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For quite some time, the plank has become a highly popular staple in gyms; it has gained the reputation to be a supreme abdominal toner that activates 100% of abdominal muscles, including the deeper ones, which are not equally stressed, when performing sit-ups or crunches.

The common plank – supporting yourself on your elbows and toes while keeping the body in a straight line posture –  can indeed be quite effective at improving core strength and posture, provided it is correctly performed with properly braced abdominals, without letting the back sag, and no longer than 10 to 30 seconds at a time. 

However, one major weakness of the plank is that it is an isometric contraction, which strengthens the involved core muscles only in the static position held. Basically, it just develops the static strength needed to hold the body in a straight line, which makes it a poor core exercise to enhance most everyday movements or most athletic endeavors. The reason is that the gains of static/ isometric core strength acquired through planking do not transfer to the dynamic core strength needed in athletic performance or during everyday movements. Most everyday movements, such as picking things up off the ground, storing things away, or reaching up for something on a shelf, involve some degree of core strength, but here the core needs to be braced, while in motion, when rotating at the hips, or when bending down, and usually for much shorter periods of time than a plank is generally held. Likewise, in sports like tennis, basketball, boxing, etc., functional dynamic core strength is required frequently and for short periods a time, which leaves the static plank a poor exercise to improve athletic performance. 

Another disadvantage of the common plank is that it does not involve the lower back muscles equally to the abdominals. Also, especially when held for too long, the plank may cause a temporary rise in systolic blood pressure, which could be harmful for people, who already suffer from an elevated blood pressure, or from heart- or circulatory problems. 

While the plank has its benefits and can without doubt be a useful addition to any core strengthening regimen, you may be well advised to keep your main focus on the proven functional core strength exercises, such as weighted Long Arm Crunches, Vertical Leg Crunches, Stability/Bosu Ball Crunches, Reverse Crunches, Ab Rollouts, Russian Twists, Bicycle Situps, Leg Raises with Twists, Back Extensions, Back Extensions with Twists, Glute-Ham Raises, etc. 

 

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