Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Perfect the Plank

How to Get the Most Out of Your Plank

Weighted Plank +Wayne Washington 
The Plank is a great all-around core strengthening exercise. If practiced with attention to technique you can perfect the plank without subjecting yourself to injury.

In the Strength Training Lab, the Gym, you will find people performing many varieties of this exercise. Attention must first be given to the Classic Plank that +Neila Rey refers to in her awesome infographic.

The Classic Plank, performed from the forearms and toes, is a preferred technique to avoid weight-bearing on the hands. Performed from the hands, the plank can increase stress of the wrist.

Attention is given to correct posture of the neck, alignment of the spine and positioning of the hips.

If the head is allowed to sag downward stress can accumulate in the neck and upper scapular region of the shoulder blades.

If the back is allowed to sag downward, over accentuating the low back curve, like sway-back horse, stress can increase in the low back region. This can lead to low back pain and aggravation of pre-existing problems in the lumbar (low back) area.

Another common error is raising the butt to high. I refer to this as "teepee butt". Throw a sheet over the back and you have a tent.

Cure the Common Mistakes of the Plank

  • Keep the neck in a straight position with the chin slightly tucked.
  • Keep the back and spine in line with the head in this position.
  • Do not allow the spine to sag by drawing the abdominal muscles inward.
  • Keep the hips at the same level as the spine and head.
  • Breathing, keep breathing. In through the nose, out through the  mouth.

To begin your plank exercise use a timer positioned under your nose. Set the timer at 1-minute. Try to perform the "Classic Plank" exercise for as long as you can maintain good technique. Having a trainer monitor your exercise will provide the added benefit of watching your technique.

Modifications of the Plank

There are a variety of plank modifications that add value to the exercise.

  • Plank with alternating arm lift.
  • Plank with alternating leg lift.
  • Plank with alternating and opposite arm and leg lift.
  • Get ups, moving up and down from the "Classic Plank" position to the plank on hands position.
When you can perform a variety of plank exercises try the Plank 5-Minute Challenge .

The SmartBell Plank

The SmartBell is a 4.5-pound exercise tool that provides great wrist protection with a more neutral grasp. The weight of the SmartBell provides the added benefit of resistance to the exercise. I have used the SmartBell for over 6-years in my Physical Therapy Gym for functional based exercise, core strengthening and sport-specific exercise programs (Baseball, Volleyball, Tennis, Golf). 

For more information on the SmartBell, and how you can use this functional exercise tool for dynamic exercise you may contact me, or leave a comment below and I will get to you.

Perfecting the plank takes discipline and abdominal muscles with a strength base. Build your foundation with perfect form and progressive endurance and you will be ready for the next Plank-off at the gym, or the living room floor. Remember, you are your best opponent.

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