functional perspective so you can keep moving, with less strain and more strength.
Keep Moving, Be Well