The plank is a fundamental core exercise that works the entire body, but the main reason people do it is to strengthen the core muscles, the “powerhouse” muscles that stabilize your mid-section and help your body generate power. A strong core is the foundation of your body, and it’s a lot more than just your abs. Your core includes all the muscles that support your spine, from your shoulders to your hips.
Core strength is critical for maintaining balance, mobility, and stability throughout your body. Without it, you’re more susceptible to back pain and injuries like sprains or strains. Having a strong core also makes everyday activities easier — from sitting up straight to lifting heavy objects. Yes, a strong core will improve your posture too.
Beyond the Standard Plank: The Reverse Plank
You’re probably familiar with the standard plank that you do while supporting your body on your elbows and hands but there are many ways to modify a standard plank to work your core in a slightly different way.
One plank variation you should include in your plank routine is the reverse plank. Why is the reverse plank ab essential movement? It’s one of the best movements for working your posterior chain, muscles that deserve more focus than they get. Why is working your posterior chain so important?
The posterior chain is the set of muscles located on the backside of your body. These muscles include your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The posterior chain plays a key role in many athletic movements, including running, jumping, and lifting weights. Plus, reverse planks work your erector spinae muscles, a thick layer of muscle that runs down the length of your spine and helps stabilize it.
The strength of the posterior chain is also crucial for proper posture and injury prevention. When you think about it, you use your posterior chain almost every day without realizing it: when you stand up from sitting down or pick up something heavy off the ground. When these muscles are weak and can’t pull their weight, you’re more likely to injure your back.
People often overlook posterior chain training since these muscle groups are not as visible as the “mirror” muscles in the front. However, working these muscles are essential for developing balanced strength and power throughout the body. So, your posterior chain doesn’t get a fair shake. The reverse plank is a core-focused exercise that works those neglected back muscles.
Plus, sitting causes tightening of the hip flexors and relaxation of your glutes and hamstrings, creating a muscle imbalance. Exercises, like reverse planks, that target your posterior chain, help restore muscle balance.
How to Do a Reverse Plank:
- Sit on the ground, facing the ceiling, with your legs extended out in front of your body, heels on the ground together, toes pointed outward slightly. Your arms should be behind you with palms on the ground for support.
- Engage your core and push down through your palms as you lift your hips and torso off the floor, forming a straight line from knees to shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds or longer.
- Work up to 60 seconds, if possible, without compromising form (but don’t get discouraged if it takes some time!). You can also do small pulses in this top position for added difficulty
- To challenge yourself further, add a dynamic movement like reaching one hand toward the opposite knee before returning it to its starting position (repeat 10 times). Then switch sides and reach again with the opposite arm/leg pairing. This is a more advanced movement, so don’t try it until you can hold a plank for 60 seconds.
Shoulder Mobility Can Limit Performance with a Reverse Plank
To do a reverse plank safely, you need good shoulder mobility. One of the main reasons people have problems performing a reverse plank is their shoulders are too tight and lack mobility.
How can you tell if you have enough shoulder mobility to do the exercise safely? One way to tell is to do the Apley Scratch test for shoulder mobility. Here’s how to do this test:
- Stand with your arms loosely at your side.
- Reach your right arm over your right shoulder and your left arm behind and up your back and try to touch your hands together.
- Switch arms and repeat the test, so your left arm goes over your left shoulder and your right arm comes up behind your back until your two hands meet.
If your hands touch one another, you have good shoulder mobility. Not being able to touch your hands together isn’t unusual since it takes a lot of shoulder mobility to do this, but you shouldn’t have pain when you do the test, nor should you have a significant difference in mobility between sides. However, it’s not unusual for the dominant arm to have slightly less mobility.
What if you lack shoulder mobility? You can improve your shoulder flexibility and mobility with exercises like reverse flies and lateral raises, although use light weights when doing these exercises, as they can be stressful on your shoulders too. Also, shoulder mobility stretches, like cross-arm stretches and doorway stretches will improve shoulder your shoulder mobility if you do them consistently.
The Bottom Line
Planks are an essential part of any good fitness program. They build strength, balance, and coordination all at once, which is why you should do more plank variations. You can modify planks in many ways to challenge different areas of your core and improve strength, endurance, and flexibility. The reverse plank is only one variation you can include in your routine, but it stands out because it targets your posterior chain better than other variations.
Incorporating variations into your routine will help make your planks more challenging and keep your workouts fresh. But don’t forget to include the best one for strengthening your posterior chain – the reverse plank.
- “Reverse Plank Exercise Guide: How to Master Reverse Planks.” 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/reverse-plank-exercise-guide.
- com. “The Reverse Plank is the Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing”
- The Painful Shoulder: Part I. Clinical EvaluationTHOMAS W. WOODWARD, M.D., and THOMAS M. BEST, M.D., PH.D., University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, Wisconsin. Am Fam Physician. 2000 May 15;61(10):3079-3088.