Have you ever performed a plank and wondered why you cannot feel the work in your abdominals, but in other areas? This is your body shouting that your plank is not in the optimal position. The core cannot work as intended if your ribs are stuck forward. It is common for the low back muscles, hip flexors, quads or even calf muscles to activate and try to assist for what the obliques are not able to do. Incorporating strength training exercises that help facilitate the optimal positioning of a plank is a great way to create a change in the core stability that will carry over into running.
Our obliques play a significant role in running— helping rotation and managing core pressure and breathing. The obliques aid with these functions by allowing one side of the rib cage to go forward while the other stays back— one side expands while the other side compresses to load or unload each foot. For these oblique functions to go smoothly during gate, the ribs must allow for expansion and compression. The obliques simply will not have leverage to do their job if the ribs are stuck forward or if the necessary areas do not compress or expand.
Let’s break down what should be “on” during a plank— working from the outside and meeting in the middle:
1). Head and Neck should be in slight extension with gaze slightly beyond fingertips. This helps to keep the sternum long and encourages full breaths. When tucking the chin and looking towards the toes, the sternum with scrunch and the position of the diaphragm and pelvis with change, therefore impacting the breath.
2). Hands should be pushing the ground away. This helps facilitate shoulder blade protraction and engage serratus anterior muscle, which is what makes breath work in this position incredibly efficient. The goal is to allow full expansion of the back with inhales. Elbows should be soft and facing forward, not locked out to brace the upper body.
3). Knees should not be locked out. Locking out the knees will not allow the hamstrings to help position the pelvis correctly. The goal is for the hamstrings to work with the abdominals to set the pelvis in a neutral position.
Think of your pelvis as a bowl of soup— the goal is maintaining the neutral pelvis, or not spilling the soup. It can be very tempting to squeeze glutes to maintain a neutral pelvis, but the goal is train hamstrings and abdominals to work together. The core will be ready to work when the pelvis is in a neutral position and the hamstrings are working in balance with the abdominals!
Molly O. has been a member of Stroller Warriors® since 2015 beginning with SW Ramstein where she volunteered as a Workout Leader and a Chapter Coordinator. Currently, she is a member of SW Elsewhere. Molly has worked as a Physical Therapist Assistant for 8 years and 5 years as a Certified Personal Trainer.
Thank you Molly for contributing your knowledge and experience to strengthen the Stroller Warriors community!