Joseph Pliates created the plank as part of his strength-training program. At first it was called “Leg Pull Front’. Then it developed into what it is called today, “The Standard Plank”. The Standard Plank is designed to build muscles, maintain good posture and support your spine.
The Standard Plank is performed with your wrists under your shoulder and toes on the ground with your body in a prone position (face down). You raise your body until it is in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. A modification for The Standard Plank is performing it on your knees, maintaining a straight line with your body. Another modification to The Standard Plank is performing the plank on your elbows, continuing to keep a straight line with your body. To make the standard plank more challenging, you can lift your leg up straight and hold it for 10 seconds, keeping hour hips parallel to the ground, then switch legs. You can also lift up one arm; holding it straight forward or to the side, holding it for 10 second, keeping your shoulders squared to the floor, then switch arms.
A variation to The Standard Plank is a Side Plank. It can be performed on your knees or toes as well as on your hands or elbow. When you are doing a side plank, you want to keep your core and gluteus engaged as you keep your body in a straight line. You want to keep your hips and shoulders stacked on top of each other. One way to make the side plank more challenging is to do leg lifts with your top leg.
Planks are also used as agility exercises. The goal is to raise your heartbeat while maintaining correct form (body in a straight line from head to toes). One agility exercise is called Plank Jacks. You keep your shoulders over your wrist while your legs and feet are doing jumping jacks. Tapping your toes from side to side is a great modification. Another agility exercise is Mountain Climbers. When performing Mountain Climbers, you again keep your shoulders over your wrists while bringing your knees to your chest, alternating them. Its doing high knees but in a plank form.
In 2009, the International Association of Fire Fighters included the plank as part of their fitness evaluation. In 2020, the US Navy changed their regulations for their Physical Fitness Test from preforming 2 minutes of crunches to having to hold The Standard Plank for 2 minutes. If our first responders and our military value planks as important to evaluate how fit they are, then planks are important for us too.
I encourage you to start adding planks into your weekly workout routine. Start small and build into it. You can do them anywhere because you don’t need any equipment. Sign up today to meet with a trainer at The GYM. We can make sure you are performing your planks with proper form and providing modifications and progressions.
Author: Michelle Ragain
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
AFFA Group Fitness Instructor
Personal Trainer @ The Gym Milford