Planking exercises are a very popular and challenging form of fitness training. By positioning the body parallel to the ground, the force of gravity is perpendicular to the body segments. This creates a lot of torque that must be offset by the body’s muscles. Although this horizontal position isn’t replicated in the vast majority of functional movements, it’s a way to strengthen many muscle groups.
The problems with plank exercises
Problems with plank exercises arise from the static nature of the “correct form”. The criteria for excellence in planking is the ability to hold the straight body posture without any wavering or “buckling” for long periods of time. None of these criteria are part of day-to-day functional activities, or consistent with athletic movements.
Proponents would counter these facts with arguments that as long as clients are building strength there is no harm in utilizing them as a major component in training regimens. However, training muscles to work in an isometric fashion, with no joint motion and no muscle, tendon, or fascia lengthening results in an inefficient and ineffective musculoskeletal system.
Is there a better way?
The principles of Applied Functional Science suggest there is a better way to take advantage of the force of gravity to build functional strength and movement efficacy. After choosing one of the horizontal positions, motion should be introduced utilizing one or more of the body segments. These segments include:
These body segments act as drivers of the joint motion in all three planes, to which the muscles, tendon, and fascia must respond. These soft tissues first decelerate the motion and then, utilizing the stored energy, accelerate the body back to the initial position.
Advice for AFS practitioners
Practitioners of Applied Functional Science should recognize the benefits of exercising in the horizontal position and create strategies for designing programs that eliminate the long-term negative consequences of static positioning. There is no need to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. But it is essential for all movement practitioners to create training programs that maximize the functional and eliminate the dysfunctional exercises.
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