All Planks Are Not Created Equal
By Danny Hirtler NASM CPT CES MMACS
Planks. They’re a staple of just about any decent core workout and for a good reason; when executed properly they’re a powerful total body exercise that require no equipment and can function as the foundation for just about any exercise. Ironically, they are also one of the most inefficiently executed exercises in circulation today. Are you getting the most out of your planks?
I want you to try something for me. Get down onto the floor and into a standard forearm plank, the one you default to when the instructor calls it out in class. Hold it for about 30 seconds and consciously take note of which muscles you feel working.
What did you notice? If I had to guess I would say you felt it in your shoulders, maybe your chest muscles kicked in, and you felt a general engagement turned to burning around your midsection and core area near the hips. How am I doing so far? Just yell your answer at the screen Dora the Explorer style. I’ll roll with it.
Now, there is nothing really wrong with performing a plank that way, after all, there are still some muscles working, however, a proper plank should be a total body exercise. Let me walk you through one
– Lay face down on the floor, on your for forearms. Your elbows should be right below your shoulders and your forearms should be parallel to each other.
– Make sure your feet are hip width apart and then flex them to point your toes toward your knees.
– Now squeeze your glutes as tight as you can (this should bring your knees off the ground) with your toes pointed and your glutes tight it’s not time to…
– Flex your abs as tight as you can (this should bring your hips off the ground)
– Raise your hips until they’re even with your shoulders, all the while maintaining those flexed feet, tight glutes, and abs. Almost done.
– Now retract your shoulder blades. Essentially imagine that you’re trying to put your shoulder blades in your back pockets (down and back). This should also engage your lats.
If you’re doing it right you should feel just about every major muscle in your body putting in active work during this plank, which is why this variation is called an… Active Plank, and it’s one of the simplest, most efficient way to maximize any exercise.
Using this as the foundation or baseline for almost any exercise will ensure that you’re truly getting the most out of it. The next time you’re about to perform a pushups, try to remember the active plank (toes, glutes, abs, shoulders) Lock it in and once all those muscles are engaged THEN let those arms lower you toward the ground. This isn’t just limited to being on the floor. You can use an active plank as the foundation for almost any weight based movement. Just stand tall, engage your glutes and abs, retract your shoulder blades and then… curl. Or press. Or row. Either way, keep that active plank! Make it your foundation!
If you’ve ever taken my class you’ve probably heard me yell more often than you can count that you should keep your abs and glutes tight, so hopefully this helped shed some light on my process for you. If you’ve never taken one, come join us! It’s always a good time. Sometimes classes are so full that half the class ends up making gluten free macaroni pictures (so start thinking about your motif in case you end up in that group).
Even if you never take my class, stop by and say hi next time you’re at krank!
Peace, Love, and Core