Ask Stew: Should I Do More Push-Ups When Doing More Planks?

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plank workout
Staff Sgt. Marquaveus Murray from C Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion fights for every last second of holding a plank position during the opening Army Combat Fitness Test event of the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant the Year Competition early Monday morning at Fort Lee, VA. (Photo by Patrick Buffett/U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)

Have you noticed planking seems to make time slow down? Besides being a time machine, planking has many benefits that go far beyond just being a replacement exercise for sit-ups, crunches and leg tucks.

Planking can help you to perform more push-ups in some cases, plus it's one of the most convenient exercises since it takes little space or time to perform. These back-protecting exercises are the subject of our question of the week from a young man who is preparing for military fitness tests.

Stew, now that the military is going with the plank pose and got rid of the sit-ups and crunches, do you think push-ups will improve? Would you recommend using resting positions when doing long sets of push-ups? Does doing 70 push-ups with resting in the UP position count as doing 70 in a single set? Thanks, Mike

Mike, there is so much good that comes from planking. If the military had been doing more planks over the past few decades, dropping sit-ups and crunches from the fitness test would not have drawn so many complaints from military members.

By adding as little as 10 minutes a week of planking to your training, you may find the "injury-causing complaint" from sit-ups and crunches will be greatly decreased, but that is another discussion. Here are the benefits to doing more planking.

Improves Posture

From the shoulder girdle and upper back through the hips and legs, the plank works to build stabilizing muscles that will protect your back. Notice the posture of people who do yoga. It is exceptional and a direct product of yoga's planking variations and other stability, mobility and flexibility movements.

Improves Mental Toughness

If you have tried the "death by push-ups" workout, you know that it is more mental than physical toughness. Death by push-ups is a 10-minute plank pose, but every minute on the minute, you do 10 push-ups. You can either rest in the plank position, UP push-up position or do a side plank and shake out the arms, if needed. You must go to your happy place when attempting this time-altering workout challenge.

Improves Back-Bracing Strength

This benefit will add to your push-up ability, as many people tend to collapse from the core tiring before the arms and shoulders start to fatigue. If you do a lot of sit-ups, flutter kicks, rucking or other core-challenging movements, planking is one of the best calisthenics positions that you can do without weight training. Weight training also is beneficial to back-bracing strength. One of the reasons why I like to build a foundation of calisthenics and planking before lifting weights to younger athletes is that it is a safe and effective way to develop a solid and stable core system prior to lifting weights from the floor and over your head.

Can Be Done at Any Time and at Any Place

There was a recent trend on social media where people would plank anywhere and post it. Though this fad was a little different than the actual plank pose, it demonstrates you can plank anywhere for just a short period of time to see benefits.

Plank Progression

One way to make the plank easier for starters and harder for more advanced athletes is to progress doing the following steps: Plank on knees, regular plank, side plank, plank with one arm and one leg lifted off the floor, push-ups in the up position, TRX or suspension training planking, and bear crawling. As you progress with your core strength and stability, you can move from stationary poses to more dynamic movements.

To answer your question, if you need to stay in the "resting UP push-up position" or an extended arm plank pose when doing push-ups, that is fine. The push-ups no longer count when you drop to your knees or fall to your stomach. You do have a two-minute time limit in most push-up tests, so the amount of rest you can take during the push-up test is limited.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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