Do you ever feel intimidated by a certain movement or exercises?
Do you avoid to even attempt it?
Do you know what that one go-to exercise is, that is an integral part of almost any workout routine?
It is the plank!
It is a superstar move, and for good reason.
Athletes, tennis champions, coaches, physical therapists vouch for the efficacy of the plank position.
But in my 24-years of experience as a Physical Therapist and a Yoga Teacher, I have see people of all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels struggle with it.
Even a buff body-builder!
You are not alone, at all.
As a 23-year-old, with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy, training in an year-long program to become a Yoga teacher, I believed that my wrists were too weak.
I was too afraid to load my arms in a full plank for I thought I would not be able to hold my body weight up.
Doing a push-up on extended arms was out of question!
Now the plank is an oft-repeated pose when practicing traditional Yoga flows.
The plank is called as Kumbhakasan, or Phalakasan in Yoga lingo.
It is a transitory pose in the flow of sun salutations.
I did not want to give up so easily on myself.
I started easy. I began weight-bearing on my forearms, loading the wrists with my knees on the ground.
Slowly but surely, I trained myself to get into a good alignment on my outstretched arms, with the body in a straight line from my shoulders to heels.
And, today this plank pose is my dear friend!
I can easily hold one, for over the period of time with persistent practice, I have developed strength and stabilization, in my shoulders, wrists, and in my core.
Plank is a powerhouse, helping to move you towards several goals at one time. It improves body balance, muscle coordination, posture and endurance.
It fires the muscles in your core- your belly and back, it strengthens your shoulders, and your legs, all in one go. It helps with back pain, as it strengthens the muscles that support your spine, from front and back.
It sculpts and creates muscle definition in your torso by working the big groups of muscles all simultaneously firing up the calorie-burning, metabolism-boosting, muscle furnace.
But what if you have injuries in your shoulders, or carpal tunnel in your wrists?You adapt and build the strength, gradually.
Customize the move.
Use a gym ball to support your body weight partially, making it easier to load the arms.
Make it easy-to-moderate in intensity by keeping the ball very close to your arms.
Slowly make it harder by moving the ball further down the legs, towards the ankles.
You can do it with kindness and understanding of how your body works.
Seek guidance from experts and healthcare professionals, in order to train your body safely.
Make the plank pose your friend, just like me!
-Swaroopa Gadgil is the Yoga Teacher at TruMotion Physical Therapy.