I follow this “old guy” named Mark Sisson on @marksdailyapple who is just amazing. I say old but not really, not if we are talking about biological age which is the true age of an individual. Your age in years is just a number and not a reflection of how you feel, perform and look as you go about life. Mark is a superb example of this.
In one of his recent posts he talks about why the core is so important and how to easily keep it strong, no gym required. He is big on body weight resistance training which I also prefer. In his words, the core is there to “resist force”, not to just shorten and bend over and over again (think sit-ups and crunches).
Everything we do daily requires the usage of our torso. The stronger and more resilient it is, the easier everything is. Lifting those groceries, throwing a ball, getting up off the ground, bending over, squatting, and simply standing up all require core strength. Sit-ups work a few core muscles in isolation, while planks nail them all.
They also put much less strain on your spine while helping to strengthen your shoulders and back. You are contracting muscles while “planking” (you know what I mean) and not moving any joints which among other things is great for improving posture (bad posture = aches/pains) and helping with lower back issues.
Samuel Chan, PT, DPT, a certified strength and conditioning specialist says that "bearing weight through your arms will force your joints and bones to adapt and become stronger." We all want this, especially as we get older. Chan also says planks help with shoulder pain and impingement which is a common problem.
Doing a proper plank requires keeping your muscles active from your shoulders to your feet, as well as breathing steadily. Maintain a straight back, no sagging or putting your butt into the air. Start with as little as a 15-second plank and work your way up. Getting to as long as 1-2 minutes is a great goal to shoot for.
I love the way Mark puts it, “you're a single, cohesive unbroken body—a straight, strong and solid line from head to foot. It doesn't get any better than this Primal Essential Movement.” Another great benefit of planking is that it targets your glutes as well which are important for any standing activity you can think of.
Cardio has always been more of a focus for me, but I have come to understand that resistance training like planks is crucial for health as well. As we age our bones lose their density and our muscles lose their mass which leads to health problems. We have the ability to counteract much of this through strength training.
Before, during, and after writing this article I dropped down and planked (I know, I know). I like to hold a full plank to exhaustion, break for 7-10 minutes, and then do alternating full and elbow planks as long as I can. I repeat these two sets 4-5x throughout the day 2-3 days a week. It hurts but our bodies need that challenge.
Remember, you have the choice to be stronger or weaker, resilient or not. No one can do this for you it is a personal choice. We are made to move and use our bodies on a regular basis and if we don’t it makes us weak. Check out my blog post on “hormesis” to learn why being uncomfortable on occasion is required if we expect to be resilient and prevent disease.
Bart Thurman, FDN-P, INHC Functional Health Coaching Café of Life Chiropractic 1325 Dry Creek Drive #307 Longmont, CO 80503 Office: 720-849-0124 Web: www.breakfreewellness.net IG: @bart_breakfreewellness
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