We finally have a complete answer to the issue of which abs exercise is the best. Forget about crunches or sit ups – your abs will work much harder during a plank, according to new research from Pennsylvania State University.
Researchers used electrodes to measure 20 people doing 16 different ab exercises. They measured how well each exercise worked out core muscles. The more the muscles were activated, the harder they were working, ‘thereby maximizing gains,’ the researchers said in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Strangely, the exercises that focused on ab muscles in isolation – like crunches – were not the best at activating abs. So-called ‘integration’ exercises, which also use your shoulders, back and other muscles – like planks and mountain climbers – are much more demanding on your abs and core.
This actually makes complete sense. Because when someone gets into the plank position, it forces their mid-section muscles to work very hard to keep their spine stable and ensure their vertebrae does not move.
Another benefit of doing planks is that it is easier to focus on getting your form right. The stillness of a plank gives you the ability to actively focus on achieving tension throughout your whole core.
This helps you to build a rock solid stability throughout your core and helps you to be more efficient with other exercises while also avoiding injury.
To get the most from the plank, focus on activated every muscle in your body, and try to imagine ‘compressing’ your body towards a center point.
If done correctly and for maximum tension, you should not be able to hold this kind of plank for more than 20 seconds.