Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Case Against the Plank

Alright, you functional trainers, come at me brahs!

Especially you buddy...

Fitness trends come and go, and somewhere in between they reach a white hot pinnacle of deified attention. 5 years ago, everyone was still doing crunches for the majority of their "core" training (don't even get me started). Today, the plank has become the sacred shrine of Project Beach Body fitness enthusiasts everywhere. Well you can consider me kicking down the doors of the Fitness Vatican and publicly setting Pope Plank II aflame as I boldly proclaim:

The plank is the most overhyped, overblown, and overrated exercise used in the gym today. Yeah I said it.

Don't get me wrong here. Like most exercises, planks most certainly have their place. It serves as an excellent exercise for beginners with no core strength whatsoever and people who have neuromuscular control issues. But if you have a 2 minute plank and you're trying to press on toward the goal of a 10 minute plank because that's what you saw on Pinterest, you're legitimately wasting your time.

We as human beings were made for movement. Just take a look at the growth and development of babies as they learn locomotion. They roll around a bit, then plank (basically just leaning on their hands), then battle crawl and eventually crawl with their legs too. Then come the big boy/girl moves; they learn to stand (which is essentially an upright plank to them if you've seen how much they wobble), but it doesn't stop there. They learn to walk and squat and push and pull and lunge and twist and jump, which are all dynamically core challenging exercises. So riddle me this: why should we waste so much time trying to develop a regression?

Okay, here's the breakdown: Static will almost always be a prelude to dynamic, and if the plank and standing stationary were the most advanced core positions, we would never survive (gotta move around to eat, right?). Planks serve no other purpose but to prepare you for movement. We were always meant to do something with the core stabilization that we earned and developed throughout our childhood.

But Jordan, what if I don't care about all that and just want some tightly firm, toned abs? If you still believe in myths like "toning" and "spot reduction", just sit tight. I've got a post coming soon that will address those terms. If you absolutely can't wait, look here and here. Hopefully that will hold you over until my post lays the Santa's-Not-Real caliber smackdown on your candy glutes.

Seasons beatings, everyone :)

So with "planks for sexy abs" relatively out of the way, why perform the exercise? A stronger core? Darling, you can plank yourself fifty shades of blue, but if I throw you on a football field the chances are that you're still getting put on your back by every one of those players. When it comes to functional movement, there is very little carryover to real life situations. Remember that your core can be whatever keeps you stable, but honestly, how often are you in the plank position in everyday life?

To sum it up, our obsession with the uberlong plank is us getting hung up on a stepping stone, and the plank is a pretty sucky indicator of true overall core strength. The solution? Get holistically stronger. Lift heavy weights. Try loaded carries. Play with kettlebells. Learn bodyweight gymnastics. Almost any dynamic movement that you do is going to tax your core. But for the love of all that is fit please don't stay still!

The prosecution rests. Oh, and that goes for you too, you "3 stability ball with your other leg in a TRX with 4 45lb plates on your back while balancing an apple on your head" plankers.

The prosecution rests again.