Planking for abs

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Dopefish
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Planking for abs

Postby Dopefish » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:05 pm UTC

I just recently discovered that theres a type of planking that isn't that whole lieing flat in weird places thing, and it's apparently supposed to be really good for core strength.

The basic idea is that you support yourself on your forearms and toes, and use your abs to keep yourself perfectly straight and you hold that position for a few minutes. When I first saw it my impression was "That doesn't seem particularly difficult..." but after I tried it, it seems its definitely a difficult position to hold for any prolonged period of time.

A quick google led to a handful of sites that seem to fully endorse planking being a much better alternative to sit ups (sit ups apparently being hard on your lower back), but I don't know if I trust those sites as being reliable, or if they're more interested in selling me something.

So then fitness guru's of XKCD, what are your thoughts on planking as an exercise? Is it an effective alternative to sit ups for building up abs and core strength that someone might want to include as part of a routine, or are there hidden flaws to that method of training?

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Nath
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Nath » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:01 am UTC

If you do need extra ab work, I think planks make more sense than sit-ups and crunches, because planks use the abs isometrically to keep the spine stable. This is, after all, what abs are for. Sit-ups are mostly a hip flexion exercise, and a silly one at that. Crunches take the hip flexion out of the movement, so if you really wanted to do an isotonic ab exercise, that's probably the best choice. I think the usefulness of ab exercises in general is overstated, at least if you are doing any other exercises that involve keeping your spine stable against a load (i.e. nearly all useful strength exercises -- squats, presses, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, Turkish get-ups, weighted carries, etc. etc.). People focus on the abs because they are visible, and people think sit-ups will give them six packs. Doesn't work that way.

So in short, if you feel you need extra ab work, you could do a lot worse than planks. If you can hold them for a reasonable amount of time, try adding weight.

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Apparently Anonymous
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Apparently Anonymous » Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:09 pm UTC

If by abs you mean visible abdominal muscles though, I've heard those are made in the kitchen (that is, that a low fat percentage is the main criterium).

juststrange
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby juststrange » Mon Dec 03, 2012 1:31 pm UTC

One piece of advice here from someone who planks a lot. Wear socks. Yes, its going to make it harder, but it forces you to isolate. When I would plank with shoes on, my body had the tendency to press "up" with my arms/elbows, forcing compression into my spine forming a bridge of sorts to take the load off my abs. This will defeat the purpose and make your shoulders hurt all at the same time - try to keep your arms such that the torque in your shoulders is minimized.

Also, I found it helpful to put on a song of known length. For me it was Offsprings "The kids aren't alright". No matter how much I wanted to fall over, or how bad it burned, once that guitar solo kicked in I knew it was almost over and with the end in sight its a little easier to push yourself to stick it out. Last note - don't forget to breathe! It's going to be harder with your abs tight, but remember to keep breathing or you'll just end up red in the face.

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EvilDuckie
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby EvilDuckie » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:20 pm UTC

My physical therapist suggested planking as a good excercise to build up overall core strength and boy was she right! At first I thought "how hard can it be", but it's pretty intense.
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Dr. Diaphanous
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Dr. Diaphanous » Sat Dec 22, 2012 9:52 pm UTC

Nath wrote:So in short, if you feel you need extra ab work, you could do a lot worse than planks. If you can hold them for a reasonable amount of time, try adding weight.

Maybe a stupid question but where do you add the weight? Balance something on your back?
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Nath
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Nath » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:21 pm UTC

Yes, you can put some barbell plates or heavy chain on your upper back, or use a weighted vest.

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SirHoundalot
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby SirHoundalot » Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:07 pm UTC

Dr. Diaphanous wrote:
Nath wrote:So in short, if you feel you need extra ab work, you could do a lot worse than planks. If you can hold them for a reasonable amount of time, try adding weight.

Maybe a stupid question but where do you add the weight? Balance something on your back?


You can lift one leg slightly - hold it for 30 seconds and then lower and lift the other.

Alternatively, if you're at a gym, suspend both lets simultaneously in a TRX (stirrup thing, not sure if they are called the same in the US). That's really tough though!
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Dopefish
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Dopefish » Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

One of my inspirations for ab related work is to be able to that do human flagpole thing, more so than 6 pack abs which I gather are much more about diet/metabolism then ab strength. One of my former trainer/coaches demonstrated it many years ago for me and I was all "I want to be able to do that.", so yeah.

Besides, planking seems 'easier' so I'm more inclined to do it in terms of mentality, but feels like I'm getting a harder work out then sit ups, so it seems like a win win situation there.

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Xenomortis
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Xenomortis » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:42 pm UTC

Plank is good, but you need to do a variety of core related exercises. Plank alone won't get you your toned six-pack (nor will any core strengthening exercise); for that you need to do a lot cardio.

Personally, I never feel like I get much out of planks; it's hard on my arms since I don't have much strength there, particularly in my left arm, but I don't feel it anywhere else, and I don't have a particularly strong core.
Leg-raising exercises though (or anything involving my legs) are an absolute killer for me though. There's a variety of those you can try.

Dopefish wrote:A quick google led to a handful of sites that seem to fully endorse planking being a much better alternative to sit ups (sit ups apparently being hard on your lower back), but I don't know if I trust those sites as being reliable, or if they're more interested in selling me something.


Try crunches; basically the same thing but keeping your lower back on the floor. No work is done by the hips so you isolated the abs. Just remember never to push on the back of your head or neck.

Edit:
Wow, I read the post dates wrong...
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Save Point
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Save Point » Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:09 am UTC

Planks + flutterkicks = death by great core.

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queldorei
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Planking for abs

Postby queldorei » Tue May 28, 2013 1:33 pm UTC

After like half a year of a low carb, high fat diet, IF and exercise, it seems like Ive got abs now. The question is how long am I actually going to keep them there for and whether or not its worth it. Abs has never been my goal, I hate cardio and Ive always wanted to bulk up, but during these last few weeks Ive been eating too little because of school and as a result I look at the mirror and I see a lot of my belly fat has disappeared.

Ive always thought, to gain mass you need caloric excess so I always load up on the milk meat. This runs counter to what people do for abs it seems and well I dont want to change my lifestyle for something that Im not seeing much use for at the moment. Sure it looks nice in the mirror, but how often am I going to take my shirt off? Does anyone have experiences with keeping abs? Is it worth it or should I just take a picture right now, guzzle down some delicious whole milk and wave them away?

Joseph_Conradical
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Joseph_Conradical » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:10 am UTC

Planking is the stuff of gods. Unbelievably hard, but simple enough to practice anywhere.

It's a good indicator of progress, too. Counting sit-ups can vary, I find. But improvements to planking endurance are easy to track.

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Sungura
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Sungura » Thu Jan 23, 2014 9:46 pm UTC

Anyone else have troubles with back pain (particular L3 and L4) while planking? I was trying to do the plank challenge and am very stuck on 1 minute. On a good day I can hold a minute. It's not that my core gets shaky and tired (i mean, tired, yes, but not anywhere near the "trembling about to collapse") it's that my lumbar spine - of which I do have extra curvature - hurts terribly. I do have a lower mirror so I can look at my back position. As flat as it goes (I can't fully straighten my spine...nor would I think that would be a good idea!), trying with a bit of a "camel hump", and letting my bum slouch a bit so my lumbar is less stressed, none of it makes a difference. I hit 45-60 sec and sharp stabbing pain takes me to my knees, literally. I thought maybe I just needed more time to work up to it, but fuck 30-day-plank-challenge, I'm stuck on day 11 (the last of the 60-second days) for two weeks now. I can continue on much longer from my knees. Is that like how women push-ups are often from knees because of our different structure? I do have a large chest and hips, and as I said, extra spinal curvature. Most of my weight is top-heavy due to my chest (the cause of my extra curvature, actually, my spine is a bit deformed to support the weight of my breasts). Curious if my body type is the cause, or if anyone else has this trouble.
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Samik
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Samik » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:02 pm UTC

Well, I'm a rather leaner male, so what works for me may not have any applicability to you...

But I do have significant, persistent back issues stemming from a rather severe back injury in college. That plus a genetic predisposition towards tendon tightening in response to exercise (I can't even drop down and do a spontaneous set of pushups without stretching out before and after, unless I want my shoulders to bind up and hurt at me for the next week), make injury/pain prevention a full-time occupation for me. (Also have a little spinal lordosis for good measure.)

As a result, I've learned quite a lot over the years about how my body responds to exercise/stress/stretching.

With stretching in particular, I find it critical to give a lot of attention to range of motion. Touching your toes is no good alone. You've got to reach right, reach left, twist around slowly, standing up, sitting down... if stretching the groin you should be spending time slowly moving through a circle, from straight down in front of you, over to one foot, around upright, leaning back, around to the other foot, then back to front, then in reverse. Same for hip stretches - if down in the lunge position (one knee on floor, other leg forward with foot on ground), you can start with an erect posture, twist right and hold, twist left and hold, lean far forward, backward, etc.

Some of these positions will not even feel like much of a stretch compared to the traditional touch-your-toes-hamstrings-feel-like-they're-going-to-snap sensation.

But what I've basically concluded is that flexibility and mobililty has to do with everything: muscles, tendons, cartilage, nervous system, scar tissue (you should see what I have to go through to keep my ankles happy and strong - I'm convinced there's no actual bone remaining in my left ankle, just a huge mass of scar tissue in roughly the same shape that I have to keep breaking up)... the more comfortable you get your body moving safely and in control through a broad range of motion, the better.


In the case of the back, this means forward bends, back bends, sides stretches, long holds... and don't just focus on the area that hurts. Do upper back stretches, lower back stretches, hip stretches, hamstring stretches... it's a cliche, but "the hip bone's connected to the-" has a ton of validity; if one muscle group is nice and flexbile, but you have stiffness around it, you're still likely to have mechanical problems.

And take it from someone who knows: while neither stretching nor strengthening fix real structural damage, combined they do give you a little more margin for error before that damage begins to complain at you.


Ok, dissertation over. Who knows if any of that will be helpful. It was pretty vague, I suppose. If it's not clear from my brief descriptions, I can provide links to images/videos of some of the stretches I am talking about.

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Samik
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Re: Planking for abs

Postby Samik » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:46 pm UTC

Well, I guess the above is pretty much the premise behind yoga and pilates and the like. Strength and flexibility through lots of motions.

In fact, in the years after I hurt my back it was pilates that really taught me how to keep it in decent condition. I didn't keep going with the classes, but learned enough to incorporate a lot of things into my own routines.

So perhaps taking a class might turn out to be something of value?


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