Pros and Problems with Performing Planks and Planking Challenges

Saturday, March 14th, 2015
Dave Reddy demonstrating a pressing strength pattern - the push up plank

Push Up Planks are great for building strength-endurance and serving as a prerequisite for more advanced core training.

For most people, planks are a pretty darned good exercise. Similar to food, there aren’t too many “bad” exercises, only bad habits and behaviors (aka exercise form) surrounding those exercises. Done correctly in moderation, planks can help you in two primary areas:

  1. Develop core muscle-endurance while helping you differentiate between your abdominal wall muscles and your breathing mechanisms. Meaning, you want to brace your core and abdominal muscles without necessarily holding your breath. Thus, make sure you can breathe deeply during a plank.
  2. Secondly, planks help develop total body, mostly upper body tension. Tension is key to strength. A strong tense grip for instance is associated with a strong shoulder girdle. Strength is our number one goal for both metabolic and functional improvements in the training arena. A properly performed plank helps us develop some wicked total body tension that can increase our core and postural strength which in turn helps reduce injury and improve everyday tasks and athletic endeavors.

(If you are a new mom, or will someday become a mom, and have children under the age of 5, check out this article and become familiar with core training systems like MuTu. Here is a in-depth article about planks and women: “If Planks Aren’t the Best Postpartum Exercise, Prove It!

But, because planks are relatively easy to attempt, assuming you have healthy shoulders AND big toes, everyone does them. And we assume that if we can only hold a 10 second plank with our first attempt, then 20 seconds is better, and 40 seconds is better and 4 minutes is like totally the best! Wrong. I have been there … I planked with 45 other people and can proudly say I won the “challenge” with about a 3.5 minute plank. I have never held one over 45 seconds since. I actually lead this particular group challenge and afterwards questioned whether I was doing the best thing for my training/client community. I was not.

Planks should absolutely be developed and practiced, but only up to performing a 45-60 second plank. After you can do a 45 second plank, it is time to make them more dynamic. Here are a few sample videos:

Push Ups & Negative Push Ups

Plank Rows

Walking Planks

BOSU Push Up Plank

Click here to open a PDF describing a few of my favorite core exercises – Weekend Warrior Rx Core Series.

So what is wrong with trying for a two minute plank?

I get that it is fun to occasionally go for a 90 second plank, but beyond a minute or so, we lose the upper body tension we are aiming for, and instead resort to “hanging on our meat” where we lose tension in areas of our body and we simply shift from our shoulder joints to our hip and lower back and begin sagging throughout. Or our hips (rear end) ever so slightly shift up meaning we have all but shut off our core muscles and are now relying on our hip flexors that in turn throws our hips and pelvis out of whack causing all sorts of issues in our knees, back and shoulders. Who wants that?

So if you are challenging yourself or others, do so by trying to hold a wicked strong, tense, strength improving plank position for up to a minute. Here are a few tips.

Tips for your groups Plank Challenge:

  • If your first plank attempt is under 20 seconds, your 3-5 week goal should be do double your time, with your goal being 45-60 seconds. (See the 3rd bullet on form.)
  • If you first attempt is 20-40 seconds, really focus on tensing your entire body throughout and double your plank time within 2-4 weeks. (See next bullet on form.)
  • If you can plank for 40-60 seconds on your first attempt, focus on quality over quantity. The key is tension – Begin on your forearms and toes, forearms parallel, fists tight, shoulders pulled away from your ears, and then this is key: simultaneously contract your quads, glutes and abs and continue checking in with each area to make sure everything is tight and contracted and TONED! You will not “tone” these areas if you cannot hold them tone for 40-60 seconds during a plank. Finally, breathe! Breathe and focus on exhaling a little bit more than you are inhaling. You should feel your abs get a tighter on your exhales.

To sum all of this up: you simply cannot hold a proper, effective and functional plank really well for over a minute unless you are Lance Armstrong and you blood dope. Then, well, maybe.

For a few of my favorite core exercises, check out the linked videos throughout this email and practice the moves on the attached PDF. Maybe I will develop a 6 Core Challenge after moving beyond planks.

Happy Planking People!

Lose Weight With The Declaration of Independence? Check Out This Personal Health D of I.

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

“The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

My Personal Health Declaration of Independence

The Founding Father’s journey towards a free nation serves as a perfect metaphor and tool for declaring independence from your former lifestyle and beginning your own journey of building health from the inside-out.

Thomas Paine was referring to the “cause” that many today call the “American experiment.” I believe the current state of each of our nation’s individual’s personal health is a cause that runs a close second to the original ideas our country was founded. This summer, we once again celebrated the birth of my daughter (she turned 4 on July 4th) and the birth of this American experiment called the United States. But as I looked at my daughter that day becoming lost in all the family, love and other wonderful things she has ahead of her in life, I admit I am not as optimistic about our country, specifically our state of health and fitness.

It got me wondering whether the Declaration of Independence could be used by those interested as more than simply a metaphor, but a commitment and personal declaration to unlearn and let go of all that is holding them back from living a life filled with health and vitality.

I submit that it can indeed. (more…)

Hey, It’s All About the Calories, Right? Not! | Poliquin Lifestyle Article Re-Post

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Food is Fuel! Dave Reddy

What are you putting in your tank?

‘Course that ignores all the other things that sugar does besides provide (empty) calories: like raise blood sugar, depress the immune system, rob the body of calcium and use up mineral stores. But that’s another story.

This quote (from the article linked to below) is referring to the idea that all you need to do is “burn” more calories than you eat to lose weight. If only it was that simple. trainers and weight loss coaches would have degrees in Mathematics instead of Anatomy & Physiology.

I stumbled upon this enlightening (and pretty short and sweet) article reiterating the problem with counting calories, both when eating and “burning” calories in your attempts to lose or manage your weight.

Frankly, as with too many things in the fitness “industry”, you are being sold bad science … or at least outdated, short sided, incomplete science at best.

Check out the link below for more. In the meantime, remember, when it comes to your food, focus on these four things: (more…)

Plank Technique for a Stronger Core with Several Variations (with videos)

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Dave Reddy Military Fitness Consultingdoinng side planks

“I love the smell of 60 side planking soldiers in the morning.” This is a side plank – push up set we did with Army reservists at Jefferson Barracks. Check out the video below of me demonstrating this move.

Simplicity usually = awesome. Therefore, let’s just say planks = good. Abdominal crunches = bad. Your abdominal muscles, rather your core (think of your “core” as everything from your upper thighs and pelvis to your lower rib cage and waist) functions to BRACE your mid section.

When you squat down to pick something up for example, ideally, your “corset” of muscles (AKA your core) act as a web of muscle tissue running in every direction between your pelvis, your rib cage and spine. When they contract together, you will have a strong torso, protected back, and the ability to maintain strong, durable posture whether standing, bending over or squatting down.

“Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep … he merely planks for 8 hours a night.”

Needless to say, Chuck is awesome, but the point of this quote is to make the point that we live as we exercise. So while Chuck Norris can plank for 8 hours every night, doing just a few minutes (10 seconds at a time working up to 45-60 seconds max) will help you find, activate and strengthen your deep core muscles.

So again, we live as we train. If we do not exercise at all, your daily movement (walking to work, typing all day long, picking up your kids, walking the stairs) suffers. If you train with poor posture (and God knows we see it every day in the fitness center), you will stand around with bad posture telling your friends how much you “workout.” Don’t be that guy (or gal;)

So while your intention may be like totally fantabulous when it comes to strengthening you core and tightening your waist, using the cues in the first video below will make sure your planks (among other abdominal exercises) are doing what you want them to do, which includes:

  • integrate your entire chain of muscles together from hands to toes
  • train you to breathe (somewhat) regularly while holding your abdominal wall tight
  • train the important muscles just peripheral to your core, that is your rib cage and shoulder blades, spinal (think posture) muscles, and all the muscles that stabilize and mobilize your pelvis during movement
  • several other really cool benefits that allow you to walk, run and play more often.

Begin with either a elbows and knees or elbows and toes position for 10-60 seconds at a time. This first video is of me working with April on her Push Up Plank while discussing her shoulder and elbow position to maximize tension in her muscles and not her neck and joints. The following videos after that show a few variations …

Becky demonstrating a BOSU Plank – after you can hold this for 30 seconds, increase the intensity by lifting one foot at a time a few inches off of the floor for 5-10 seconds at a time

Dave doing a Plank Up Down – perform one per side, then two per side and so on up to about 5 per side equaling one set – keep your hips as square to the floor as possible. (more…)

Best Exercise for Core Strength, Burning Calories, Toning Your Thighs and Improving Your Total Body Strength (with video)

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Scott Mayfield knocking out a single leg kettle bell deadlift with Coach Dave Reddy

Hockey players need some wicked single leg balance and strength, which is accomplished by performing movements such as this Single Leg Kettlebell Dead Lift. Pictured is Scott Mayfield of the University of Denver and New York Islanders NHL Team.

Was that enough of a description to catch your eye? Let’s add to the list picking up your (grand) children, learning to protect your back and spine, saving your knees, strengthening your heart and the list goes on. Personally, I like this perspective …

The best exercise for strengthening the heart — is — reaching down and lifting people up. – Ernest Blevins

If you replace “heart” with BACK and people with BARBELLS, that could be the perfect dead lift quote. (- pulled from a random T-nation forum post.)

Many of you have asked questions about dead lift variations, form and where to start in terms of weight, so Becky and I threw these videos up to demo a few ideas for you.

Remember, we primarily focus on improving total body, purposeful strength in four major movements:

  1. Dead Lift – picking something up
  2. Squat – standing up from a chair, sofa or toilet
  3. Push Up – pushing a door open, putting luggage in the  overhead bin
  4. Pull Up – starting a lawn mower, pulling a vacuum sweeper, pulling yourself up off of the floor

Here are a few tips and variations of  the dead lift:

Becky is here doing a few single leg dead lift variations:

And just for kicks, here are a few high light videos of Brandi, Fritz, Susie and I doing heavier Trap Bar Dead Lifts:

B Will knocking out a 165 lb Dead Lift (this is the first time she has ever performed this exercise, FYI … one Saturday morning at our Saturday Strength Club Workout.) (more…)

Upcoming Spring Training Fitness Challenges and New Years Highlight Video

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Spring Training Fitness Challenges in St. Louis with Dave Reddy featuring a 21 Day Nutrition ChallengeWe can’t wait for these upcoming challenges this April and are already developing the new additions and bonuses accompanying each one. Space is limited and we have people already signed up for both … so don’t miss out, call me or either facility today to get signed up!

  • Spring Training (Lunch Hour) Fitness Challenge (Webster Groves) – 10 workouts in 14 days at the Webster Groves Recreation Complex, April 1st – April 12th, 12-12:45 pm workouts Monday through Friday. Designed for stay-at-home mom’s and professionals who work from their home, and others who want to invest less than an hour each lunch break for two weeks to build strength, get back on track and stay motivated with Becky and I at the Rec. Sport Specific total body workouts and a 21 Day Nutrition Challenge PDF Packet included. $119 for 10 workouts, the Nutrition Challenge Packet and more! CALL 314.963.5600 or stop by the Webster Groves front desk to register.
  • Webster Groves 8×11 Promo Poster & Registration Sheets – PDF format to open and print, forward or post
  • Spring Training Fitness Challenge (THE HEIGHTS) – Get Reddy for the summer! 10 workouts in 14 days, April 15th – April 27th at The Heights. Team building and Athletic Training themes throughout, learn how athletes train, eat and prepare for events, eat to fuel their training and competitions, learn sport specific exercises, burn a ton of calories, meet new people to workout with and more! (And yes, another sah-weet new t-shirt is included;) Call 645.1476 or stop by THE HEIGHTS front desk to register. Hurry, space is limited!
  • Richmond Heights 8×11 Promo Poster & Registration Sheets – PDF format to open and print, forward or post

Finally, the high light video:

Feb. 12th, New Years Fitness Challenge High Light … and keep in mind as you check this short video out, we customize every exercise and circuit like this in our workouts (whether 1-on-1, small group or boot camp) to YOUR body and fitness level. I integrate my Sports Medicine and athletic training experience into each strength building, fat burning workout so you reduce aches and pains while getting stronger than ever. I kept the camera on Kala in this video to offer a sample of one run through this particular circuit of exercises … this was a great 14 days of workouts … we can’t wait for the Spring Training Challenges to Kickoff!

If you have any questions, please call me (Dave) at 314.477.6520.

Best Breakfast for Health, Weight Loss and Athleticism? A Few Awesome Options for You

Monday, February 4th, 2013

A few organic eggsWeight loss is not simply about calories in and calories out. Otherwise we would have mathematicians telling us what to eat instead of nutritionists. Our physiology is simply not that simple.

Today let’s talk about breakfast. Beginning your day with these two keys for more energy and successful weight management:

  1. balance your blood sugar (hormones)
  2. fuel your body with a nutrient-dense breakfast that will get you through a great workout and/or a productive day at the office.

It’s All About Your Hormones

Building health, managing your weight and training like an athlete is about understanding and balancing (maybe optimizing is a better word) several hormonal systems in your body. Hormones are barely understood by most people, though we all know they are crazy important. How many times have you accused someone of being “hormonal?” Diabetes is a hormonal issue. What helped Barry Bonds hit home-runs? That’s right, hormones.  Are you feeling stressed about life right now? Stress hormones basically cause your body to store fat and waste muscle. Do you know how a healthy person knows that they are full after eating a meal? A signal to the brain from a hormone.

In an attempt to simplify, here are three categories with a few common hormones you may recognize: (more…)

3 Cues to Engage Your Glutes to Build Strength and Fat Burning Potential (while protecting your knees – with short video)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Becky Wibbenmeyer doing a perfect bench squat

Becky squatting with good form, using her arms to counter balance her hips to allow her to squat safely to a low bench. This is a great place to start with this move.

I think most people suffer from three types of amnesia:

  1. Gluteal
  2. Abdominal
  3. Right Brain

I say “amnesia” because in each of these cases, we are born with the ability to use each: as children we are able to squat deeply, breath correctly, brace our core and are naturally creative. Slowly but surely, our 21st Century lifestyle strips us of each of these … and this makes me very sad.

But never fear … this post is all about waking up your glutes while standing, sitting and squatting by performing the following three cues any time during the day:

  1. simply work on consciously squeezing your glutes “on command” – when you stand up from your chair after reading this post, push “through your heels” to use your hips instead of your knee muscles – the more we are putting our weight on our toes and balls of our feet, the more we are potentially stressing  our knees
  2. imagine your feet are on dinner plates and while keeping your feet two feet apart and toes pointed straight ahead, drive your feet into the  floor and imagine rotating those plates away from one another. Your feet won’t actually move, but you are engaging the rotational function of your glutes (see video below)
  3. drive your knees out to the sides as you stand up to engage the side leg lifting function of your glute and hip muscles.

The result will be more power coming from your core and hips, which means less stress on your knees and lower back. Finally, speaking of our 21st century lives, if you cannot get this feeling in your shoes, do these stand ups as often as you can bare footed. Our shoes these days, especially heeled shoes, are ruining our feet, knees and lower backs. I have had many clients take their heels off (even 1-2″ heels) to squat in socks and immediately feel all knee pain vanish.

And that is awesome!

Whether your goal is to dunk a basketball, drive a golf ball further or stand up from your toilet unassisted for another 5-45 years, these cues are crazy important for you to master:

Dave Reddy doing a genie squat to demo flat back and upright postureThank you to Barb for doing this exercise with me, as after practicing it a few times, I pulled my phone out and ran through it one last time.

OK, I thought I would throw one more picture into this post to illustrate what can happen if you use your glutes, hips and core correctly during a squat. By engaging my hips and core, I am able to lower myself doing a “genie squat” to either a lower chair or to pick something up safely without bending over at all. Look how flat and upright my spine is. That allows me to squat deeply without hurting my knees or back. Begin this movement to a bench or chair and continue working on going deeper and deeper, always avoiding any sort of pain.

We will cover flexibility in the hips and ankles in future posts as they are just as important to get to this squatting position.

If you are interested in getting my Weekly Recap Email and Workout Starter Kit with all of these exercises, click on the REDDY Health Weekly link above to join our community.

Thanks and as always, please let me know what you think here or on Facebook.

Awesome Ab Dolly Roll-Out by 87 Year Old Paul Cahn – Never Too Old to Get Strong (short video)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Dave Reddy and Paul Cahn performing a ab dolly roll out

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? – Satchel Paige

I can’t help but pull out my camera to catch Paul rockin’ out pretty much any part of his weekly workout with me … from jumping rope, to 20 lb dumbbell presses to this sah-weet Ab Dolly Roll Out.

This is part of our finishing routine when we head out to the “mats area” at the Richmond Heights Community Center and hit some core and flexibility.

“I’ll have you know I left a pretty important meeting today to come over and workout.”

He will tell me this on occasion when we train, just to remind me of his dedication, though he will be the first person to tell you he doesn’t like working out much, but completely understands the importance for keeping him healthy in both mind and body.

Paul has had no major orthopedic surgeries or injuries, just a few aches and pains we have managed through the years.

He trains with me two times per week for about 45 minutes, then swims another 4 days per week for 20-25 minutes in addition to walking the hilly four mile loop at Innsbrook in Wright City, MO most Sunday mornings. He is still active Co-Owner of Elan Polo shoes and works 40+ hours per week (with some international business trips thrown in every couple of months). I have worked with Paul for about 10 years and do not believe he has ever neglected his workout through his entire career.

I would like to submit to you this is pure awesomeness!

Paul has great flexibility and strength as you can see below in getting full extension on each roll out. I recommend doing this exercise (or a similar fit ball roll out) only after you can do a elbows and  toes plank for 45 or more seconds.

Do not regret growing older.  It is a privilege denied to many.  ~Author Unknown

For more Health and Fitness Programming and Services for all ages, please visit me at www.reddyhp.com.

Strong, Tone AND Healthy Shoulders with These Two Moves and Cues (with short video)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

20130112_123450Unlike most joints in the body, our shoulder is where we (in the Sports Medicine world) say we:

“sacrifice stability for mobility.”

Mobility is almost always a good thing, especially in the shoulder joint allowing us to move our arm in pretty much every direction, including raising, lowering and rotating them, running like Phoebe in Central Park and throwing a baseball to our kids.

It is the lack of stability (read strength) that causes potential issues. Therefore, when we are doing exercises to functionally strengthen and tone our shoulders, we want to keep a few things in mind.

Ideally, you should be able to lift your arms up overhead with your arms nearly touching your ears and your elbows remaining straight. If you cannot do this, lying on your back in this position is a great (and pretty effortless exercise) you can do for 3-10 minutes a day, as long as you are not feeling pain and your fingers do not go numb and cold too quickly;) But I digress …

Here are a few more exercises in our current program and ways to cue these exercises to get maximal benefit:

In this video, Mimi is doing her Single Arm Dumbbell Press (second exercise in the Metabolic Circuit #1 in the Pressing Workout) and working with a 8 lb dumbbell, she is working on NOT shrugging her shoulders with the upward press. If we shrug our shoulders too much when we press overhead, we put all of this extra stress and tension in our neck and upper back, and that is not awesome. Then, the second goal or cue is to tuck your rib cage down against your side while you are pressing up overhead. You do not need a dumbbell to do this at home. Try it now … reach up overhead, keep your elbow straight, and feel your rib cage lift up and out to the side. Now keeping your arm straight up, attempt to tuck your ribs down and tight, which activates some of your stabilizing (that is a good thing) core muscles.

The other move we are dong is the Standing Cable Face Pull (or rubber band (with handles) hooked to a door knob for at home workouts) as Becky is doing in this video. This is a great exercise to integrate your upper back muscles and rotator cuff muscles together. *This video is actually part of the Pressing Workout (in your starter kit) Superset of the Standing Face Pull x 12 reps followed by the  Side Plank for 20-30 seconds.

To get your own FREE and Awesome Workout Starter Kit our community is doing right now and  join my REDDY Health Weekly email list where I high light these posts, please visit here … Sign Me Up & Send Me My FREE Program.

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions … thanks, Dave