If you are unfamiliar with what a plank is then you probably performed your first one back in P.E at school as some sort of punishment. It is where you are in a prone (face down) position resting on just your elbows, forearms and your toes.
I’m sure you all have that one friend who brags about how long they can hold a plank for. I think the longest claim I have heard is something ludicrous like 7 minutes. The world record is well over four hours…
Time isn’t the sole name of the game with a plank, the emphasis should be on quality
The main aim of the plank is to get people to support the spine and to resist the extension forces provided by gravity on the lower back.
The trouble is that when people hold this position for a long period of time all they are doing is relying on their joints, specifically the vertebrae in the lower back, to hold them there.
Hanging out is not what we want… you need to create tension!
To repeat, the plank is designed to support the spine and resist extension, which is best done by staying “tight” in the musculature surrounding the spine.
A good plank involves:
Bracing the abdominals; Think of the feeling you get when someone is about to punch you in the stomach…
Squeezing the glutes; This will stabilise your lower back in neutral…
Having the elbows directly under the shoulders; Attempting to draw the elbows back towards the naval without them actually sliding back will increase abdominal contraction…
Making a double chin; One of the only times multiple chins are a good look…
Keeping your shoulder blades squeezed together; Stopping you from rounding in the upper back…
All of this will increase the difficulty of the plank, meaning that you wont be able to hold it for as long, but you will be getting the desired effect.
Planks are great to use as a stepping-stone towards compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
There is the crowd out there who will say squats and deadlifts are the most challenging on the core so that is all you need to be doing.
And it’s true!
However, teaching someone to squat and deadlift who hasn’t learnt how to properly brace their “core” and create tension isn’t ideal.
Once you are proficient with the standard plank then it is very easy to progress and to keep versions of the exercises in your programme. Push ups are a progression of the plank for example…
Plank Walk Ups
Tall Side Plank
Plank & Mountain Climber Technique
Down Dog to Tall Plank
If you have any questions on the above or would like some advice on how we could help you with your fitness goal, visit our gym and try one of our personal training sessions.