I decided to continue the “core” training theme that Stevo started yesterday. Oh and by the way I strongly dislike the word “core” because it’s such a huge buzzword but everyone knows what it means so I guess I have to use it. Anyways, I’m going to get straight to the point with this and not bore you with all the science that goes behind why core training is so good for you. One of the best ways to train your core are planks. Planks are the greatest thing since sliced bread because you can come up with a million different variations and depending on how hard you brace they will always be hard. However, in the recent past with my personal programming and for the more experienced athletes that I program for I had been staying away from any real direct core work. Why you ask? I honestly questioned its effectiveness. Keep in mind that I’m talking about VERY experienced lifters, not people with a young training age. I believe people who are beginners to intermediate should be resisting extension and rotation all day every day. In fact I think recess in elementary school should consist solely of planking and banded Pallof Presses (I’m joking but that would be wild to see). I just didn’t know if it was that effective for our more seasoned athletes and for myself because of the already insane amount of core work that occurs during the other exercises they do, especially during squatting and deadlifting. In my mind I kind of saw it as overkill (I feel like I’m going to get hate mail for saying all of this). But alas I always have our athletes’ best interests at heart and started to think about how I could start implementing core work back into the programs but do it in a way that would give maximum benefits. Enter the Max Effort Plank. This is by far my new favorite exercise both for me and our upper level athletes. There is really not much to it. It’s simply a perfect plank performed for 10-20 seconds with as much weight as you can do while keeping the form in check.
Who Should Do It: Please keep in mind that this should only be done if you are of a high training age. The main criterion for being able to do a max effort plank is being able to hold a perfect bodyweight plank for at least a minute without ANY degradation in form. This means chin tucked and neutral spine (posterior pelvic tilt, non-kyphotic t-spine). You can use a dowel rod and make sure your entire spine is keeping in contact with it to maintain honesty. Shaking is not a concern of mine; if your bracing hard enough you should probably be shaking.
The Benefits: Simply put, it’s going to make your stronger, and it makes you feel like Zeus. You can pile on the weight for only a short period of time allowing you to brace hard as if you were getting ready to pull or squat heavy. I feel it’s a little more strength specific rather than endurance specific like when doing 3 sets of 45 second perfect planks. The short duration and heavy load allows for a much more strength oriented core exercise and since implementing this exercise my deadlift, squat, and bench have felt a whole lot better. I feel so much stronger even just unracking the weight in my squat and bench and in the set-up of my deadlift plus the athletes I’ve given the exercise to have echoed the same feeling.
How To Implement It: I usually program direct core exercises on lower body days so it’s usually two days a week. I pick one of those days to be a “max effort day” and the other to be a “supplemental day”. This allows me the best of both worlds; I get a core day just for overall strength as well as a more endurance oriented day for overall health purposes (I feel both are equally as important). The heavy planks occur as 3 sets of 10-20 seconds waiving down from start to finish of a training block (meaning week 1 at 3X:20, week 2 at 3X:15, week 3 at 3X:10). On the supplemental day is when I program my more endurance focused core movements. Usually 3 sets of 30+ seconds of side planks or maybe 3X8-10 of banded Pallof presses with a 5 second hold. I’ll also throw in a dynamic core movement such as a reverse crunch for 3XAMRAP or a barbell rollout for 3XAMRAP.
Again, please observe some caution when doing this. Like I said I tend to only give this to people with a little more experience. If you are programming this for yourself or for kids/adults with a young training age I encourage you to stick with a lot of bodyweight core exercises for longer durations. This will ensure proper form and a proper progression.
May everyone’s days be filled with the resisting of rotation and extension.