Back in May of 2015, Mychael of Elite Functional Fitness made a pretty bold statement: Sit-ups Suck! And he backed it up, as always, with some research and evidence. I have to admit that I much prefer sit-ups to planks, so I was curious about his reasoning.
Funny enough, it was pretty simple. The sit-up works out more of our hip flexor area than our abdominal area. I had no idea! (See “Sit-ups Suck” from May 2015). So instead of working those hip flexors, he suggests doing more plank training and activating your Transverse Abdominis (TVA). (He has a great video on how to activate your TVA here.)
But let’s work on those planks that I dislike. 🙂 He goes through this in detail in “Can you plank?” but I’ll summarize a bit here.
The plank helps us a ton, with everything from our posture to breathing through our core. We see it a great deal in the yoga classes with Jenn Ridler at CrossFit 719 as well. The whole transition from a high plank to a low plank, from low plank to a downward-facing dog, and from the downward-facing dog to an upward-facing dog. This is a combination I have used at home to help settle down a little bit before bed in fact.
When you get into a low plank (on your elbows), you want to make sure your spine is in a neutral position and your weight is distributed between your elbows/shoulders and your toes. Don’t round your back or arch it in any unnatural way. We just want the natural curvature of the spine to be maintained.
In that same position, make sure your shoulders are pulled down and back so you’re not rounding or arching them either.
Now clench your butt and hold in your belly button towards your spine and hold that position for a few seconds. Start with a 10 second hold and then advance. But as Mychael says – “A 10 second plank with proper position has so much more value to your training the a 10 minute plank in an improper or ‘lazy’ position.”
Make sure you focus on that perfect position, for it is the key to more challenging movements. They key here is quality over quantity. If you can do perfect form for 10 minutes, awesome! But start with 10 seconds and work your way up so you’re focused on form over the time on the clock.
In his “Can you plank?” article he offers a few images of how the back & abdominals work to create some issues – and how the plank can help fix them.
Again, Mychael is not alone in touting the great benefits on the plank:
- Nick Hawkes over at CrossFit Invictus calls planks “A Gateway Exercise“
- and the folks over at CrossFit Switch have a great video explaining “How to Perform a Plank Hold“