How to do them, how useful are they, how long should they be held – you name it, Coach has the answers here for you.
This post is an absolute MINE of information plus some sensible, straight talking advice, so let’s plunge right in, shall we, with questions about planks, and the professional’s answer.
Q. “I have no abdominal strength”. Will planks help strengthen my core?
A. Let’s first get this right – if you can stand, sit, pull or push then you already have abdominal strength.
Remember that the body works as a single unit, and without abdominal strength you cannot possibly even sit 😊.
Now that we have this doubt out of the way, let’s look at planks.
Planks are a great exercise for core strengthening and not just abdominal strength.
Another point to elaborate here is let’s think about a typical day…think about how you move throughout your day and your surroundings. When you walk, clean the house, get out of your car or any other physical task that you perform, you are moving and bending in multiple planes of motion at the same time. Hence you must also train your planks or core keeping the same in mind.
Q. Is there a right and a wrong way to plank?
A. The right way is always pain free and enjoyable.
That being said, important considerations are always regarding alignment, activation and sound ground contact.
Basic cues are as follows:
1. Palm or elbow under shoulder
2. Chin tucked in & eyes forward
3. Shoulder blades squeezed
4. Hip – knee – ankle – in one straight line
5. Glutes tight & squeezed
6. Toes pushing into ground
Q. I’m new to this. How long should I hold a plank for?
A. Planks in my view should not be assessed only in terms of duration – to me that’s a typical gym error.
Firstly hold your plank comfortably for 30-45 seconds with your neck at ease and lower back secured – use your time, effort and mind to develop core strengthening in a multi-dimensional manner – rotation, anti rotation, extension, anti extension exercises etc. all must be a part of your training programme.
Q. I’ve seen videos of people holding planks for hours – what’s that all about? Is that what I should be aiming for?
A. This is probably a tough one for me, but I will like to answer it straight forward – you are wasting your precious hours and minutes. If you seriously have that much time and strength, please go out run, climb, jump, dance, play, skateboard, wash your car, ride a horse, try archery, bake a cake, try wildlife photography – any, some or all of these will use your core better and more.
Ability of strength and life rests outside the gym – I just feel that we need to look at the big picture and not crib about the small stuff every time
Q. What muscles does a plank work?
A. Please remember that your core comprises bascially the muscles that connect your upper body and lower body – as well as your shoulders, arms, and glutes.
Q.Why does my body start trembling when I plank?
A. This is a good thing.
Firstly, it helps you notice different parts of your body – wrist, forearms, shoulder, neck, legs and more.
Secondly, it helps establish the need to look into core training beyond just the abdominals.
Planks in any form or scale are a great stabiliser exercise – hence they improve the overall strength of all muscles when you push yourself into the ground.
Q. Tell us about side planks? Are they to be done as well as normal planks?
A. This plank derivative is a serious necessity for all individuals, athletes and folks who wish to reduce chronic lower back pain.
Any lateral (side) movement like a side plank runs in the frontal plane. This plane divides the body into front and backsides. This variation engages your obliques (the side muscles of your core) better than a standard plank.
Unfortunately we are so caught up that we rarely absorb natural and multi dimensional means to train and reclaim our bodies. To know more on building your core click on this article
Quick recap for our readers
1. Planks aren’t supposed to look like Downward Dog. Know the difference, guys!
2. Collapsing your lower back- super technical, have a friend gently place a broomstick or yardstick on your back. The top of the stick should make contact with your head, and the bottom of the stick should rest between your buttocks.
3. It’s important to think of your head and neck as an extension of your back. Keep your eyes on the floor, letting them rest about a foot in front of your hands, which will help keep your neck in a neutral position.
4. Stop focusing too much on the stopwatch.
Quality trumps the quantity of seconds ticking away.
When your form begins to suffer, it’s time to call it quits. If your back starts to bow or your shoulders start to sink, take a break.
5. Feet. Don’t forget your feet. Grind down through all 10 toes evenly and press the centre of your heels straight back to the wall behind you.
Wasn’t that great?!
Loads of useful tips and info on how to perform this important exercise.
NOW – if you’d like to be part of a discussion and conversation going forward, about planks, send us a photo of yourself planking, and we’ll put together some more personalised tips and critiques.
We’ll feature the best planks here – Coach will be the judge!
Maybe we can even have a “live” discussion session – well, “live” obviously means online, in these Covid times 🙂 It could be an Insta live or on Youtube session – we’ll let you know.
So get planking and send your photos!
Either add them to the blog as a comment, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog is written in collaboration with Strength and Conditioning inputs from Jeevan Singh Aujla.
Jeevan is an Indian SnC Coach with 14+ years of experience in educating and training people about the nuances of Strength and Conditioning. He has done his Masters in Sports Science from the UK.
Check out his work at decodesnc.com.