Physical Pointers

Let's Plank Our Workout

Živa Dvoršak

June 3, 2021

In one of our previous blogs, we’ve already discussed why it’s necessary to add physical exercises into a shooter’s training program. Today we’re going to show you how to do one of the most basic exercises that must be included in every workout program. Do you already know which one it is?

For the body to stand up straight, it needs a strong centre. Core stabilization exercises are essential for shooters, as they prevent our spine from being overloaded from our forced positions and the weight of our rifles/pistols. You’ve probably guessed it: today we’re going to talk about plank. The easiest way to establish it as a routine is to do it whenever you get home: take off your shoes and get straight down on the floor! Of course, it would be better to include it in your overall workout routine, but hey, sometimes we don’t have time for everything!

In his 1996 research, Paul W. Hodges concluded that a “classic” training of the abdominal muscles (e.g. sit-ups) isn’t enough for a better sports performance. When dealing with lower back pain, it can even work against us. The more superficial the abdominal muscles are, the more they are out of alignment with the deep abdominal muscles and take on their role. The deep abdominal muscles become weaker and cause us even greater back pains.

Plank exercises, on the other hand, focus on the deep abdominal muscles. Plank is one of the most effective and, at the same time, the most challenging exercises for strengthening all of the critical parts of the body: abdomen, glutes, thighs, and arms. If the plank is done correctly, it strengthens the deep trunk stabilizers, superficial abdominal muscles, as well as shoulder girdle.

A Perfect Plank Explained from Head to Toes

  1. Feet together (the wider the feet, the greater the support surface and the easier the exercise will be performed)
  2. Knees extended 
  3. Pelvis slightly posteriorly inclined 
  4. Spine in a neutral/straight line
  5. Blades almost completely apart and in external rotation (you achieve that by pushing hands into the floor)
  6. Head and neck in extension of the spine (look down and bring your chin closer to the body)
  7. Elbows directly below the shoulders
  8. Forearms parallel
  9. Fists clenched
  10. Breathe properly!!! (with long inhales and exhales, both through your nose; inhale into the low rib part and exhale with bringing your navel to the spine)

 

When in plank position, don’t think of the time you want to spend holding it; instead, think of activating the right muscle sets while doing it. It’s better to do more sets than to hold it for too long. The number one rule of holding the plank is: keep your back from sagging. The second thing you want to do is shift your focus (and body) from feeling the pressure on your joints. Instead, contract your abs as hard as you can (tense them as if someone is going to punch you in the stomach), then drive your abs down, push your elbows back, tilt your hips, and squeeze your glutes. From here on, it’s only about the mind-body connection. Bring your attention to tensing those muscles, and that’s when the strength, physique, and fitness levels are going to completely transform. It might take you a few days of trying before your nervous system stimulates those muscle fibres, but when it does, you will really start to feel the burn.

Three examples of the plank exercise done wrong
All the wrong ways of planking

As with other exercises, this, too, may start getting tedious. Luckily for us, there is an almost endless list of plank versions and upgrades. Stay tuned because well cover some in the next Practical Pointer.

Interested in other hints that may improve your position, balance, preparation, mental approach or, in general, your shooting? Order your own copy of Shooting Notes.

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