In the quest for the Holy Grail of abdominal exercises, many a complex workout has been cobbled together. After all, a well-toned six-pack is the symbol of an attractive body, making it the ultimate fitness destination for both women and men. But for a strong midsection, it does not even take a highly complex workout. The good old ones planks and a little time is already enough. You wonder how to do that? We'll show you what matters and what plank variants are the best.
What are Planks?
The Plank is actually nothing more than a simple forearm support. It is therefore a static holding exercise that trains a large part of skeletal muscle. The longer you hold the plank position exactly, the greater the muscle tension and thus the training stimulus for the muscles.
And this is how the classic Planks work:
1. Kneel on the floor, lean your upper body forward and place your forearms side by side on the floor.
2. Position your elbows below your shoulders and make sure your forearms are parallel to each other.
3. Gaze forward, now stretch your legs back and put your feet on the balls of your feet.
4. Tighten your abdomen and make sure that your body forms a straight line from the verses to the butt and back to the neck.
5. Hold the tension as long as you can, pull in the navel and breathe in and out slowly during the exercise.
6. Once you can no longer hold the position, you release your body for 60 seconds before you start the second round.
Which muscles are trained by Planks?
The Plank is much more than just an exercise for the middle of the body. In addition to the straight abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis, m. Pyramidalis) and the lateral abdominal muscles (with the external oblique oblique, with the abdominal internal oblique, with the abdominis muscle), the exercise also trains the shoulder muscles, the butt muscles, the chest , the thighs and even parts of the back muscles. The tension does not only affect the near-surface muscles, but also the lower-lying muscles and muscle strands, which can hardly be addressed with many other exercises.
Why should I do planks?
Well, Planks are an extremely effective exercise that you do not even need equipment for. All you need to do it is a little space and a good 5 minutes. The Plank is a great exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles, easy to learn and due to its low complexity, it represents a very small risk of injury. The Plank is not only ideal for building muscle, but especially for building up trunk stability. After all, it is static holding work, so the type of muscle work for which the abdominal muscles are designed by nature of course.
The Planks are thus the standard exercise for every athlete, because a strong center of the body is in almost every sport the basis for the development of maximum performance. So if you want to improve your performance in football, American football, athletics, swimming or cycling and reduce your risk of injury, Plank is the exercise of choice.
How can the planks be best integrated into training?
The beauty of planking is that you can easily integrate the exercise into your workout. Accordingly, you have many options in practice. A very simple, because as flexible as time-saving, method is the planking in the morning. To do this, you choose three or four days a week to do a short plank workout right after getting up. It lasts no more than 5 minutes and is an excellent energizer for the day.
Due to the small space and time requirement, the lunch break is also excellent. Alternatively, put the planks in your regular workout. Either you use it as a regular exercise or use the sentence breaks between other abdominal exercises or generally other exercises for a Plank-passage. This makes the training particularly intensive and also saves a lot of time.
What should I watch out for at Planks?
The most important factor, as with all other exercises, is the absolutely clean execution of the exercise, because only then can you train the target muscles as effectively as possible. Therefore, make sure that your upper body always forms an absolutely straight line. Only then is the focus of muscle tension really in the area of the abdominal muscles.
Otherwise, the buttocks, back and hips take over too much work. And that's not the point of the matter after all. At least as important as the right shape is the optimal muscle tension. This means that right after taking the basic position you must be careful to tense your abdominal muscles. This, in turn, enormously increases the effectiveness of planking.
So you avoid the biggest mistakes in Planks
Although the exercise looks relatively simple, and in principle it does, there are plenty of things you can do wrong with Plank.
Avoid the following errors to make the exercise as effective as possible:
- Shifting the Upper Body Angle: Especially when you're running a plank version that's not performed on the forearms but on the hands, mistakes often occur that decrease the effectiveness of the exercise. Many exercisers tend to reduce tension by placing their arms over their shoulders, increasing the angle between the upper body and the arms. The version with supported hands as well as the version with supported forearms require that the elbows and shoulders are exactly on top of each other.
- To lift the butt too high: Who raises the butt too far, performs a typical compensation movement, which takes the tension from the abdominal muscles. This happens especially if your abdominal muscles are still a bit too weak. Only one thing helps here: work your way up slowly with short but clean planks until you can hold the exact position longer.
- Let the body sag: This is also a compensation movement, which indicates a too weak abdominal muscles. The solution to the problem is also the same as the aforementioned point.
- Balancing strength deficits with the upper body: The abdominal muscles are often much weaker than the chest, shoulder muscles or latissimus. This leads to many exercisers compensating for power deficits when planking through the upper body. Among other things, you can recognize this mistake by the fact that your upper back is rounded and you feel the pull especially in the chest and back.
- Let the neck sag: Although this error hardly affects the training effect, it can lead to unpleasant neck tension or even neck injuries. So always make sure that your neck is in line with the rest of your body. Ideally, this is when you fix a point in front of you on the floor and fix it with your eyes throughout the entire exercise.
The 3 best plank variants for your six-pack
The classic Planks are already well suited for the strengthening of the abdominal muscles. If you want to make your training even more intense, you can fall back on other variants. Here are the top three options for your six pack.
Planks for the lateral abdominal muscles
1. Get into the plank position, as we described at the beginning, and tense your buttocks, abdomen and back vigorously.
2. Slowly push your hips to the right and turn them in until they feel a pull in the lateral abdominal muscles. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Turn your hips slowly to the left and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Planks with arm rotation
1. Take the standard position, but do not rest on your forearms but on your hands.
2. Lift one arm off the floor and turn your upper body to the side so that your arm points toward the ceiling. Hold the position.
3. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the exercise with your other arm.
4. To achieve a clean shape, you should always follow your arm with your look.
Take off side planks with arm and leg
1. Take the lateral forearm support and make sure your elbow is below your shoulder. Put your right leg on your left leg.
2. Now raise your right leg and spread it upwards.
3. At the same time, lift your right arm and extend it forward. Hold the tension in the muscles for 30 to 60 seconds.
4. Slowly return to the starting position and take a short break. Once you have completed 8 to 12 reps, you switch sides and also do 8 to 12 reps.