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The Many Faces of the Plank (and why you should walk it)

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.  – Abraham Lincoln

Bike to gym/work: 5.21 miles

  1. 32kg KB Clean & Jerk 10×2/arm
  2. 20kg Double KB Half Snatch 10×5

USAKL meet@Colorado Kettlebell Club

Many of my patients present with low back pain, and while the cause may be due to disc, nerve, muscle, spinal alignment, asymmetries, weakness, and/or overcompensations there is one constant that all of my patients can learn &  benefit from.  THE secret is no secret at all, but rather obvious.  Strengthening the core is an EXCELLENT preventative measure you can take to avoid most LBP (low back pain) that 80% of Americans will experience some time in their life.  In this day and age I hope everyone knows that the core is more than just your abs, but comprises the pelvic floor muscles, internal/external obliques, multifidi, erector spinae, longissimus,  and  other  muscles that protect the spine as well as performing dynamic movements.  Instead of wasting hours (and possibly harming the low back) performing crunches and other isolated exercises I recommend performing the tried and true PLANK.  There are many variations of the plank as you will see below, but all are safe for the majority of folks (I STILL RECOMMEND SEEING YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE BEGINNING AN EXERCISE/THERAPEUTIC PROGRAM) because the spine stays in a neutral/proper alignment without placing excessive shear or compressive forces on the discs in the lumbar spine.   Below is a post I wrote for our office blog that I feel needs to be seen here as well.  Enjoy!

Excerpted from Denverback.com/stripling

There are many exercises you can do to strengthen the core, but there are  few better (and safer) than the plank (and it’s many variations).  The plank strengthens and tones the hips, abdominals, obliques, low back, shoulders, chest, legs,  i.e. the ENTIRE BODY!  The great thing about these exercieses is that you can increase or decrease the difficulty according to your current level of health and fitness.  There are of course a few things to keep in mind with each variation, such as; keeping the spine in neutral position (no hyperextension), brace and engage the core throughout the exercise, and keep shoulders in a stable position at all times.

Most of the exercieses can be done resting on the knees if you need to make it a bit easier.  We will do these exercises without shoes on a non-slick surface with a bit of give to it (stay away from wood floors).    We will start with the beginner variations and move on to the more advanced forms.  For the static holds, it is better to hold them for a shorter amount of time and for more reps.  An example is 5 sets of 10 seconds rather than 1 set of 50 seconds.   This will allow you to focus on proper form and body alignment!  We are aiming for QUALITY throughout. Ideally we want to build our strength and endurance to be able to hold the plank position for 2 min.  If you experience any shooting  or sharp pain, numbness, tingling, or burning STOP and call our office for treatment 303-300-0424.  With proper form these exercises will build a strong and balanced body (side effects may include a six pack).

1) Front Plank on forearms – Rise up on toes and forearms, with spine in neutral alignment.  DO NOT let your hips sag and go into hyperextension.  You can even SLIGHTLY hike hips up A BIT to take pressure off low back.  There should be a straight line from head to heels.  Focus your eyes a foot in front of you.  Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows for stability.  If you have never done the plank before, you can rest on your knees to decrease the difficulty.

2) Front Plank on Hands– This is performed in the same way except that you are on your hands rather than your forearms.  This can be done from the knees for beginners.

3) Side Plank on forearms – Rise on one side of your body resting on your forearm and side of foot.  If you need to, you can stabalize the supporting shoulder with your free hand.  This can be done from the knees if need be.  Do not let your hips sag in the midde.  Keep core engaged!

4) Front Plank with feet on Swiss Ball – This is the same as the front plank on hands except your are resting the top of your feet on a Swiss Ball.  This requires more stabalization in your core to maintain balance so start with shorter reps with perfect form.

5) Walking the Plank – Begin in a front plank on your hands and begin to take lateral (side-side) steps with your leading hand then leg then trailing hand and leg.  Repeat for a specific amount of reps or distance.  This is excellent for stabilizing the shoulder, but remember to keep shoulders over your arms and not to let your hips sag or rise.  Keep your body in a straight line from head to heel.

6) Front Plank with elbows on Swiss Ball – This is similar to the front plank but your elbows are resting on a Swiss Ball.  This is an advanced move and will require alot of core strength to stabalize your position on the ball.  You can do this move on your knees if you need to.  Keep the hips square and no sagging!

7) Side Plank on hands – This is an advanced move and puts alot of stress on the shoulder.  If you have a history of shoulder injuries, make sure we clear you before attempting.  On this exercise it is important to keep the lats engaged and the shoulder depressed as much as possible.  You can place your free hand over your planted shoulder to help stabalize. This can be done from the knees as well to make it easier.

Planks are an awesome tool in the arsenal of building a functional and healthy body.  These exercises can be a full workout in themselves, which I am doing today incidently.  If you are an endurance athlete, the following is a great way to break up your running/cycling/etc days!


  • Mobility warm-up
  • Front Plank on forearms 20 sec x 10
  • Side Planks on forearms 20 sec (per side) x 10
  • Walking the Plank 5 steps each way x 10
  • Front Plank on Swiss Ball 10 sec x10

About Dr. Jeff Stripling

Hey everyone, I am a Rolla, Missouri-based Active Release Technique (ART) chiropractor who specialises in musculoskeletal injuries, sports injuries, and active physical rehabilitation. Some things that are near and dear to my life are family and friends, my relationship with God, cycling, kettlebells, hiking/climbing, and QUALITY food and drink.


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