Accessory Exercise: Baby Planks.

August 31, 2015

A good coach is going to continually learn, add or change his perspective on his training process throughout his career.  New information can be gathered through the relationship he builds with his trainees, occasionally through his own experience, speaking to licensed and educated people in other fields or through looking at the literature (and I’m NOT talking about that shit you read for free on the internet).  In my opinion, only pulling from one or two of these sources, limits perspective when the goal is to try and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the trainee and the effect of your program.

I fell into some luck recently in my new situation by finding myself being surrounded by professionals who understand weightlifting but are also able to give me new insight on stuff we’ve been missing out on or neglecting.  As a result, I’ve made a few changes to my strategies that include sending athletes to get screened by professionals for muscle imbalances and getting them set up with the right corrective exercises.  One convenience is that since we all perform the same activity, we’re all going to have the same things to work on.  I’ve also implemented mandatory “prep” before my lifters are allowed to touch a barbell.  This prep changes day today and will change from training block to block to make sure all of our bases are covered.  This differs from my style even a few years ago where I would just leave it up to my lifters to take care of themselves before they lift.  Some would do a good job with a good mix of dynamic movements and activation routines, some would roll around on a foam roller for like 5 minutes and call it good and a few would do what I call “the Brett Farve warm-up” which is basically taking a knee or doing a few air squats before hitting the platform.

Here’s a little gem that I learned from a PT friend that I call “baby planks” because it’s part of a series that is based off of baby movements.  I’d like to state again that I DID NOT make this up and I’m not taking credit for it.  This particular version is the second step in the progression that gets pretty advanced.  Regular planks are pretty much useless because the stronger muscles lining your trunk will always take over.  Correctly set up, this plank is far superior for a number of reasons, the most important being that as weightlifters, we’re going to be prone to becoming lordotic if we don’t take care to correctly balance out our musculature.  Trainees might think that they’re building a strong ass but in many cases, they’re just getting more and more used to sticking their ass out; problematic when loading the spine and living pain free.

At the moment we run these 3x per week for just 5 ten second holds pre-workout.  It doesn’t take a whole lot to make sure your correct muscles are firing and we’ve got a whole series of stuff we have to get done before we hit the platform.

I could've done a better job getting rid of my lumbar curve. Next time I'm going to get a friend to tell me if I've hit neutral or not.

I could’ve done a better job getting rid of my lumbar curve. Next time I’m going to get a friend to tell me if I’ve hit neutral or not.

The set up is VERY important:

  1. Lie on the ground face down.
  2. Extend your arms in front of you, pinkies down.  Your finger tips should be touching and you should have enough space that your dome should fit in between your arms with room to spare.  DO NOT MOVE YOUR ARMS AT THIS POINT.  Trainees will try and cheat by putting their elbows lower.  Your weight will be pushed through your elbows engaging all the muscles lining your T-spine.
  3. Bring one of your legs up about 60 degrees.  This is the hardest part to get right.  The inside of your knee will be pushing into the ground with your foot in the air.  At this point, one of your hips will be raised.
  4. Bring your other leg up about 60 degrees.  At this point, your hips will be elevated with your belly still touching the ground.  This is your start position.  If somebody walks past you at this point, they’ll probably wonder what the hell you’re doing.  Just say that you’re “practicing” and they should “move along.”
  5. Elevate your torso.  Everything lifts up off of the ground at the same time by pushing through the inside of your knees and your elbows.  the lumbar curve in your spine should be disappearing.  If the trainee has a tough time with this, tell them to “Imagine that they are wearing a seatbelt.  Try and pull your seat belt towards your chest.”  Have a partner look alongside and make sure that all of the curves are taken out.  Some will be weak or hyper-mobile so keeping a neutral spine will be a challenge.  Some will begin shuddering like they’re doing 120MPH on the autobahn.  Rounding or bulging in the upper back is caused by dysfunction in the T-spine.

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