When I started going to the gym after working in a cubicle for five years, and only taking time for exercise infrequently, I didn’t know what to expect. I had a personal trainer, so was excited to learn some new ways to exercise, but was also nervous since I knew I wasn’t in great shape.

Most of the exercises turned out to be fun and doable, and I usually had a blast working out before starting work in the morning. But, there was one that would make time go by very slowly – the plank. Doing planks is not only a way to make memories in the gym, it is also one of the best ways to strengthen your core.

Who doesn’t want stronger core muscles? Core muscles include those in the abdomen, back and around the pelvis. For a woman, the advantages of having a strong core are immense. Not only does it help with looking fit and trim, but also with living everyday. It can decrease your risk of injury, help prevent back pain, increase muscle flexibility in your core, and boost your metabolism.

According to Power of Positivity, the core muscles play a huge role in mobility, posture, and more.

– Back support: Lower-back pain affects 80 percent of all Americans at some point in life. Chronic lower back pain can be painful to the point of being debilitating. Core muscles play the primary role in ensuring a healthy back.

– Posture: Strong core muscles are vital to good posture, which both “trims your silhouette and projects confidence.” Most importantly, good posture limits the amount of wear and tear that inevitably takes its toll as we age.

– Routine movements: Any movement that involves the manipulation of your torso requires the core muscles to execute. This includes bending, sitting, rotating, and standing.

– Stability and balance: Your core essentially “connects” the upper and lower parts of the body. As such, good balance and stability require a well-conditioned core.

Read more >> See more reasons why the plank is a great exercise for core strength at Power of Positivity.

To do a plank, you need a mat, and a stopwatch. Depending on your age and physical condition, you can start by holding a plank for just 20 – 30 seconds, but don’t worry if you can’t make it to 20 seconds at first. You can build up your strength and endurance gradually over time as you practice. Once you are ready to increase the time you hold a plank, try increasing it by 10 seconds. Don’t expect to increase your time to hold a plank more than by 10 seconds per week, but depending on your physical condition it could be more or less. Play it by ear.

For me, sandwiching a couple of planks into my 45 minute once per week workout worked well for starters. Soon, I was exercising more often each week, and I no longer dreaded doing planks because they became much easier. Of course, before starting any new exercise routine, it is always good to check with your doctor.