The plank, also known as the forearm support, is one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for the whole body. With planking you train your stomach and back in particular. A tight, strong core is guaranteed – provided you do the plank correctly.
It looks simple, but is extremely strenuous and just as effective: The plank is one of the best bodyweight exercises for training the whole body. Bodyweight means that you only need your own body weight to perform. Additional weights can intensify the exercise, but are absolutely not a must. There are enough variants of the plank with which you can make your training varied and demanding.
“Plank” is the name of the full-body exercise. The name alludes to the shape that one takes during the execution: propped up on the forearms (or hands) and facing the floor, the head, shoulders, stomach, buttocks and legs form a line. You’re just like a board. The basic variant of the plank is called forearm support.
“Support” because you support yourself exclusively on your forearms and tiptoe and hold this position. The classic forearm support is a holding exercise. It is important to keep the body stable in the plank shape. In order not to lose your balance, you need body tension – throughout the body. It is not without reason that the plank is an exercise that strengthens all muscle groups.
So-called planking, as the execution of the plank is also called, is used in many different disciplines – both in popular and competitive sports. A classic is the forearm support in functional training, but also as a supplement to strength training or martial arts such as boxing.
What is the plank good for?
The plank is one of the most effective abdominal exercises out there. A particular focus in planking is on the core, i.e. your body core or your core. Abdominal and back muscles are specifically activated and trained isometrically, that is, by simply maintaining muscle tension.
But not only the muscle groups for your washboard abs benefit from regular plank training: In addition to the trunk, leg, hip and gluteal muscles are strengthened as well as shoulders, chest, neck and arms. The forearm support therefore demands the entire body, which makes the exercise the perfect full-body workout.
Why is it important to train your core?
The muscles in the core of our body are involved in most of our movements: Without core tension, we would not be able to straighten up, let alone hold upright and move, bend over, stretch or rotate. The core muscles also strengthen your spine, which helps prevent back pain and tension.
Plus: The core transfers power from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa. A strong core therefore contributes significantly to increasing your performance during training – regardless of whether you are a runner or do weight training.
The biggest advantages of planking
- With a regular plank workout, you not only build your abdominal muscles, but muscles throughout your body.
- You improve your posture and prevent problems with the spine.
- You can lose weight with planks, because you activate and strengthen several muscle groups at the same time, so that your basal metabolic rate increases in the long term. This means that even when you are resting, you burn more calories and lose weight more easily.
- You train your balance, which you can also benefit from in other sports.
- You use planks to stretch your entire rear body chain so that you become more flexible.
Which muscles are used with planking?
The plank is a compound exercise. In contrast to isolation exercises, which specifically target individual muscles, the forearm support involves several muscle groups. You work “in a network”.
Planking primarily activates the following muscles and muscle groups:
- Rectus abdominis / straight abdominal muscle: The straight abdominal muscle is optically responsible for the six pack and is an important postural muscle. It ensures that the chest is pulled towards the legs and the trunk is bent as a result.
- Transversus abdominis / transverse abdominal muscle: The transversus abdominis is also active when bending. It is responsible for contracting the abdomen and lowering the ribs. He is also involved in the exhalation.
- Musculus obliquus internus abdominis, Musculus obliquus externus abdominis / inner and outer oblique abdominal muscle: The lateral abdominal muscles are responsible for the rotation in the upper body and contribute to a narrow waist and defined abdominal muscles.
- The quadratus lumborum muscle and the iliopsoas / posterior abdominal muscles: The quadratus lumborum muscle tilts the trunk to one side, stabilizes the lower ribs during inhalation and is an auxiliary muscle for exhalation. The iliopsoas muscle is the strongest flexor of the hip joint and is involved in straightening the trunk from the supine position. He can also rotate the thigh outwards.
- Erector spinae: The main function of the lower back muscles is to straighten the spine and keep the head upright.
In addition to the abdominal muscles and the back extensor, planks train the upper back, shoulder muscles, large pectoral muscles, arms, buttocks, and thigh muscles. Specifically, these are the following muscles:
- Trapezius (trapezius muscle)
- Deltoid muscle (shoulder muscle)
- Pectoralis major muscle (chest muscle)
- Gluteus Maximus (buttocks)
- Quadriceps (front thighs)
- Biceps femoris (hamstrings)
How to plank
For a correct execution of the elbow plank (forearm support), do the following steps:
- Lie on your stomach on the floor and position your elbows under your shoulders.
- Keep your forearms parallel to your body so your fingertips are pointing straight ahead. Your palms are facing the ceiling. Alternatively, you can have your palms facing the floor or you can interlock your hands.
- Keep the neck as relaxed as possible and straight as an extension of the spine by fixing a point between your hands. Be careful not to pull your head backwards.
- Now press your forearms into the ground and push yourself up. Use only your toes and forearms to support your body.
- Build tension throughout your body by pulling your belly button inward, pushing your knees and tensing your buttocks tight.
- To avoid sagging in your upper back, slide your shoulder blades back and down, press your forearms into the mat and push your shoulders away from the floor.
- Your body forms a straight line – avoid both an arched back and a rounded back.
Our tip: Even if the focus is on the abdominal muscles when planking, it helps to concentrate on the buttocks and legs while executing. Consciously tense your buttocks, push your legs through and push your heels away from you.
Common plank mistakes
The plank hold, the held forearm support, has a few sources of error that you can easily avoid with simple tricks. When you first practice, it is best to have someone look at your form or watch yourself in the mirror to spot possible mistakes.
You have an arched back
If the bottom is not in line with the upper body, but rather sags towards the floor, there is usually still a lack of strength in the middle of the body – just a matter of practice! A hollow back can be avoided by imagining that you are pulling your belly button under your ribs. It can also help to push the lumbar spine up slightly. But be careful not to bring your bottom too far towards the ceiling in return.
Our tip: Before you do the planks, train your stomach with exercises such as crunches or sit-ups. Alternatively, you can do the forearm rest on your knees first.
Your buttocks is too high
Similar to the hollow back, you lack abdominal tension if you tend to stretch your butt too far in the air. You can compensate for the lack of strength in the middle of the body by consciously tensing your buttocks and pushing your legs through. Mentally pull yourself out instead of up. Do this by pushing your heels away from you.
You have a round back
If your upper body sinks down while planking, this is a sign that your shoulders are not activated, i.e. without tension. In the worst case, this can lead to lower back pain. Remember to keep your body tension from your shoulders to your toes and consciously tense your stomach and buttocks. Press your forearms into the mat and push yourself away from the floor.
You pull your head back
When planking, you look to the ground and you keep your head in a neutral position, i.e. as an extension of the spine. Otherwise, you risk tension and back pain.
Our tip: In order not to overstretch the neck, fix a point between your hands.
You bend your knees
If you do not fully straighten your legs while doing the plank, you will not have the necessary body tension to perform the exercise correctly. Consciously pull your kneecaps up towards your thighs and in return, push your heels away from you. Plus: don’t forget to tense your buttocks! So you stay stable in the hips and keep the optimal position.
How long should you hold a plank?
If your stomach muscles are shaking at the thought of it, you can relax. Because the good thing about the Plank exercise is: It is highly effective and brings great success in a short time. In order to benefit from the forearm support and its effect in the long term, ten minutes of planking are required every day – with breaks! – recommended.
However, quality always comes before quantity! Only stay in the plank as long as you can hold it without fail. At the beginning it can be just 30 seconds. Better to do 4 sets of 15 seconds each with a 5 second break in between than a minute in an unclean position.
The most important thing is: don’t give up and stick to it. Hold the plank a few seconds longer every day and the first successes are quickly visible.
How many calories do you burn with a Plank?
How many calories you burn with the Plank depends on many factors such as age, weight and genetic makeup. At 1.70 meters and 65 kilograms that can be an average of 7 calories per minute. If you hold the forearm support 10 minutes a day, you would get around 70 calories.
However, if you want to lose weight or just keep fit, you shouldn’t focus on a single exercise, no matter how effective it is. Instead, rely on a healthy mix of strength and cardio training.
Important: nutrition accounts for 70 percent of your success. In addition to exercising, make sure you have a balanced diet rich in protein and carbohydrates.
The Knee Plank, i.e. the forearm support with the knees offset, is the perfect entry-level version for everyone who does not yet have enough strength in the stomach. Assume the same starting position as with the classic plank, but keep your knees on the floor. Despite assistance, the following applies: elbows are under the shoulders, the stomach is firm and the bottom is under maximum tension.
Start in the prone position: Place your hands close to the torso below the shoulders. Point the fingertips forward. Push yourself off the floor so that you get into a high push-up position. The neck is an extension of the spine, shoulders, torso and buttocks form a line. Your gaze rests between your hands. Important: tense your buttocks, pull in your belly button, push your knees through and push your heels away from you.
This plank variant requires extra balance and strength from the middle. You start in forearm support: elbows are below the shoulders, stomach and buttocks are tense. Now get one floor higher by first placing one hand, then the other, where your elbows were before – until you are in high support on the palms. From here you go step by step down onto your forearms. Important: Always keep your hips parallel to the floor. Work slowly and consciously tense your stomach and bottom to maintain stability.
Single Arm Plank
With the one-armed plank, you start in high support. To do this, position your hands below the shoulders, get your upper and lower body in the air so that your body forms a line and hold the plank position for a few seconds. Now raise one arm without losing your balance. The higher you lift and extend your arm, the more tension you need to build to maintain balance.
Start in the high plank position, supported by your hands below your shoulders. The abdomen and buttocks are tense so that your body forms a straight line. Now lift one arm and the opposite leg without falling over. Here, extra tension is required in your core so that you stay in balance and don’t tip over to one side. Hold the position for a few seconds or and alternately raise your left and right arm.
Bent Knees Side Plank
Start in the side position: Position your elbow below your shoulder and place your forearm parallel to the end of the mat. The palm is facing down. Your buttocks and your knees are in one line on the floor. Bend your legs so that your thighs and lower legs form a 90 degree angle. Now push your hips towards the ceiling and push yourself out of your shoulder – avoid sagging in your upper back. Maintain tension in your core, especially your lateral abdominal muscles are now active. Stay in this position and then switch sides.
You start in a side position: your elbow is below your shoulder and your forearm is parallel to the end of the mat on the floor. Extend your legs, they lie on top of each other and form a line with your buttocks and upper body. Press the bottom edge of your foot into the ground, as well as your forearm, and slide your hips up towards the ceiling. Don’t sag! Consciously activate your lateral abdominal muscles and hold the position. Then switch sides.
Plank with Rotation
Start in the side plank position – either on your knees or with your legs straight. Your elbow is below your shoulder. Support yourself on your forearm and consciously push your hips up. You feel the tension in the lateral abdominal muscles. Extend your upper arm towards the ceiling and thread it under your upper body to the floor. Repeat the rotation. Your gaze follows the movement. Keep your hips up in the air all the time.
- Plank or forearm support is one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for the whole body.
- Planking focuses on the abdominal and back muscles, but also arms, shoulders, buttocks and thighs.
- Done correctly, planking strengthens your upright posture, prevents back problems and promotes flexibility.
- In the plank position, the head, shoulders, back, buttocks and legs form a straight line.
- Muscle tension throughout the body is a prerequisite for doing the plank properly: pull your navel towards your back, tense your buttocks, push your legs through and push your heels away from you.
- There are different variants of the plank – both static and dynamic, for beginners and advanced – that bring variety to your training.