Let’s see, burpees, squat jumps, push-ups, lunges, and planks! Those are typically the “go to” bodyweight home workout exercises that most people use. That is also why most home workouts burn out pretty fast. After doing these drills a few times, people get bored and in all honesty, training doesn’t end up being all that productive. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t great value in some of these drills, especially planks.
Yea, I know, no one wants to sit there and hold planks all day. Not only is that incredibly boring, but it isn’t what we need from planks either. As spine specialist, Dr. Stuart McGill has explained, because of the full body tension that the plank actually requires, we only need to hold them for interval of 10 seconds. No, that isn’t one set of 10 seconds, but doing intermittent reps of 10 second holds (for like 6 reps with 5 seconds of rest in between).
This excerpt from our L.I.F.T. certification explains how most people miss the point of planks completely!
What do we do then, once we are able to plank for 6 reps of 10 seconds, do we just keeping doing more reps? Not really, in fact, many scientists have said planks aren’t all that functional! Studies like THESE highlight what core training is REALLY about and how we often miss the boat completely!
“Currently, plank exercises are considered an adequate method of training the core for athletes to improve core strength and stability. This is a problem because it puts the athletes in a nonfunctional static position that is very rarely replicated in the demands of sport-related activities. The core is the center of most kinetic chains in the body and should be trained accordingly”
That is why in DVRT when we understand and have trained foundational qualities of the plank we look to teach the core to work as it does in life. When a lot of us think of building core strength we also think about core stability. As performance expert, Dr. Brandon Marcello has pointed out, stability training isn’t so much about violently shaking as we do exercises, but more about…
What does all that mean?! Feed forward is slower movements that serve as our foundation to more complex planks and core training. Static obviously means not moving so that would include drills like our bird dogs and lateral drags where we are trying NOT to have our body move.
You can scroll through all these great drag progressions and see how it is ALWYAS about going slow, grabbing the right handle to make better connections in our body, and engaging the ground correctly.
This also goes for side planks as well! While the front plank tends to get all the press, experts like Dr. McGill actually have the side plank as part of his core stability “Big 3” because a BIG part of our core is to resist unwanted movement especially lateral movement.
DVRT Master, Cory Cripe breaks down why side planks are so important and common mistakes people make in their performance!
Spending time with the DVRT progressions Cory demonstrates is so key in building up to better core training. In fact, most fitness pros that are use to doing legs straight and all these really advanced side planks are shocked that when we teach them the right intent how they come back to bending the knees and more foundational levels. That isn’t a bad thing because they are getting MORE out of side plank now!
Once we establish these foundations we can get to the two points that Dr. Marcello discusses but most absolutely miss upon. That is making our planks more dynamic and multi-planar. What does that all mean? Let’s look at some examples.
DVRT UK Master, Greg Perlaki shows 4 progressions of our half kneeling Arc Presses. One of my personal favorite drills because if you perform the Arc Press with the right intent (as Cory describes again below) it is amazing drill to build pressing strength, but also the lats, core stability, and hip mobility!
Combining the techniques that Cory teaches with the progressions Greg uses and we are building more dynamic and multi-planar training which means we are making our planks way more powerful. We are also integrating so many muscles during these exercises that we are accomplishing more fitness goals at once, pretty cool right?! However, these ideas we are discussing come in many forms with our planks. Cory shows the correlation to our side planks and our shoulder movements like a shoulder lunge.
Most people have big “ah-ha” moments when we show these connections of movements. Pretty much everything we do in DVRT has a relationship with planks. For example, DVRT coach, Lina Midla shows different DVRT drills that have unique demands on our planks.
-Tornado: works more reflexive core training which is MUCH higher level because we aren’t tense the whole time, we have to have tension at the RIGHT time. Combining it with a lunge that puts us in a less stable environment means we are combining higher level core training concepts (physical therapist, Jessica Bento will break this down in more detail soon!)
-Front Loaded Cleans: the power of this movement is ALL predicated upon holding our plank (by pulling the handles apart and engaging the feet). If we lose our front plank, we load our low back and lose power in the movement.
-Shucking: the name came from our good friend Strength Coach, Troy Anderson. It references a wrestling move, but you see how we combine the need to hold a front plank, side plank, and resist rotation. A very effective exercise for not only building a strong upper body, but total body strength!
-Half Kneeling Kettlebell Press: The whole goal of this exercise is to combine elements of front and side planks. So, we do NOT want to see much movement of the torso and if we do that means the weight is either too heavy or we lost our hands and feet!
-Sit Throughs: a great bodyweight drill that done with the right intent takes our core training through all 3 planes of motion and the connection of our hand to the ground and our hips is so essential. That is what makes is a good core exercise and how we see planks reflected again!
The point of this post was to make sure we own the foundations of good movement, but having an idea of where we go in our training. That and appreciating what we are trying to accomplish by doing such familiar exercises like planks. When you see greater value in a movement it is interesting how much more important it can become. Try the workout that Jessica broke down that truly utilizes all these concepts of good planks! Minimal equipment but maximal results!!
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