Why We Plank
Planks are an awesome body weight exercise that will always and forever prove to be beneficial. They will never go out of style, do not require any equipment, do not take long to do, and are one of the most effective exercises you can do.
Why are planks so great? They are one of the best exercises for strengthening your core. And why is that so important? Because your core is the foundation of all movement. When your core is strong, you move better... in ALL things. You will lift weights more safely, you will balance better, you will throw a ball with more accuracy, you will protect your back in everyday activities, improve chronic back pain, you will tone your belly, and you will have better posture.
For nurses, having a strong core is essential. Think of all the physical movement necessary in one shift. If we can improve core strength by doing plank exercises, this can be so beneficial in the life of a nurse for work safety and protecting yourself in everyday life. The most common injury feared by nurses at work is usually hurting their back. Strengthen your core! Planks can play a vital role in preventing injury.
Planks engage your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and glutes. Not to mention, you will certainly gain upper body strength from holding these positions longer and longer each time.
So how do we do planks? Here are several variations to try:
Go down onto both forearms, keeping elbows directly under shoulders. stretch legs out behind you and go up onto the balls of your feet. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold your core muscles tight, and think of pulling your navel up into your spine. Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, and try to increase how long you can hold each time you do this.
Straight Arm Plank:
Same as above, but place hands on the ground instead of forearms, keeping arms straight and directly below shoulders.
Come onto your right hand or forearm with elbow directly under your shoulder and stack your feet (or you may place one foot in front of the other if stacking is too difficult). Other hand may be placed on your hip, or raise your arm up straight, in line with other arm. Keep your hip lifted so you create a straight line from your head to your feet. Keep core muscles engaged the entire time. Try to hold for 30 seconds each side.
To increase difficulty if desired, you can always try lifting one foot or one hand while holding your plank. This will create much more of a challenge if that's what you're looking for!
So let's see. Planks require no equipment, can be done just about anywhere, do not require much time at all, yet provide huge benefits with little effort. I'd say that's a win-win! If you're not doing planks, you may want to think about starting!
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Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.