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Thread: Do You Plank? page

  1. #1
    Coach Palfrey's Avatar
    Coach Palfrey is offline Senior Member
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    Do You Plank?

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    I just put together a post on the Plank and I thought some of you guys might enjoy it. It's slightly inflammatory but hopefully you'll get the point that I'm trying to make!

    Sandbag Fitness: The Plank - How Good Is It?

    plank.JPG

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    Owly's Avatar
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    I found this interesting. I've been working more in planning my programming to think about the purpose of different movements and why I'm doing them. Since I'm trying to improve my main lifts, I've been doing more research about accessory exercises and why I might do something on a given day. It's a really different approach from doing an exercise because it's supposed to be "good" without having a reason to add it in.

    I like planks partly for the mental as well as physical workout they provide--there's a psychological element to static holds that's different from pushing for one more rep. But I don't do them super often because I find there are things that work better for core strength/stability for me. Usually I only end up doing planks if I drop into a yoga class where they're included.

    So Coach, when would you include planks into a program and why? I'm curious about when they might be an effective choice.
    “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

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    Leida's Avatar
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    I use planks as a part of my stretching routine, doing 3 straight ones and one to each side. I like planks and push-ups as a part of my stretch routine. I don't know why?
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    I always thought they were suplimental for core strenght, I do them as part of PBF, and as alll the other 4 excersies are large body weight movement they need a strong core as well to perform well for example I recon I can 'feel' by abs the next day more when I've done pull ups as I have to raise my legs to get down to a dead hand without hitting the floor than I can after I've done the 3 times 90 second planks and the 3 times 45 seconds side planks on each side.

    I also would like to know when you think they are effective and what alternatives you suggest.
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    I took a body pump class for 10 months. We did all kinds of planks all the time. Over those 10 months I went from not being able to do them on elbows and toes to being able to do them for the entire duration we were supposed to hold them. So I did improve my core strength.

    However, in a month of doing squats and deadlifts with heavy barbells I have more than doubled the amount of time I can hold a plank. In fact, I don't know how long I could hold one as I've never tried to do one to failure. I do planks now as both a test of my progress and as something to do to get me out of my office chair for a couple of minutes.

    I still think they are better than sit-ups, though.
    Female, 5'3", 49, Starting weight: 163lbs. Current weight: 135 (more or less).
    Starting squat: 45lbs. Current squat: 180 x 2. Current Deadlift: 230 x 2

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    In regards to the question about the plank being an effective choice, I think the important thing is that we don't quantify an exercise or an improvement in an exercise as achieving a broad goal - core strength in this case. In a basic sense I always think it is more correct to view exercises on a spectrum whereby:

    - on a base-level you get better at the exercise
    - the exercise contributes to a desired component of fitness
    - the exercise benefits you in relation to your overall goals and needs
    - the exercise works well in relation to other activities that you perform and/or other exercises

    That's a pretty simplified approach but my point is that getting better at an exercise can have a positive impact on a desired goal and it can also have little impact on a desired goal. In this sense it's important to qualify exercises as we might qualify cardiovascular exercise - doing more, and more frequently, doesn't always work for those categories and the same holds true with any activity. In terms of function, that's why actually doing the activity you want to get good at is always fairly good, basic advice.

    For me, the plank is a good exercise as it is accessible to a wide range of people and is less likely to aggravate a range of common spinal conditions - as opposed to spinal flexion based movements like crunches. It also teaches the broad skill of 'activation' of the core muscles and teaches people to maintain neutral spine. A good entry level exercise but has limited long-term value, especially the basic version.

    I'm also of the general opinion that if you can do push ups (especially full), then planks aren't necessary.

    It's always tricky to give recommendations as it turns into a one-size-fits-all approach (which I hate) but I tend to programme most 'core specific' things in a standing position. As a general rule, individuals exhibit bad postural traits while standing so it makes sense to improve the competency here. Of course, those standing exercises need to be followed using the same neutral spine coaching points. Things that are useful:

    - Overhead presses
    - Single arm overhead presses
    - Deadlifts
    - Suitcase deadlifts
    - Archer Rows (in a lunge position)
    - Anything rotational with stress in the Frontal plane
    - Overhead walks/carries

    Again, I'm not bashing the plank but hope that people will look on their exercise selection in a different light.

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    So essentially you are saying the plank is ok to start with, but other excersies are better once you can do them well as they provide a more realistic transferable core strenght. Or planks will make you good at planks, and improve your core to make deadlifts easier. Dead lift will improve your core more for real life transferable strenght, plus make you strong as feck too.

    I have to agree with that.

    So Coach, is holding my 20lb plus 1 year old in a lying position at chest hight and rotating my upper body from side to side to rock her to sleep a good functional core excersise

    ps - got your free sandbag teaser book - looks good, probably gonna get a some sandbags to enhance my PBF routine - like doing deadlifts just coz they are supposed to make you really strong and overhead presses as part of my prep for headstand push-ups.

    ETA: I also like benching my 4 year old, she is very wiggly and makes a sandbag seem stable and easy to hold, plus she giggles which is kinda like one of them vibration plate work-outs
    Last edited by Tribal Rob; 11-23-2012 at 01:05 AM.
    You know all those pictures of Adam and Eve where they have belly button? Think about it..................... take as long as you need........................

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    I'm glad my instincts seem to be leading me in the right direction then! I find any sort of overhead pressing and deadlifting will definitely put a lot of demand for core stability by themselves but I am also trying to program stuff that will help my reach my lifting goals so I have been doing back extensions and hanging leg raises as accessory work to deadlifts.

    Tribal Rob, I like overhead pressing my little nieces and nephews. Kids love that stuff. Good thing my friends trust me not to drop their smalls!
    “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

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    Coach Palfrey's Avatar
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    Rob - If there is a more anything more functional than raising and looking after children then I'll eat my hat! Glad you liked the free book - feel free to drop me a line with any sandbag related questions you might have.

    Owly - You make a good point about accessory lifts. Anything can have its place in a program if it is part of the overall goal. I'd even include exercises that make you feel good in there.

    I have an article coming up in Outdoor Fitness magazine here in the UK on the planes of motion (Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse) and how they can be used to develop strength and stability. As soon as the article is out I'll do a post about it and then share it here (or you can pick it up in most newsagents).

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    Leida's Avatar
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    I am just wondering if you hold the same opinion about the side plank as the straight plank?

    I don't expect to stop doing planks simply because I like those few moments of perfect stillness in my stretching routine and the coming up of the shake as the body responds to the isometrics, but I was wondering if you see a benefit from side planks or they are for kicks as well?
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