Are Planks Just as Bad as Crunches?

In Core & Abs Training, Progressive Calisthenics, Suspension Training, Uncategorizedby Matt

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Yep, I can hold this for 5 minutes! Impressed?

Yep, I can hold this for 5 minutes! Impressed?

Do you remember when the crunch was the core exercise of choice? Everyone and their mom did thousands of the damn things for hours and then bragged about it on their My Space page.

Thankfully, we’ve wised up a bit and realized all of those crunches cost far too much time, didn’t really do very much and caused a lot of stress on the spine. Now we have the plank and it’s so much better.

Or is it?

I’m noticing the plank is quickly going the same route as the crunch. It’s causing soreness in the lower back, poor spinal control, and people are bragging about holding a plank position for 5 minutes on Facebook. Really, it’s not a lot different because it’s still taking up a lot of time, stressing out the joints, and while it is more effective than the crunch it’s still not a super effective move compared to something more dynamic.

But all is not lost!  Here are 6 ways to save the plank from joining the crunch in the land of once popular and long discarded core exercises.

#1- Use your entire anterior chain.

Matt Push Up

Tense up everything facing the floor from your fingers to your toes!

The best way to work any muscle is to also use the surrounding muscles that influence it. Forget isolation, your abs will work best as you fully tighten your chest, hips, quads and even the muscles in the top of your feet.

#2- Squeeze your butt and tuck your hips.

arch plank

I don’t believe in keeping your back flat and your body strait. Lift your hips and tuck your hips forward like your trying to touch your hips to your rib cage. At the same time, tighten your glutes. In some circles this a called a hollow plank or an RKC plank. Whatever you call it, your abs will work much harder.

#3- Lengthen out your plank

long plank

Unlike the crunch, you can adjust the tension on a plank simply by stretching out your arms in front of you. This will change the leverage of the move and make it much more challenging.

#4- Get off your elbows

Unless you suffer from injury to your wrist there is no reason to plank out on your elbows. All it does is remove tension from your upper body and make the exercise easier. Get on those hands!

#5- Destabilize your feet or hands

strap plankfoot plank

Placing your hands on an exercise ball on on rings will remove much of the friction people often rely on to hold the plank position much easier. You can also place your feet in the foot straps of a suspension trainer as well.

#6- Pick up a leg or arm

plank1plank 2

You can greatly increase the challenge of any plank simply by picking up an arm or a leg off the floor. This will increase the torque on your entire core to the max, especially if you do your best to be rock still as you pick up one of your limbs.

So let’s save the plank from the same fate as the crunch. It can be a fantastic exercise with the above 6 tips and it will produce likewise results for you.