Exercise You Should Be Doing: Planks



You’d be hard pressed to talk to someone that’s done any sort of working out in the past 5-7 year and not at least hear just a little bit about them doing planks. From the soccer mom who works out at her local health club to the bro hanging out at his rec center in the summer, damn near every single person that’s worked out has talked about planks.

Hell, planking is such a big deal that doing it in weird and ridiculous spots for Instagram and Facebook became one of those really weird Internet trends that everyone does.

When an exercise transcends popularity to the point that people are bragging about doing it at the Roman Coliseum and that means that just about everyone is doing it. And when just about everyone is doing something, there’s bound to be some hot takes and misinformation that comes along with it.

And that couldn’t be more true for the plank.

Weirdly enough, the plank, which is easily one of the most basic movements in existence, is often one of the most butchered exercises in gyms across the world. Which is a damn shame, because when done properly the plank can not only help you get better abs, but force you to get stronger, more stable, and less prone to injury when throwing weight around.

So over the next couple of articles we’re going to dig into the nuances of the plank, talk a bit about how to do them properly, and show you some of the finer points to pay attention to. But for today let’s roll with a brief overview to set the stage.

Everything is a plank.

There’s a reason why we’re about to spend roughly 3,000 words over the course of a few days talking about a plank. Because just about every single thing you do is a plank of some sort.

From the top of a squat to the top of a deadlift. From a farmer carry to bench press to just walking down the street. Every single little thing you do involves planking mechanics.

This is a for a couple of big reasons:

– The plank, at it’s most basic, is you keeping your core in a stacked and stable position.

– When your hips, ribs, and shoulders are in line you’re in a position of strength and stability. Which is ideal for lifting and moving.

It shouldn’t be that hard to see how a plank in itself is the most foundational movement that you can do in or outside of a weight room. And because of that, it warrants some practicing. Which might sound utterly ridiculous, but the truth is that most people don’t actually plank in a way in which they get their entire core to fire the way that they really want.

So in order to fix that, and get better abs in the process, here are 3 things you can start doing to take your planks to the next level:

Keep your ass as tight as possible.
It’s helpful to think of your ass muscles as like a seat belt for your lower back. When you can squeeze your ass you immediately pull your hips into a safer position because you reduce the chances that you’re hanging out on passive support structures of the hip and lower back. Things like tendons and ligaments instead of the muscle you want to use.

Tension is the name of the game.
Just hanging out in a plank position isn’t what we’re looking for when we want to get the most out of this movement. Instead you want to think about being as tight as possible. The more you can bring tension into the core, the more those muscles are going to fire, which means you get stronger and your abs look better.

Remember to breathe.
This isn’t some generic reminder that you need oxygen. Instead, it’s a reminder that when you forcibly exhale all of your hair your abs start to contract harder, which means each and every single ab movement becomes more effective. Kind of important, right?

The plank, when done properly, can easily become of the most effective and efficient movements you can do in a gym. There’s very little that compares to it when it comes to teaching you how to fire your core.

Sure, there are lots of people who argue that squats and deadlifts are all you need for that. And they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But in the next article in this series on planking I’ll walk you through why it’s not a zero sum game, and why working on your plank can actually make you a better squatter and deadlifter.

Tanner is a fitness professional and writer based in the metro Atlanta area. His training focus is helping normal people drop absurd amounts of fat, become strong like bull, and get in the best shape of their life.