Core strength is important for everything we do. Our core, or trunk, is the link between our upper and lower bodies. It encompasses our abdominal muscles as well as our backs. A strong core can improve our stability and functionality – our ability to do normal, every day activities.
If you have surgery in your future, working to improve your core strength is a smart strategy. After surgery even routine things like just getting out of a chair can be difficult. Any improvements you make in your core fitness before surgery will pay off after in better stability and mobility.
The plank is one of my favorite core exercises. It strengthens your abs, the muscles of your back, shoulders, gluteals, and legs – pretty much everything. Lie face-down on the floor. Raise yourself up onto your elbows and toes, keeping your torso straight (like a plank, hence the name). Don’t stick your butt up in the air or let your hips sag. Hold – for 30 seconds, or as long as you can if that’s too much.
The plank is tough, though. If you haven’t been working your core muscles, the plank may be too difficult to start. It may not be the right exercise for you. Or if you have difficulty getting down onto the floor, or have shoulder problems, the plank could be a problem. But there are alternatives; you can still effectively work your core.
The plank can be done as a standing exercise. For standing plank, face the wall about arm’s distance away. Lean against the wall on your elbows and forearms. Like the floor plank, keep your body straight, like a plank. Pull in your abs and squeeze your buttocks – make your body as rigid as you can. Hold for as long as you can while keeping good form. If you’re just starting out, 5-10 seconds may be enough. Repeat.
The plank, in either form, is a highly effective exercise for building up core strength. It’s a great exercise for anyone. But if you are facing surgery, this exercise can really help you. It can help you feel more solid on your feet after surgery, potentially increasing your mobility and reducing falls. Spend a little time with the plank; you’ll be glad you did.