CFC Blog - Benefits of a Perfect Plank

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The plank is one of the best exercises for strengthening the core. When people talk about the core muscles of the body they often just think about the abdominal muscles. The word core relates to deep and central (think apple core). It is a complex combination of several different muscles: transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and several other key muscles. These muscles are responsible for the movement, stability, and support of the spine (trunk). To help you better understand the benefit of strong core muscles, the following chart explains the movements of the trunk and the muscles involved.

Trunk Movement Explanation Primary Muscle(s)
Flexion Bend forward Rectus Abdominis
Extension Stand straight up from a bent position Erector Spinae
Rotation Twist right & Twist left at waist Internal & External Obliques
Lateral Flexion Bend to the side Obliques & one side of the Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae & Quadratus Lumborum
Compression Draw your navel to your spine Transverse Abdominis
Spine Stability Holds spine stable during movement Multifidus

Some of the contractions of the core muscles are isometric. This means that the muscles are contracted without involving any movement of the body. An example of this contraction is the flexing of your bicep muscles without moving your arm. A plank is an isometric core exercise. To perform the plank exercise, you need a strong core to hold your body weight in good posture, keeping your body in proper alignment from head to foot.

How to Execute a Perfect Plank:

Begin lying face down with the elbows bent and forearms next to your shoulders and ribs. The palms can be turned in toward the midline of the body in lightly griped fists and toes in contact with the floor. Brace the core muscles, squeeze your glutes & quadriceps, and lift your torso, hips, and legs up until your body is in a line from head to foot. The hips should not be bent (think seat in the air) or sagging (think sway back or banana back). The elbows should be directly under the shoulders, chin off of the chest with the neck in a neutral position. This position is held for a designated amount of time while maintaining steady breathing. If you are new to planking, check out our video for Forearm Supported Knee Plank

Other Benefits of Planks:

In addition to strengthening the core muscles, there are other benefits from perfecting your plank.

-Glute Strength – Squeezing your glutes while performing the plank will help activate the core muscles and protect the lower back. They also provide the hips with more stability and give strength to the pelvic floor.

-Improved Posture – Maintaining good spinal alignment while performing the plank targets the muscles in the lower and upper back that help with posture. The exercise produces proper muscle activation throughout the entire body, stemming from the hands and forearms, through the knees, and extending to the feet.

-Balance – As the core is the midline of the body, it connects the upper body to the lower body. Thus, strong core muscles will help to maintain the stability of the body and balance while performing fitness, sport, and everyday activities.

-Muscle Development – Planks activate muscles from more than one muscle group (arms, forearms, back, shoulders, legs, and core). More muscle fibers are then recruited, which can lead to a small increase of muscle mass.

-Improved Flexibility – Due to the position of the body, the entire posterior chain (back side of the body) is elongated, stretching the hamstrings and the calves. The ankle is also stretched due to the toes remaining flexed during the entire execution of the movement.

-Planks Can Be Modified – The difficulty of the plank can be modified to adjust to your strength and fitness level. It is simple to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise. Examples: Performing the plank on your knees, with straight arms, less contact on the floor, adding weight, etc.

-Improved Muscular Endurance – Muscular endurance is the ability of the body to perform muscle contractions for an extended period of time. Increasing the time you hold the plank helps improve muscular endurance throughout the entire body.

-Variability – There are many different variations to choose from. Once you are able to hold the plank position in proper form, you are ready to progress to more challenging variations. Here are some ideas: Increase the duration the plank is held; Lift one leg off the floor; Lift one arm off the floor; Lift an opposite arm and leg; Rotate to one side; Weighted Planks; Walking Planks; Side Planks; or Push-up Planks.

Sources:; blog July 2020

Written by: Kimberley Alger-Norton, CFC Certified Personal Trainer