The Ultimate Plank Progression
The plank is an effective exercise to improve stabilization of the entire core region, whilst strengthening the oblique’s, abdominals and lower back; if done correctly. It is very similar to the pushup position but with a greater amount of tension exerted on the core and lower back. The problem is, most people simply don’t perform the plank correctly. They look more like torture to me than a fitness protocol.
Lets go back to basics…
The main problem with untrained beginners is their ‘untrained’ midsection, also known as the core. When I say untrained, I mean that the brain doesn’t know how to engage it properly.
The main function of the midsection is to create and control the movement. It has to be adaptive not just stiff or strong. It is all about proper timing, not just strength. Strength is a great virtue when you have proper neuro – motor control. It is like you are going to fight in the UFC after two classes of BJJ. Without control you can injure yourself or even worse – your client.
I start with my clients in the crawling position with knees elevated and with palms and toes being the only support mechanism. Start in the proper crawling position, palms in line with the shoulder and knees in line with the hips. Spine is neutral, without excessive neck hyperextension.
Instruct them to push through the ground and to breathe 20 breaths in and out in at a normal pace. They have to feel the body as a one entity not a separate body parts and layers. After that they will sense the “core”, shoulders and quads. You can always add this move to the early stage of rehabilitation, training or just as activation before the strength practice.
Next progression is similar to dead bug (lie down on your back with the knees and hips flex at 90 degrees) position. Put the towel between their palms and knees and instruct them to push into the towel, with the half portion of palm. Fingers are extended and they are not holding the towel.
After all this I start with high plank or push up position where we can add more tension and more muscles into the equation. It is easy to teach them to push into the ground and to activate the glutes voluntary. It is important to instruct them to squeeze the legs not to have them in the wide stance (dead lift stance). You can use your hands to stimulate the contraction and show them where to put focus. When they can do this correctly start teach them plank position.
These are just a few simple ideas of how to progress the plank. If you do try these, please tag me or comment on my Facebook with your thoughts and views.