Is there a more popular core exercise than the plank? Heck, there may be few mainstream exercises that are more popular than the plank itself. In fact, I cracked up pretty hard when a few years ago the television show, “The Office”, spoofed planking. You know something is pretty big when mainstream media can even make fun of it.
That doesn’t mean the plank isn’t important. It is a great foundational exercise to teach us how to integrate the lower body, trunk, and upper body all together. The plank teaches us how to brace our torso to create a strong “belt” around our spine. These concepts are critical as the whole point of the plank is to teach us these ideas so when we perform more complex drills we can apply the same techniques.
Unfortunately many people plank and then don’t think about them when they squat, press, lunge, pull, etc. Because we don’t think of our foundations when we perform other exercises we commonly see problems in developing these movements. You should think about the plank when you squat, lunge, and do any exercise, the truth is most people never do!
That leads many people to look at how people move during their workouts as dysfunctional. To some degree they are right, the major reason that many people don’t do well in their training is because they don’t pay attention to how their body is connected. Learning to make connections is actually how you get faster results.
Our body isn’t one muscle or a bunch of independent muscles. Rather our body is a complex system of muscles that need to work with each other, fascia that helps transmit energy and movement, nerves that conduct messages throughout the body, and much more. Understanding how to make these connections is the essence of functional training and our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system.
That is why we focus so much on varying the stability of our Ultimate Sandbag, how we stand when we lift the Ultimate Sandbag, where we place the Ultimate Sandbag on our body, the speeds we move, etc. All of these variables used with purpose and progression leads to not only better fitness results, but a more sophisticated and highly tuned body.
How you introduce these ideas can be tough for some as they are new to many people training. That is why the fitness industry has seen a host of training concepts become popular. One in particular, crawling, has gained a bit of momentum. The idea behind crawling is that because our body works in cross patterns, we are developing or re-educating our nervous systems which is the center of controlling our movements.
Before I go too far, does crawling work? I think it “works”, but not for the reason
that many believe. For one, most people really don’t “move” in their workouts. Most of the exercises in fitness programs I see require people to move just up and down in sa table position while creating a lot of body tension. While such training has its place, it is often so overused by people that it causes other issues. We forget how to really move!
Many people have also fallen in love with the instant gratification of lifting heavier and heavier very early in their training. Since we can see rapid improvements in our training especially early on, we fall into the trap of just doing more and more! Instead, science and the work of some of the top professionals in the world, has emphasized us building a strong foundation. Our foundations of fitness should involve more sub-maximal training. Building a base around lighter loads but performing work for longer time under tension, volume, etc. In other words, we build tendon and ligament strength early on, learn how to move in more integrated manner, and then we slowly add more and more weight. Most people do the opposite and then have to back off and heal their bodies they so badly beat up!
Crawling makes people work on their plank, build longer time under tension at sub-maximal weights (i.e. their bodyweight and less), and helps to build tension in the right places in the right amount. However, does it magically teach the nervous system anything?
Really hard to say. The initial idea for this concept came from neurological therapy that used these methods for people that suffered strokes or very intense brain injuries. However, very little has been studied in healthy individuals. The crossing or what I call “x-pattern” that people see in crawling is probably good, however, how much is hard to say as it is hard to measure. I believe people fall in love with this idea because often in fitness people NEVER train this very natural patter.
What is the x-pattern? Simply look how you walk, when you step you see opposite arm and leg move at the same time? This happens for a lot of reasons, mostly makes you more efficient in walking and helps create the natural belt for the spine during an unstable movement (which walking has a lot of instability). Early father’s of functional training like Gary Gray and Paul Chek talked about trying to train these x-patterns because they are such a foundation of our movement, but most people ignored these ideas because we didn’t really know how to train them to get stronger or more fit.
The truth is we really didn’t have the right tools. That is one reason that I am so dedicated to DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training. The Ultimate Sandbag gives us the right tool and DVRT gives us the knowledge of both how to get stronger, more fit, and train these important patterns of movement. Because we can vary how we stand, load the body, and manipulate the implement, we can do so much good in such a short amount of time. Our goal is to make smart training progressive and accessible, but to also make you more knowledgeable in the why’s.
Understanding why will give you more purpose to your training and knowledge into what to prioritize and focus upon. That is why ideas like crawling are good, but far from the full potential of these concepts. Today we are showing you some much needed x-pattern training progressions that take you from very stable to challenging levels.