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Fitness & Health

30th Aug 2019

Planks are a pointless exercise for athletes, experts say

Planks may feature prominently in your core workouts - but if you're training for a sport such as running, you may need to look elsewhere

Alex Roberts

Certain ab exercises aren’t worth including in your workouts if you’re an athlete, so says one book

Planks may feature prominently in your core workouts – but if you’re training for a sport such as running, you may need to look elsewhere.

For those who shy away from ab training, planks are an isometric exercise, meaning you hold a muscle in a state of contraction – rather than moving it around, or up and down.

It is performed by balancing your body weight on your toes and elbows. Keeping your back straight will force your abs to work hard, in order to keep the body stable and upright. Seems legit, right?

For athletes, there has to be more to core training than simply putting the abs through muscular tension.

Twitter user Jonathan Marcus (@jmarpdx) is Head Coach at an Oregon-based running club. He recently shared this excerpt from a book entitled Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology in Practice.

Put simply, sport equals movement. Exercises need to be dynamic when they stimulate your muscles.

You might see bodybuilders and fitness models challenging each other to a plank challenge, but ultimately their sport is more about aesthetics than any athletic ‘function’.

This is summed up when the author writes: “Isolating the abdominal muscles during training (certainly for well-trained athletes) is of very limited use.”

How should athletes train abs?

In response to another Twitter user, Marcus says certain compound lifts are better for stimulating your abs:

  • Hex Bar Deadlift
  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Weighted Deep Squats
  • Military Press

Planks have also been the subject of numerous world record attempts. The current world record for men is held by Chinese policeman Mao Weidong, who managed to brace his abs for an incredible eight hours and one minute in 2016.

The women’s record holder is Canadian Dana Glowacka, whose four hours and 20 minutes beat the previous women’s record holder by over an hour.

If you’re training abs just to get ripped, consider diet above all else. Revealing your abs is generally the result of having low body fat, which you can get to with a sustainable calorie deficit.

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