Login | April 09, 2020

The wonderful world of plank

Pete’s World

Published: March 16, 2020

If you’ve been reading this column over the past several years then you know I’m a huge body-weight resistance (BWR) advocate. Heck, just surf over to the ALN archives, click editorials, sports and type in body-weight resistance and boom, you’ll immediately be presented with a host of my columns that either touch on this subject, or discuss it in detail.
Anyway, I’d like to continue to champion BWR by zeroing in on one of the most beneficial BWR exercises I can think of––and it comes in a rainbow of variations. I’m talking of course about the plank, so if you’ve never done it, or maybe haven’t taken it seriously enough, then listen up because there’s a lot going on when you start digging into this exercise.
Most fitness enthusiasts consider the plank one of the preeminent exercises that target the abs. And that’s true enough, but what you might not know about the plank is that it’s also a dynamite exercise for working the glutes (medius and minimus), hamstrings, hip adductors, erector spinae, rhomboids, rotator cuff and the external and internal obliques. It also helps to improve one’s posture and balance.
As you can see, this exercise covers a lot of territory.
So first, let’s take a really close look at this well-known exercise from an exercise technique standpoint, and then I’ll provide you with some websites from which to browse through a plethora of plank variations.
When performed correctly, this simple but amazingly challenging bodyweight exercise creates tension throughout the entire body while engaging the deepest of core musculature. It’s a static exercise (fixed position) that entails you using your arms to raise your upper and lower torso off the ground to assume a rigid, straight bodied pose, like a plank of wood. Hence the name, plank.
The most common variation of the plank is the forearm plank (also called front plank), where one’s body weight is supported in a pseudo-push-up position by the forearms, elbows and toes. Proper protocol for this plank as stipulated by bootcampmilitaryfitnessinstitute.com is as follows:
Lie face down on a level surface, resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor, push up off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on elbows. Keep back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt pelvis and contract abdominals to prevent the butt from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle. Hold from 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for two to five repetitions.
That is how to perform the forearm plank correctly, and I cited the aforementioned military website precisely because they’re so exacting with respect to form and technique. So if you find yourself doing what I call a “helium butt” (butt too high), or a “lead butt” (butt too low), then you should seriously consider downgrading to the modified plank - the protocol of which can also be accessed on this same website.
One of the best ways to ascertain the proper execution of this exercise is by having a workout partner place a broomstick across your back. When performing a legit plank that broomstick should only make contact with the head, upper back and hips.
What’s more, there are several other subtleties to consider. You’ve got to resist the temptation to shrug those shoulders toward your ears. And then there’s the head which must remain in a neutral position, similar to when you stand straight and look forward. Again, resist the temptation to crane your neck up or let your head drop––stare at your fists to keep that head neutral.
Now in my opinion the forearm plank is the bare-bones basic plank to learn before progressing to any one of the multitude of variations.
And when talk turns to plank variations, wow, there’s a boatload. Some of my favorites include the side plank, push-up plank (also called high plank and straight arm plank), clock plank, and the reverse plank. So if you consider yourself ready to begin diversifying your plank routine I urge you to check out the following websites: https://redefiningstrength.com/15-plank-variations/, https://www.msn.com/en-in/health/fitness/30-plank-variations-for-six-pack-abs/ss-BAIIes#image=1, https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/effective-plank-exercises-to-strengthen-your-body/
Enjoy this wonderful world of plank.