I WAS posed an interesting question by a good friend and endurance athlete Niño Abarquez.
He asked me if there was any efficacy to doing a plank for endurance?
At our facility, we typically don’t get questions like these anymore as we’re known for training efficiently and effectively, but this was a good question that warrants an answer. Do I think people should train for a one-hour plank?
Most people do not need to do a plank for more than 30 seconds because the goal for the core is strength first, then coordination. So if a client can plank for 30 seconds, while contracting the butt, clenching the abs and breathing well, I typically get satisfied. We would want to move on to a more difficult exercise as well. Why? We want to train for strength, and most people really tend to get bored after 30 seconds anyway.
So, to strengthen the muscles, we progress the exercise by 1) varying the angle, 2) taking out a base of support and 3) creating more instability.
The core musculature’s role in our body is to: 1) stabilize the trunk, 2) transmit force from the lower extremity to the upper extremity and 3) keep our internal organs in place. If the core is weak, the organs “travel forward” which would then affect the position of the pelvis (as you notice, the pelvic bones are shaped like a bowl wherein it is supposed to “catch” the internal organs.) So, the pelvis in the person with a weak core would “travel forward.”
For most athletes, the goal is to have muscles that are stronger than the demands of your sport. For general folks, the goal of your muscles might be to have a body that’s durable to withstand the rigors of your daily life. The core has to be strong but it also needs to be doing what it’s supposed to be doing.
So we strengthen it but it also needs to be trained in “integration” not just in isolation. When we are swimming, biking and running, it’s guaranteed that our core is working in those locomotive movements.
When we lift heavy in our squats and deadlifts, part of doing those movements is to cue our trunk to be stable, and that is by effectively using our trunk musculature. When we do walks with load, carrying our kids, we can be sure that we will be using your trunk musculature. Inability to do so would cause some minor aches and pains, that can always be remedied by moving well first, then moving often.
So if your core is well coordinated, you wouldn’t have to train it in isolation for an hour. Doing your running, cycling and swimming, lifting and walking should train it sufficiently especially when tied up with good breathing. Although you would want it to be stronger than the demands of your sport, which means you want to progress your core exercises as well.
So to answer the question “do we plank for an hour?” It has very little transfer to any sport or activity except for planking for duration.
You’re better off getting a strong core and knowing how to use it efficiently for your activities.
Hope this provides a different take on things.
Shoot me a sports performance, fitness or nutrition question at email@example.com.