EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: THE HARDSTYLE PLANK
HOW TO DO IT
Details details details. This one is certainly not about ‘just doing it’ – this one is about the details, the intention, the thought and the force you put into it.
GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR – That’s where it’s done.
PLACE YOUR FOREARMS UNDER YOUR HEAD – wrists a little ahead of the eyes.
TUCK YOUR CHIN AND LENGTHEN THE SPINE – don’t look up, don’t let your head droop down. Think ‘double chin’ and try and feel gentle pressure on the back of the neck.
MAKE FISTS – don’t argue, just do it.
PUSH YOUR HEALS AWAY – we want to be in Dorsiflexion for these babies… toes pulled up.
SCREW YOUR SHOULDER BLADES DOWN – we need to imagine we are externally rotating at the shoulders and feel the shoulder blades squeezing back down and together.
LONG SPINE – BODY STRAIGHT – If your hips are drooping or hiking, this will be a mess.
THEN TURN ON THE JUICE – TENSE YOUR FISTS – Squeeze your fists hard to initiate the move.
SQUEEZE YOUR BUM HARD – a split second after the fists go, we want to get the Glutes contracting which will encourage a slight posterior pelvic tilt and flattening of the low back.
FEEL YOUR QUADS LOCK – Your thighs will harden and you your knee caps will pull up slightly.
PULL YOUR ELBOWS DOWN AND YOUR TOES UP – Pull from your Lats as if you are trying to move the mat down towards your feet, but at the same time drive your toes up hard and push down through the heals.
DO IT FOR 10 SECONDS OR WORK ON PULSES OF INTENSE EFFORT – all this and we shouldn’t see any movement, it’s like we are tensing like a bodybuilder, the combined effect is a SERIOUS Abdominal exercise. If you’re doing it right, 10 seconds should be more than enough. I like to do it for 10 seconds, or build up to 10 single reps of 1 second work and 1 second recovery.
HOW IT GOES WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT
HIPS HIKE OR SAG – It’s very common for your hips to wander out of position here. Use a mirror or a suitably educated buddy to make sure you are in a straight line (like a plank) and you have a long spine in a natural athletic position.
Then if you feel your hips are hiked up, or lowered/sagging with an overly extended spine, just practice until you understand the feelings.
HEAD – Your neck must be relaxed, chin tucked, gentle pressure on the back of your neck. The fix is to practice setting the right position before you turn on the power.
YOU HOLD YOUR BREATH – go like mad on these and you’re bound to find yourself holding your breath at some point. Perfect if you’re trying to get your blood pressure as high as humanly possible, less than perfect if you’re not trying to test your vessels. Take a deep breath in before you turn on the power, then gently exhale continuously through the squeeze. That should do it.
NOT ENOUGH EFFORT – If it was easy, you did it wrong. Its your fault. Strength is a skill. The skill of contracting your muscles hard. That’s what this is all about. If it was easy, practice harder until you can put more force, more work into your 10 seconds.
CAN’T FEEL ME ABS – If you can’t feel them, you did something wrong. Often, you need to work on your posterior tilt. Often, your hips aren’t in the right position, often you forgot to pull through your arm pits and often you lost focus. Top fix: work on the mind muscle connection with your abs, then practice each of the checkpoints listed above. You will feel it, it will come and you’ll be a much better athlete as a consequence.
SPINE ROUNDS AS YOU SQUEZE LIKE MAD – This is my main error. I get too excited and squeeze like mad through my arm pits. The downward force and focus causes the upper back to round. Naughty. The fix is to use the old ‘Iron Spine’ cue. Imagine an unmovable unbreakable iron spine as you pull down from the arm pits, the spine remains extended and strong.
PELVIC ISSUES – If this goes wrong, its probably because your pelvis isn’t in the right place. Don’t neglect this. Practice controlling and aligning it – your whole programme will be all the better for it.
TENSE AROUND THE IRON SPINE! – The spine is still, iron and immovable, the muscles must tense like mad around it. Picture it, do it, feel it.
TURN UP THE VOLTAGE – Imagine the muscle contractions are like surges of electrical current. With each pulse of work, or as the 10 seconds goes on – imagine the voltage of the current goes up and up.
BODYBUILDER ON STAGE – You’re literally contracting you’re muscles hard here, like a bodybuilder on stage. Pretend your muscles are being judged here, tense them so they bulge as big and full as you can.
PINCH A £10 000 cheque in your Glutes …..and don’t let it go! – Imagine I meant.
LONGER DURATION / MORE FORCE
KB SWINGS, SQUATS, CHINS, DEADLIFT
DRILLS TO IMPROVE AWARENESS
DO IT STANDING
WHY DO IT
I completely learned this through the writings of Pavel Tsatsoulione. It’s a wonderful tool that can completely change your way of using your body.
First and foremost AB strength. Do it right and your abdominal will have to deal with some serious thought. Then, we get good assistance work from the Lats, Quads and Glutes.
Then there’s the skill… The plank is not a torture device and not a mindless endurance activity. It is a tool to get strong and learn a foundational strong stable body position that can be used as a safe neutral position to be found on squats, swings, deadlift and all sorts of other things. In the words of world renowned strength coach & author Dan John, “every exercise is a moving plank” – best get good at it.
Back issues…Glutes, control, abs. These can train you to get the abs working, to strengthen the Glutes and to control the pelvis. The effect of this will ease many back issues.