A few years back Dr Jinger Gottschall and the team at Penn State University compared the muscle activation of a collection of common abdominal exercises. This study highlighted how your core muscles work a lot harder in the hover or plank position than they do during isolated exercises such as crunches or oblique twists.
This increased muscle activation is because integrated core exercises use the upper body, the lower body and all the core muscles in between – that’s a big network of bracing going on and as a result your abdominals are working really hard.
These exercises also train your core muscles the way they are needed most often. How often do you sit up from a lying position? Throwing, walking, climbing stairs … they all require the coordinated action of your core muscles with your arms and legs, so, training them in this manner makes a lot of sense.
Hovers and planks are also great for building strength endurance, which is important because of how the postural muscles of our core work – they don’t work in short hard bursts, where they hold you up for a short time and then collapse, they work consistently during a lot of our daily activities – so endurance is key.