The world of workouts is populated by numerous fads, training routines and cardio movements. Amidst all these, one particular trend that has caught the fancy of both exercise novices and fitness freaks in recent times, gaining even more recognition during the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns, total closure of gyms, is the plank workout.
A terrific physical activity that bolsters core strength, a plank involves staying balanced and holding the body in the raised pose of a push-up, keeping the forearm and leg muscles straight and intact, for an extended period of time. The plank workout is quite simple to perform, being fairly easy to master with some regular practice, even for beginners.
Contrary to the general notion that planking surfaced pretty recently as a fitness trend, the highly beneficial exercise has been practiced for the past several decades. The plank exercise was introduced initially by Joseph Pilates, a renowned German physical trainer and the founder of the Pilates exercise regime, as a muscle fortifying exercise, which he termed leg pull front. Over time, it came to be known as the plank, since the pose in which the person stays in, resembles a flat floorboard or piece of wood.
Doing plank exercises is one of the best ways to build core muscle strength, enhance flexibility and maintain a fit and fabulous body. The plank is indeed a fundamental workout, that requires no elaborate gym equipment, treadmill, weights, dumbbells, which can be easily done right at home. Read on, to find out the technique to perform a basic plank workout, plus its countless fantastic merits for improved physical health.
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How To Do A Plank:
One of the great advantages of the plank workout is the sheer number of variations in which it can be performed, such as the high plank, extended plank, low plank, side plank and knee plank, to name a few. Nevertheless, to start with, knowing how to perform a classic forearm plank is the ideal way to accustom the body to this intensive calorie-burning workout. All you need is a wide, even surface on the floor and a comfortable yoga mat. The steps involved in carrying out a plank are as follows:
At first, place your hands beside your shoulder, with arms, elbows bent and feet flat on the ground, lying down on your stomach.
Slowly raise your torso off the ground up to a comfortable height, keeping the back straight and lifting the forearms, toes to support your body weight.
Balance yourself in this position initially for 10 seconds, then gradually increase the holding time in the raised position to 30, 45 and 60 seconds.
Keep your head facing downwards throughout and ensure it does not droop, while maintaining a stable, upright pose of shoulders and neck.
Perform 3 sets of planks daily i.e. lifting the body, holding for 60 seconds and lowering it, iterating thrice and resting for 1 minute between each repetition.
Superb Health Benefits Of Plank Exercises:
Stimulates Various Muscle Groups
While doing a plank, all the major muscle groups in the body, right from the shoulders, to the forearm, abdominal and leg, are stretched, thereby keeping the connective tissues active and vigorous. Thus, doing planks every day vastly assists in developing a robust core, with toned muscles in the waist, hips, thigh, abdomen, pelvic floor, back and buttocks.
Amplifies Body Flexibility
Stiff muscles and rather rigid bones, joints invariably lead to frequent sprains, strains and cramps of the mobile tissues in the system, restricting the capability of the body to move and expand smoothly. Planks are a wonderful way to involve the forearm, shoulder, neck, collarbone and hamstring thigh muscles, extending them dynamically and promoting overall suppleness in the body.
Guarantees Better Posture
A proper and erect body posture has immense benefits for total healthcare. It aids in precisely aligning the bones, joints, while assuring the ability of muscles to perform better. Engaging in an intense plank workout regularly confers a tremendous positive impact on the complete poise, balance and bearing of the body.
Effectively Burns Excess Fat
Incorporating planks as part of the routine workout helps to significantly get rid of surplus body mass, particularly the very harmful visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, in the region of the stomach. Planks, when retained for a longer span of time and performed every day, offer noteworthy merits for slimming down, losing tummy weight, bolstering metabolism, infusing high energy levels, endurance and stamina to the body.
Lowers Chances Of Injuries
Unlike crunches or weights, plank exercises do not impose abundant amounts of pressure on the hips, legs and back. Hence, engaging in a plank workout session daily reinforces core muscle power, provides ample force and drive for the upper back area, lower back vicinities and decreases the possibility of spinal cord injuries.
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8 Benefits Of The Dead Hang
As children, we’ve all had the experience of hanging off monkey bars while playing in the park. We would do it just for fun, simply because it felt good. But as we grew older and our priorities changed, we stopped doing that, when in fact it’s something we need to do now more than ever.
Hanging from a pull-up bar can no longer be called ‘monkeying around’. It’s a serious business, offering a plethora of benefits to the body. In fact, the activity has a name now. It’s called ‘the dead hang’ – an exercise that works your upper body by simply dangling off a bar.
But dangling off a bar is not simple, mind you. Even for the fittest of people, doing pull-ups can be daunting, as it requires immense core strength and muscular arms. It’s also incredibly difficult to last a dead hang for more than a few minutes. Nevertheless, it’s a step you need to take towards improving your strength and stability over time. Doing a dead hang for a few minutes every day makes pull-ups seem like a piece of cake.
Here are 8 reasons why you do ‘The dead hang’ daily:
- Improves your grip
Since the dead hang requires you to hold onto a bar for quite some time, your hands may likely slip off it easily, even though you have the endurance to keep going. But with practice, the likelihood of this happening reduces. The grip of your palms improves once you get used to doing the dead hang. It works the muscles in your wrist and fingers, making them stronger, more flexible.
- Stretches the upper body
The dead hang primarily works your upper body. It’s a great stretching exercise for your back, arms, shoulders and abdominal muscles, made possible with the opposing forces of your palms’ grip on the bar and the gravitational pull of the rest of the body.
It releases any sort of stiffness inside the body, which is why playing on monkey bars used to feel so good as a child. The dead hang loosens up the muscles of the upper body.
- Relaxes your spine
Since your upper body is stretched in a dead hang, so is your spine. It helps to decompress the back, keeping it aligned with the body by making it straight.
A weak back invites many other health problems like neck pain, shoulder ache and inflexibility. This exercise will prevent these from happening. And remember, you are as young as your spine.
- Increases shoulder mobility
In a dead hang, the entire weight of the body is held by the arms and given that the arms are connected to your shoulders, how flexible your shoulders are make decide how easy or difficult the activity is for you. If you practice it regularly, it opens up the shoulder muscles and increases their range of motion. This means you can now flex your shoulders across a larger radius, without it feeling like a struggle.
- Strengthens your forearms
Since most upper body exercises are focused on building your biceps and triceps, a lot of people tend to overlook their forearms. The dead hang, however, is one exercise that increases the strength in our forearms, as it has an operative function in it.
The entire body weight is borne by the forearms, the wrist and the palms – all of which acquire tremendous strength with regular practice, that can help us in on daily activities involving pulling, pushing and lifting.
- Corrects your posture
Since both your arms are holding the pull-up bar parallel, the body’s weight is divided equally between the two. This helps to realign the body, straighten your back and correct any imbalances inadvertently created in the body – for example, when working a desk job, you may tend to lean on one side more than the other or keep the shoulders hunched. The effects of these habits can be damaging to the body, resulting in unequal knee strength or overpronation in feet. This can be fixed by doing the dead hang daily.
- Strengthens your core
Core strength is important to do any strength training exercise like push-ups, planks or crunches. The dead hang helps improve your core power, as it’s a holistic exercise working all parts of the upper body from the back to the abdomen, from the arms to the shoulders. It increases your strength and endurance overall.
- Works your lats
The latissimus dorsi muscles, also known as the lats, connect our arms to the spine near the shoulder blades. Dangling from a pull-up bar, opens up the lats, increasing the range of motion of the shoulders, improving arm strength and flexibility, making the adjoining organs – the vertebrae and the arms more powerful.
Perhaps, the next time a friend asks you to ‘hang out’ you should consider trying out the dead hang together!
10 Benefits Of Doing A Headstand Everyday
The good ol’ headstand, also called Shirshasana, is a yoga pose that involves standing on your head. This is an advanced asana and beginners and intermediate practitioners should always do this under the guidance and watchful eye of a trainer. It’s imperative to note though that with regular practice and patience, getting into and holding the Shirshasana is doable and it has many, many health benefits.
From better blood circulation and digestion to balanced hormones and stress relief – there’s nothing the headstand can’t fix. In fact, many yogis recommend doing a headstand every day to reap the positive results it has on your health and well-being.
However, as mentioned above, Shirshasana is an advanced yoga pose and can’t be performed by everyone or at any time (and it shouldn’t). To be safe and derive maximum benefits from it, there are certain do’s and don’ts that you must keep in mind before trying it out.
HOW DOES ONE DO A HEADSTAND?
- If you’re a beginner, we suggest that you learn to practice the headstand under the guidance of an instructor. However, if you are a regular practitioner and have done the headstand many times before but you want to better your practice, follow this step-by-step process:
- Lay a cushioned mat in front of you. For additional support, you can position it next to a wall.
- Go down on all fours and keep your back straight.
- Place your forearms flat on the floor with your elbows shoulder-width apart.
- Interlace your fingers to form a cup-shaped cushion with your palms.
- Your thumbs should be pointing at the ceiling.
- Place your head right in front of your palms.
- The crown of your head should touch the floor and the back of your head should take support of your palms.
- You can adjust your head slightly as per your comfort and convenience, but make sure your neck feels firm.
- Straighten your knees so that you’re on your toes.
- Slowly bring your legs as close to your armpits as you can.
- Using your core muscles, lift your legs off the floor and straighten them above your head.
- Get your body to be in complete alignment.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds to begin with, before reversing the steps and returning to your original position.
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WHAT’S THE APPROPRIATE TIME AND DURATION FOR A HEADSTAND?
You can do a headstand in the morning and evening. However, before you practice, make sure that you have a three-hour gap between your meal and your practice.
If you’re a beginner, don’t do a headstand for more than a minute as your neck and shoulders are not used to the pressure. If you’re using a wall for support, however, you can hold for 2-3 minutes.
WHO SHOULD REFRAIN FROM DOING A HEADSTAND?
- Children below the age of 7, as their skull and spine that are underdeveloped and prone to injuries.
- Pregnant women, as it involves a risk of falling
- For people with shoulder, neck or back pain, to avoid straining them further
- People with cardiovascular problem
- People with blood pressure, to avoid tampering with the natural flow of blood
- People with diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, as they have weak bones that can’t bear the burden of the body
- People suffering from migraines, to avoid a sudden rush of blood to the brain
- People with serious eye conditions like glaucoma, as it can increase pressure on the eyes
10 HEALTH BENEFITS ASSOCIATED WITH DOING A HEADSTAND:
Improves Blood Circulation
While standing straight, the blood in the body typically flows downwards, in gravity’s direction. When you’re upside down in a headstand, however, blood rushes towards the upper body. So if you do this every day, you’re making sure that the blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients for the cells, is transported across all organs.
Another benefit that results from better blood circulation is improved digestion. When your body is inverted, blood flows towards the digestive system, nourishing all the vital organs that contribute to the digesting process. Moreover, it releases trapped gases from the system, enabling an easier and faster digestive process.
Hormonal imbalances are a common problem among today’s generation, resulting in severe problems like indigestion, diabetes, thyroid, infertility and osteoporosis. One of the main reasons is a sedentary lifestyle with little to no physical activity. While doing a headstand, the kidneys, pancreas, thyroid and other organs are relieved of stiffness and weakness, which balances the hormones.
Reduces Back Pain
While doing a headstand, your body has to be in complete alignment. This erect posture helps strengthen the back, alleviating any pain that exists in its muscles. Also, it pumps blood to the soft tissues lining the spine, giving it an abundant supply of oxygen and nutrients that allay stiffness, thus improving its flexibility and mobility.
Strengthens Arms And Shoulders
In a headstand, the weight of your entire body is borne by your arms and shoulders, which results in them becoming stronger, more enduring every time. It helps get rid of arm flab, giving your arms more definition. The shoulders are toughened such that they can carry heavy weights with ease.
Decreases Fluid Build Up In The Lower Body
A lesser-discussed problem stems from leading an inactive lifestyle in fluid build-up in parts of the body that have become stiff. When you sit or stand in a position for too long, the blood vessels in your legs leak of a fluid called edema. The accumulation of edema causes swelling, pain and sometimes, immobility. When you’re in a headstand, the buildup of fluids like edema in your lower body is forced to move, which makes you feel light on your feet.
Promotes Healthy Hair
When you do a headstand, the blood pumped to the upper body also reaches your heap and scalp. The rush of oxygen and nutrients to its cells opens up clogged hair follicles, resulting in faster, longer and healthier growth of hair. If you’re suffering from hair loss or greys, simply turn upside down and give your scalp a boost of nutrients.
Makes Your Skin Glow
The rush of blood to the upper body also reaches the facial muscles, replenishing them with oxygen and nutrients. The increased oxygen supply opens up clogged pores and allays acne. The nutrients, on the other hand, reduce dryness and dehydration. All in all, it gets your face to look glowy and radiant.
Strengthens The Core Muscles
While you’re in a headstand, your body has to be in one straight line. To maintain this alignment, you need to continuously engage your core muscles. By doing this, the strength, endurance and flexibility of these muscles increases, making you fitter and stronger in the process.
Puts You In A Better Mood
When blood is pumped to the brain, the release of hormones like dopamine, serotonin and melatonin is stimulated, which can otherwise only be attained by doing a full-blown workout. These hormones have a calming effect on your mind and effectively reduce your stress levels.
So when you do a headstand, your mood automatically improves.
Practice a headstand today and reap the many health benefits it offers (but first, make sure you’re fit and experienced enough!)