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1st February 2016

The Plank revisited – is it time or attention that pays dividends in trunk conditioning?

Movement Performance Specialist Jeannette Hoftijzer takes a 2016 perspective on ‘that’ abdominal exercise that continues to divides opinion; the plank

Planks for the memories

Working out the abs continues to be a key desire of many exercisers; often central to this process, forming a major part of these ab focussed sessions is the plank, an exercise that started to rear its head around about the year 2000 in the first blaze of the core stability craze. In 2016, it is not hard to find a local gym running plank competitions - who can hold this position for longest? Is this sustained effort approach an effective method to condition the trunk? Perhaps, the time has come to think again; with the emphasis very much placed on thinking and less so on time.

Injury & Performance: the case is strong

Research identifies that a robust, strong and controlled trunk can lessen the risk of the occurrence and recurrence of injury. But, movement and exercise is not just about injury. Performance counts. For the effective implementation of performance enhancing workouts such as resistance training or plyometrics, the body’s force production properties are highly influential; strength matters and this includes a strong set of abdominals. But, is the ability to hold a plank for minutes on end an efficient approach to achieve these injury reducing and performance assisting goals?

Training the movement chain – the whole story The body is a unit, that, although built on many interactive systems, still operates as a whole. This perspective can also be applied to the body’s muscles. Since all muscles are ultimately attached, or at least linked to one other, it would be an error to think we can train any one muscle in pure isolation. Although we can adapt our exercise design to bias a certain muscle’s employment we are always training a team as opposed to just on player in the movement story. Because of the integrated nature of the body’s structure, training can be enhanced if it is respectful of these links, both at the region (trunk) and the body as a whole. Therefore, training the trunk doesn’t need to stay just focussed on the trunk; it is important consider how we integrate all regions into the whole movement chain; and that includes the brain.


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