I like planks; I think they’re a great exercise. I also realize that they can seem boring. Just sitting there for an extended period of time might not seem very exciting after a while, but they do have their value.
Planks are a great core stabilization exercise. Core stabilization is very important when it comes to our training movements. When it comes to Olympic movements, squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows and even bench press it is imperative to have a stable core.
How does it come into play when we bench press? A strong core makes sure that you are able to stabilize so you don’t have any extra movements while handling heavy weights.
Planks do help strengthen the core musculature, but the big compound movements like the ones mentioned above, among others will have the biggest impact. The core musculature isn’t any different when it comes to building strength. Continuously putting yourself under heavy weights, your core will not have a choice but to get stronger.
When lifting weights, it’s very important to be as efficient as possible. We don’t want any extra movement when we are handling weight. If we have extra movement we won’t be handle as much weight as possible and it could lead to injury.
Planks also play a big role in fixing low back pain and posture. Performing a proper plank helps stabilize the core, helps bring the body to better alignment, and take stress off of the low back. The better our posture, the better we function.
A proper plank requires full body tension, squeezing your glutes and core. Keeping your glutes and core tight will help keep you in optimal alignment. Proper alignment should consist of the back of the head, the upper back and the hip in a straight line making 3-points of contact.
The other day I wrote about quality over quantity, you can check it out here. When it comes to planks, this is very important to remember.
To often I think people try to plank for too long. The longer the plank goes the worse the form gets. When the form gets bad, the low back goes into extension and the head goes into forward head posture.
Just staying in a long plank to plank is not a good idea. Watching people fight, lift their hips up, and get away from proper positioning just to continue to plank is a mistake. When I see ugly planks, I can only think to myself, “What the plank are you doing?” Sorry my sense of humor isn’t great.
I don’t think you need to plank for longer 30-45 seconds. People can’t stay tight or hold proper position for much longer because fatigue sets in. I have become a big fan of performing cluster sets for my planks. Performing clusters makes it so you can stay tight as possible for short period of times. An example of a cluster looks like this: 3 sets of 3 10-second holds.
Remember when it comes to planks…. QUALITY QUALITY QUALITY.
Now if holding for 30-45 seconds is easy then its time to move on. Sitting in one spot for a long period of time can get boring. They’re a lot of great plank variations, so when its time to move on here are a few: side planks, plank with arm march, single leg march, push pull plank, leg drop plank, up down planks, and side planks with a row to name a few.
Next time you go to do planks remember quality over quantity. Don’t worry about how long you can hold it, but how tight you can stay in proper alignment. When the time comes venture out and try a new variation. The new variation will bring you a new challenge, and help will you continue to progress.