This 30-Second Exercise Could Save Your Back

This 30-Second Exercise Could Save Your Back

This one more could help an achy back—and strengthen your entire body.

Almost everyone feels a little back pain every now and then—and for some, it can impact their day-to-day activities. But, by doing conditioning exercises that strengthen core muscles, you can minimize the risk and severity of that pain.

Core muscles make up your abdominal midsection and include your abs, glutes, obliques and lower back. In addition to helping prevent back pain, building a solid core can encourage weight loss, improve posture and increase flexibility. 

There are many ways to achieve a strong core, including popular abdominal exercises like crunches, reverse crunches and leg raises. But one of the most beneficial workouts that engages many parts of the body, as well as your core, is the plank.

How planking helps your back
Planking primarily benefits your core and back muscles, reducing your chances of back pain.  An added benefit: it can even help you reach and maintain certain yoga poses that further strengthen your body. In fact, the exercise is used in many spine conditioning programs, because it helps keep back muscles stable, preventing pain and strain.

This simple workout also strengthens and pulls your shoulder blades up and back, improving your posture. Ultimately, engaging the shoulder muscles also improves your flexibility and range of motion.

How planking helps the rest of your body
Since the diaphragm is activated while doing exercises that work the abdominal muscles, planking can improve your respiratory system and diaphragm breathing patterns. Additionally, this exercise, as with any almost physical activity, can reduce fatigue, anxiety and stress, all while improving alertness and concentration. 

Proper planking form
This simple exercise does not require any fancy equipment. Start by lying face down on a mat. Keeping your back straight, lift your body off the mat using your toes and forearms (instead of your hands) into a position similar to a pushup; the key is to keep your shoulders, legs, hips, and legs in a straight line. Maintain this position without movement for 30 seconds and then rest for another minute. Repeat this up to 5 times throughout the course of the day.

As with any exercise, sometimes reps need to be less intense, so you can build the strength and endurance to handle tougher sessions. If 30 seconds isn't sustainable, don't strain yourself. Instead, try holding a plank for 15 seconds. When you're comfortable with that, increase the time you hold the position.

You may see challenges on social media calling for people to hold plank pose for as long as they can. However, a longer plank isn’t always better. Instead, your form could deteriorate if the position is held for an extended period, putting pressure on your back instead of strengthening it. Stick with intervals that are 30 seconds long. For an added challenge, try a side plank or alternate lifting your legs in traditional plank position.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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