Being involved in the military might include stress levels that are far beyond the recommended daily allowance. Then again, it might involve only typing or vehicle maintenance. One thing is for sure, most military careers involve doing the push up. Perhaps the most fundamental of all bodyweight drills, the push up not only involves strengthening and localized endurance of the chest, shoulders, and arms, but also the bracing of the torso. This bracing or stability is often referred to these days as core strength. I tend to think that we want to avoid comparisons to aerobics bunnies and harpy-like reality show trainers, so we will avoid the word: core. Let us instead focus on bracing and stability and its primary drill: the plank.
The standard face down, bracing on the forearms and toes plank exercise should be the bread and butter of the workout. Unfortunately, trainees get bored and go back to running laps or just focusing on lifting or bodyweight drills that are more engaging. This should not be the case. There are many variables in body bracing, and we should exploit them to the max.
So with my simple understanding of subsets and powersets, you have ten tips to enhance the plank. That would be two to the tenth power (1024) variations. Certainly enough to keep any soldier on board and provide training variety. Remember that in this case we are not trying to be good at everything to accomplish nothing. We have the focus of body bracing and torso stability. We are operating on the “same but different” philosophy.
10 Tips to Enhance the Plank Exercise
- Change orientation. Face down, on your side, and face up (even twisting!).
- Change elevation. Move from the top push up position or hold the bottom push up position.
- Add incline or decline with a bench or ball (either the head or feet can be elevated).
- Mobilize the arms or legs. Dragging the legs with the arms moving or moving the legs and locking the arms.
- Mobilize the arms AND the legs. This would be practicing crawling drills.
- Add resistance to any of these drills.
- Increase the lever by using rings or suspension on the arms or legs.
- Limit the weight bearing to one limb at a time.
- Increase duration.
- Add stressors like fatigue from training, noise, gunfire, temperature, and environment.
Rather than trying to list 1024 drills on the low end, let’s just examine three of the more result-producing ones.
The first is the often neglected Side Plank with a variation. Usually these are done with elbow on the ground like some sort of Pump and Tone class at the local Seniors Center. That’s not sufficient. The correct form is with the body rigid, feet stacked on top of one another, and balancing on the palm. The other arm should be extended in a straight line, crucifix style. It should also be holding a weight. The amount of weight is up to you. I’d strongly suggest building up to some ample time on this drill. A good follow up exercise is the hanging leg raise.
The Crab Walk (or Spider)
It is simple starting in the seated position. Support yourself by feet and locked arms, and walk in the direction of your feet or the direction of your head. Do this outdoors for more fun. Your bodyweight will not be enough. You will either need to crawl up a hill, drag a weight with a harness or add a weight vest. Best results are with a weight vest going feet first up a hill keeping the hips as high as possible.
The Renegade Row
While this is touted as a lat exercise or a shoulder exercise, the need to brace and stabilize the torso is off the charts. You can use hexagonal dumbbells or kettlebells for this. Assume the push up position, but with the legs spread for stability. The hands should firmly grip the handles of the weighted implement of choice. Row or pull one of the weights towards your same side hip and pause in the locked position. Keep the torso, legs, and shoulders as motionless as possible. You must FIGHT to stabilize this position. Lower slowly and repeat. Do the same amount of repetitions for both sides. Endeavor to keep the tailbone tucked and abdominals ‘shrink wrapped’. Keep the lats tight and shoulder packed in the sockets. There are immense dumbbells and I’ve seen kettlebells that weight over 200 pounds, so you will never run out of resistance.
This article was featured in the June/July 2011 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. "Walking the Plank: 10 Tips to Enhance the Plank Exercise" was written by Tom Furman. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Tom Furman has been involved in martial arts and conditioning since 1972. His down to earth training methods are derived from his decades long practice of martial arts and his study of exercise science. The application of force, improvement of movement and durability rank high on his list of priorities when training. Find out more at www.TomFurman.com
|< Prev||Next >|