The Power of Planking – Plank Benefits for Triathletes
Stuck at home, races cancelled or postponed? Feeling the pain of limited outdoor exercise and wanting to stay as fit as possible? It’s difficult to maintain the cardiovascular strength at home that you would normally get from limitless outdoor training (unless you’re lucky enough to have a turbo trainer, an Endless Pool and a treadmill).
Assuming that most of us don’t have all of those fabulous fitness devices, may we suggest the power of the plank?
What is a plank?
A plank is an isometric (static, contracted) strength exercise, using the core muscles to maintain a stable, long line in a push-up position. There are many variations, but most common are the forearm (or low) plank and planking on your hands (high plank).
Planking is often referred to as one of the best overall strength exercises, but why? According to Harvard Health, “the plank pose activates all the core muscles at once, and doesn’t require extra movements that can cause stress or injury.” All of the core- let’s not forget, that includes not only front abdominals, but muscles on the sides and back of your body as well. This equates to better posture and less likelihood of back pain and injury!
And planks aren’t just for core- they also work shoulders, chest, neck, glutes, and quadriceps, especially with added variations.
What are the plank benefits for triathletes?
Everyone could benefit from stronger muscles and better core strength, but how does planking benefit triathletes specifically?
Triathletes, especially those going for longer distances, need a strong core, and most of the cardiovascular training that we do doesn’t cut it.
Strong core benefits start with the swim, helping stabilise rotation and a streamlined position. Stronger shoulders and back not only help with a swim stroke in general, but add to the strength required for sighting and getting around buoys.
For cycling, the benefits of strong quadriceps and glutes are obvious, but a strong core will allow less weight through the handlebars, less lower back pain and better positioning/less tension in the shoulders. A strong neck will help prevent painful cyclist’s neck (for other tips on cyclist’s neck, Physiopedia has written a helpful article).
When running, a strong core girdle will help to maintain good posture, resulting in better form, less pressure through the hips and knees, and more stamina.
What types of planks are there?
In addition to planking on your elbows or hands, there are so many plank variations to try! You never have to find planks boring! Once you’ve mastered the basic plank, there are side planks, inchworms, x-planks, hover planks… you name it. A great way to prevent boredom, challenge yourself and develop overall body strength? Take things up a notch and add to the fun with the vast variety of planks out there!
Yes, you can!
If you are struggling with holding a basic plank, not to worry- a little goes a long way! It’s more important to work on form, keeping your navel to your spine and protecting your lower back than it is to compete for the World Record (somewhere over eight hours!)
Various studies quote different length holds as the most beneficial, but most agree that doing a few shorter planks (10-30 seconds), three or four times is plenty to reap powerful plank benefits. And other than going for that record, holding for longer than two minutes doesn’t seem to offer any extra benefits.
So, yes, you can– there’s no excuse! You don’t even need to change your clothes, just find a spot on the floor, get down, and plank!
Happy Training 🙂
If you are still looking for plank inspiration, join me! I’m a triathlon coach and actor who needs to work on her plank, so I’m currently doing my version of a plank challenge (one that focuses on variety and fun, not just long holds!) I’m also showing the human side of planking, which means that sometimes I find them really tough! 🙂
You can find me planking (and squatting!) on Instagram/IGTV at kristinduffy_actor.