We like having Al on staff, because he dispenses good exercise advice. For free!
People do them all the time. The goal is to build strength in the abdomen and stability in the spinal column. The problem is not too many people actually know how to sequence their muscles correctly to perform the exercise the right way.
This is BAD plank form! Notice the position of the pelvis.
Being sore the next day isn’t the goal of a plank. A TOTAL body contraction creating a straight stable spine is. This means:
- The back DOESN’T arch
- This includes NO camel’s hump in the upper back.
- The hip flexors ARE NOT involved
- The elbows are under the shoulders
- The abdomen is drawn up toward the collar bone like you’re bracing against a canon ball!
- The heels drive together to activate the glutes
- The elbows drive toward the hips (I like this variation to hammer the abs more. It is for advanced exercises WITHOUT upper cross syndrome.)
- You squeeze your glutes like you are preventing air from entering the body
Done correctly, planks and standing planks with lateral resistance, are of the best exercises you can do for spinal column stabilization, training the rotational muscles of the rib cage and building a total body strength platform. They hit the abdominal wall, the glutes, spinal erectors, legs and pretty much every muscle fiber in the body if you do them correctly. IF. YOU. DO. THEM. CORRECTLY.
Here’s the way I like to do them. It’s the RKC style and it’s short, sweet and most definitely to the point. Just to reiterate, here’s what you should do:
- Narrow the base by placing your elbows closer together.
- Contract the quads to lock out the knees.
- Contract the glutes as hard as possible to lock pelvis in place.
- Do it correctly and the low abs and external obliques will let you know they’re on board!
- Hold this pelvic position the whole time you are doing the exercise.
- Keep your head in neutral with forehead facing the floor.
- Do it right, and good luck going longer than 15-30 secondss!
“Like the pushup, the best exercises for back health and a firmer stomach are ones that work your abs while holding your spine straight, like planks or leg drops” (done when you lie flat on your back, with your hands at the base of your spine for added support) From Stop Doing Sit-Ups: Why Crunches Don’t Work by Kate Dailey.
Planks on a stable surface with the goal of holding this style for 15-30 seconds.
3-5 sets 3x/week
Elevate your feet until you can make 30 seconds of RKC style planks.
Use a BOSU if you can’t hold the position on the floor correctly
Continue if you get low back pain because THAT’S BAD.
Alright, there you go, do your planks. Eat your catcher’s mitt made of veggies before your next meal. Brush your teeth 2x/day and enjoy your weekend!