Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Strength Every Runner Should Do: The Plank

I'm not going to lie: I lurve me some planks. I think the standard plank is one of the best strength moves you can do, regardless of your ability level. You don't need any equipment and you can do it anywhere. It is one of the best way to strengthen your core with minimal impact on your spine (unlike crunches). I am not a big fan of crunches or other moves where you're flexing your spine awkwardly. This can compress the discs between your vertebrae and if you're not paying attention to your form 100%, chances are you'll end up hurting yourself. This is why I have every single one of my clients do some variation of the plank. In fact, it doesn't just strengthen your core (which is basically everything apart from your arms and legs), but it can also help to strengthen your shoulders, arms and legs. It's pretty magical. As runners, the power of the plank is huge. Our power comes from our core and a strong core will not only help your running form be more efficient but it will also help keep that form intact as you tire out. As we get tired, that form gets compromised and that can lead to injury. Performing planks on the regular can help not only keep that core strong, but your entire body.

Once you learn how to do it correctly, the sky is the limit. Here's the standard push-up plank:

Lie face down on your mat, floor, whatever, with your legs extended and your elbows bent directly under the shoulders. Push up into push-up position. Keep feet hip-width apart with elbows shoulder width apart. Contract abs and then push your toes to lift the body. Your body must form a straight line from your head to your heels. So, your shoulders are directly over your elbows and your elbows are over your wrists. Your neck is in neutral position with your gaze towards the floor. Your pelvis is tucked under, which helps to keep your spine neutral and your hips in line with the rest of your body. You can have your feet together to increase the challenge or widen your stance with your feet about hip width apart. Just be mindful that your core is engaged and you're not dipping your hips.

Voila!

If you need to make this more challenging, you can bend your elbows and perform a forearm plank. You would keep your elbows directly under your shoulders and press your palms into the floor. Be careful not to sink into your shoulders but lift out of the shoulder girdle and keep the neck nice and neutral. 

If you need to lessen the intensity, you can plank against a wall. You would perform the exact same push-up plank described above but your hands would be on a wall (or a table, bench or other raised flat surface). This will still work the core but if you have back issues, this will be easier. As you build strength, you can progress to lower surfaces and eventually the floor. 

There are so many variations, I will post several. But just to name a few: side planks, mountain climbers, spider climbs, cross-body climbs and so many more. You can even just change the game by lifting one arm out to the side or in front or lifting one leg slightly up. All while keeping your hips level.

How do you feel about planks? What's your favorite way to plank?

I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!


17 comments:

  1. I also have my clients do planks and I love them and all the variations. So many ways to advance that they really are perfect for almost everyone.

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    1. They really are. It's a great move that can be modified or progressed easily for anyone!

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  2. I love planks and all the variations you can do with them. Great for exercisers of all levels.

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    1. Exactly! You can get a total body workout just doing plank variations!

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  3. Planks really are the best!!! Such an effective move.

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  4. I love love love planks. In fact, I'm participating in an IG challenge right now called #beplankalicious. You should check it out!

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    1. I am participating too! I am excited for all the plank moves to come!

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  5. My running coach has taught me a bunch of different planks, and I like them because they don't take a lot of time to perform but they help a lot with overall conditioning. In addition, it doesn't take long to feel stronger or to hold the poses longer. I think you should require all of your clients to send you pics of them planking. :)

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    1. Sounds like your running coach is pretty awesome! And I like the idea of my clients sending me their plank pics!

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  6. Planks are great! I was challenging myself to do 1 minute per day but I haven't done them in weeks. I love all the ways you can switch it up!

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    1. Planks are the best! That's awesome that you were working on increasing your Plank time!

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  7. I freaking LOVE planks. They are awesome and they make me feel badass. Burpees are cool, too, except sometimes they're a little too strenuous.

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  8. Oh Gosh. Anyone who remotely knows me, knows I LOVE planking. I'm hosting a small November challenge on IG right now (#planks4thewin). I plank every day. No excuses! The forearm plank and the side (forearm)plank are my favorites ;-)

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    1. Yup, I feel your Plank love! I may hop into your challenge :)

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  9. HECK YES TO THE PLANKS. One of the first things that I do with my clients is make sure that they do them correctly. Same with squats and lunges and straight leg dead lift.
    My clients hate and love me :D

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