This is the first in Women’s Voices’ upcoming series of Fitness Saturday exercises—workouts appropriate to women in the second half of life. Personal trainer Brooke Marrone, president and founder of Brooke Marrone Fitness, in New York City, is our fitness guru.

Note: If you have any history of musculo-skeletal injury or discomfort, we urge you to discuss your participation in our workouts with your health care provider.—Ed.

IMG_0832Brooke Marrone demonstrates the Elbow Plank. (Image by Brooke Marrone)

I chose the Elbow Plank as the first official exercise of 2015 because a strong core is the foundation of fitness. The Plank is one of the most important and effective exercises to have in your routine. The fact that so many muscles are worked in this one movement makes the Plank especially exciting. Also, no equipment is needed, so you can do it anytime, anywhere.

The benefits of the Elbow Plank include helping you to maintain good posture, prevent or reverse posture deficiencies, improve and prevent back pain, help safely control everyday movements, and improve balance and athletic performance.

A strong core allows you to sit and stand with good posture and makes it easier to perform more dynamic activities. Weak core muscles lead to poor posture, which places strain on your spine. The strain caused by weak core muscles can become more noticeable with age and can lead to low-back pain, loss of mobility, and the ability to maintain balance.

It is terrific that this one exercise can work so many muscles simultaneously. The primary muscles worked in the Plank are the erector spinae (the three columns of muscles that run up your back), the rectus abdominis (the front of your abdomen) and the transverse abdominis (the deep abdominal muscle that helps hold in your internal organs and stabilizes the spine). These muscles are two of the four that make up your “abs”.  Additional muscles worked are the shoulders, upper trapezius (aka upper back), neck, chest, triceps (batwings), glutes (your butt), thighs, and calves.

Millions find exercise (even in small doses) unpleasant. Still, it is the New Year and you can choose to be fit . . . one exercise, learned and repeated, at a time.  That is how you can build a fitness program that works for you.

Here’s how the Plank looks when done properly.

 

Doing the Plank 

  1. Lie face down on a mat with your palms and forearms flat on the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  1. Contract your abs, tuck your toes, and slowly push off the floor, bringing your body into a strong, straight line from your head to your toes.
  1. Make sure your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders and pull your belly button in tight, keeping your neck and spine neutral (neither arched nor rounded) and your weight shifting back into your heels.
  1. Keep your gaze on the floor in front of you instead of looking up or letting your head hang down.
  1. Focus on using your core muscles (abs, back, hips) rather than your arms and legs. Make sure to inhale and exhale slowly and to never hold your breath.
  1. Try to hold this position for at least ten seconds to start and work your way up to a minute.

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  • California Girl January 14, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I have been taking a core class for several years and the difference in my conditioning is noticeable thanks to the ongoing focus on the abs, obliques, spine etc.

    Reply
  • Susanna Gaertner January 12, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Ditto!
    Even my beginners do a scaled down version with knees on the ground; I feel that it helps even to visualize these exercises as preparation for the muscles’ achieving them!

    Reply
  • Swan January 10, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    I am a Pilates teacher in Paris, France and always include planks in my workouts. The clients gain better posture, strength and flatter abdominal muscles. Such a promise and it’s true.
    Pilates for Life
    Swan
    PS……I have just added WVforC to my feed on BLOGLOVIN

    Reply