Posted June 3, 2014

Best Exercise in Ever: The Front Plank. Seriously, in Ever

I tend to involve a lot of planking variations in my clients training programs, and there’s a very simple reason for this. For bang for your buck exercises, I haven’t found one that creates as much of a benefit in a short period of time as a plank. In terms of increasing mobility through the hips, pre-activating the core muscles to help with spinal stabilization, getting people to learn and lock in neutral spinal positioning, and even working on coaching breathing behind a braced core, it tends to do a lot of things when done well.

The big take home point of that opening paragraph: Planks are tha awesome.

The downside is that a lot of people wind up doing planks in a god-awful manner, and do something that more resembles an Instagram fitness “celebrity” showing off their butt for a ready camera.

bad plank


I’ll be right back, I just need to stop my eyes from bleeding after seeing something like that.

Most planks wind up falling into 3 main categories:

  1. The neck is below the chest, meaning all the stabilization is coming from the shoulders and neck.
  2. The pelvis is in anterior tilt and the butt is above the line from the knees and ribs. This means the hip flexors and low back are doing all the work in a shortened state, which is great if you have nothing better to do for the next hour and want a new position by which you can read the morning paper. It’s not very challenging, and in reality it doesn’t do much beneficial stuff for you.
  3. Hard rounding through the thoracic spine. The shoulders are doing all the work, but the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) are doing something in a shortened position, which is essentially like holding a reverse crunch.

The best way to approach a plank is to think of getting into a linear body position where the head, shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line. Essentially, what ever would be ideal posture when standing is what ideal posture would be when planking, except, you know, more horizontal.

Here’s a quick tutorial video on how to set up into a fantastic plank.

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A good plank should be controlled massive tension through the entire body, where you have the goal of generating maximal muscle force throughout the total system and breathe in a deep and powerful manner. If you can do more than 15 seconds in a plank position, you’re not tensing hard enough. Work HARDER!!!

In a programming means, you should ideally accumulate time in each set through multiple “reps” of 10-15 seconds. An example is 4 sets of 15 seconds, with a 5 second recovery between reps. Smash your hips and core as hard as possible, and breathe deeply and forcefully.


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