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To Plank or not to Plank? Thats the question..

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There is no arguing that the plank is one of the God's gifts to the world of core strengthening. Planks not only train your transverse, obligues AND rectus abdominal muscles, but if done correctly, it also recruits your pelvic floor muscles too.

Planks can be done in a variety of ways; The basic: front loaded, side loaded and can be done on knees or toes. But then you can amp it up and incorporate dynamic movements while holding the plank position i.e. lifting the opposing arms and legs, scooping underarm and overhead (in the side plank) etc. Then you can really have fun and use a stability ball, BOSU, balancing discs and more! The possibilities are endless, really but before you run out and try to master that plank for 2 minutes, you better make sure you know what you're dealing with first.

First of all, planks are HARD, hence why most people prefer crunches and the like because they are generally easier. You may think I am crazy but think about it. Planks are an isometric exercise so there is no "contract, relax" phase and your muscles are ON throughout the duration of the exercise. With a crunch, there is a contraction on the lift, but then a relax (lengthening) phase on the descend. People can do hundreds (literally) of crunches but may only be able to hold a plank for 30 seconds.

Plus, let me add, that a crunch only recruits 20% of your abdominal muscles while loading your splint 150%. On the other hand, a plank uses 80% of your abdominal muscles and only loads your spine 50%. So take your pick; want to work 20% or 80%??

However, taking all this into consideration, not all people can do planks. There is a condition called Diastasis Recti that can actually get worse in a front loaded plank position. Diastasis Recti is when the outer most abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy (or from beer bellies or doing ab exercise incorrectly) and don't "snap back". When your muscles are separated, your organs are exposed. So if your organs are exposed and you go into a front loaded position, your transverse muscles are not strong enough to hold your organs in, so they hang out.

Now I realize this sounds gross, but it's the reality and a lot (and I mean a large majority) of moms suffer from some degree of abdominal separation. So if you are not sure, get yourself assessed by someone who is qualified in that field. But if you are fairly lean and see a cone hanging towards the floor when you do a plank, take note; was that cone there before? Probably not.

Core Expectations is Toronto's only in-home service providing safe and effective pre & postnatal personal training, abdominal rehabilitation and other support services exclusively to pregnant women and busy moms with little time in the privacy of their home.

Visit her site here