Fitness Friday: Perfect the plank
There used to be a guy who would come into the gym where I worked out almost every day, and, without fail, perform what could possibly be the worst example of a biceps curl I've ever seen. He'd start with the annoying habit of standing directly in front of the weight rack instead of moving away so others could access the dumbbells. Then he'd pick up two weights that were way heavier than he was capable of curling correctly. He would then rock his body back and forth until he could gain enough momentum to swing the weight into the up position of the curl. He'd do several reps and at least three sets like this, making sure to try an attract attention to his "amazing" feat of strength by grunting after each rep. To this day, I'm not sure what part of the body he thought he was improving, but I can assure you his spine was getting more of a workout than his arms.
It's one thing to have a homemade golf swing that allows you to get around the course in less than 100 shots. But it's another to perform exercises with poor technique. One rep done right is so much more beneficial than 10 done incorrectly.
In the September issue, PGA Tour fitness expert Ben Shear--who recently joined our staff as an advisor--talks about the importance of doing planks correctly. This exercise is growing in popularity, because it's being touted as a safer and more effective way to strengthen core muscles such as the rectus abdominis (the six pack) and the obliques (above your love handles). But only if it's done right.
"Think long spine," Shear says. "Imagine creating as much distance as you can between the crown of your head and your tailbone. Someone should be able to place a yardstick so it touches the back of your head, upper back and butt at the same time. Keep your chin tucked and shoulders slightly protracted (below). Those muscles, as well as the muscles in your core, should be contracting, providing active stability."
Once you're able to stay in this position for a considerable amount of time, you might be ready to move on to a slightly harder version of the plank. Click on the video below to see me demonstrate. But remember, form is the most important thing.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.*
(Photos: Eddie Berman) *