When I first started training people, I was taught that plank can improve core strength and endurance. And with improved core strength and endurance, we can lower the risk of lower backaches. While it’s true to a certain extent that this may help with lower backaches, this may also be one of the causes.
2 Ways of Planking that were taught to me:
1) Hold in plank position and hang out there for as long as possible. There’s even a Guinness World Record for it!
2) Tense the whole body (Lats, abs, butt, quads, fists) for a while and relax then repeat.
I don’t really like the first option as I find it boring. So I truly admire people who can do a plank-athon (Plank marathon). While the second way of planking helped to improve my lifts and to improve my “core strength”, I was surprised when that very one day when I rounded my back and picked up a pen from the floor, I felt my lower back tensed up. It was one of the most uncomfortable feelings ever. I tried to stretch it, twist and turn but the tension didn’t seem to go away. Bracing my abs and squeezing my butt did help to relieve a bit until I stop bracing and squeezing.
That was when I started to question myself – “Do I want to be strong in the gym only?” “Do I want to line myself up properly, brace my core, breathe in, and hold my breath just to pick up a pen?”
Enter the All 4s Belly Lift
This may not look like a plank, but isn’t plank just holding the position? The purpose of this drill is to better position your rib cage and pelvis so you can restore better length-tension relationship in muscles such as Internal Obliques, Transverse Abdominis, Diaphragm, Pelvic Floor and even Hamstrings. So that your lower back can relax. And this somewhat looks like an inverted Supine 90/90 Hip Lift.
1) Get on all fours. Knees below hips and wrists below shoulders.
2) Tuck your tailbone and shift your body forward till your nose is in line with your fingers.
3) Inhale causally. And as you exhale fully, reach long through your arms without locking out your elbows. You should feel side of your abs tense up.
4) Maintain this position as you slowly inhale slowly and carefully through your nose as you reach longer through your arms. Exhale fully while maintaining position.
5) Repeat for 3 – 5 breaths.
In case you missed the tweaks I mentioned in the video, the 4 tweaks are:
1) Regression (Yes. Most people can’t do proper plank, to be honest.)
2) Hold for breaths instead of time. (In fact this is hard. But again, if you can’t breathe properly in that position, it’s too hard for you.)
3) No tensing of butt, abs, lats, jaw, neck. (You want low tension!)
4) Reach long through your arms with soft elbows.
I am not saying to ditch the plank you are doing. I am just offering you another strategy that your body can use so your body won’t get stuck with limited strategies. This has helped me and my clients tremendously. And I hope you may find it helpful as well!