No Fooling: The Plank Is the Most Important Move to Master in TRX
Pop quiz: Which TRX Suspension Trainer exercises incorporate the plank?
(A)TRX Chest Press
(B)TRX Body Saw
(D)All of the above
(E)A and B only
(F)None of the above
The correct answer is D. Now let’s discuss why and bust a few TRX myths along the way.
Myth 1: You only plank when doing TRX abdominal work.
The TRX Suspension Trainer is an all core, all the time tool. You don’t want to simply go through the motions of a push (like a TRX chest press), or a pull (like a TRX row); you always want to start and finish each move with an active plank. To really nail that plank, it’s important to practice. Even before you incorporate your plank into your TRX Suspension Trainer exercises, you want to learn what “right” looks and feels like.
Myth 2: Holding a plank longer means that I’m getting stronger
This one’s firmly in the maybe category. According to Miguel Vargas, Training and Development Manager for TRX, how long you can plank is secondary to how well you can plank. Vargas says he would rather see people hold six perfect planks for ten seconds each than one sloppy plank for 60 seconds. If you can hold a perfect plank for a full minute, pat yourself on the back.
Myth 3: The length of my TRX Suspension Trainer straps doesn’t affect my plank.
To maximize each of your exercises, Vargas says you need to adjust the Suspension Trainer to the recommended length to achieve your full range of motion. When you’re doing a row, make sure the straps are fully shortened to find the proper angle for the move. (If the straps are too low, you could drag your shoulders on the ground on more difficult rows.) Conversely, when you’re doing a push or chest press on the straps, you want the straps to be fully lengthened so you can increase the load by getting deeper under your anchor point.
Myth 4: The angle (or vector) is the only variable in plank-based movements
What a lot of people don’t realize is that plank-based exercises on the TRX Suspension Trainer aren’t solely dependent on the load (i.e. resistance). You can also adjust your difficulty level by challenging your stability. If you’re doing a chest press and you’ve mastered the active plank, Vargas suggests raising one leg off the ground, or chasing your active plank with a single arm push, pull, or plank. As you play with those plank variables, you’ll discover that your core has to work harder to achieve the same quality of movement you executed with two arms or legs.
Myth 5: Planks don’t apply to TRX Squats
Surprise! Standing is vertical planking. Each time you drive back up to standing position in your TRX Squat, you are resuming your plank. That doesn’t mean that you need to squeeze your glutes and lats while walking around your home or office, but practicing those squeezes with your TRX Suspension Trainer will establish the pattern that your standing position at the start and finish of a squat is a plank. When you add load to your squat—whether it’s with dumbbells at the gym, picking up your kids, or accepting a heavy box from a courier, your body will know how to respond.
Myth 6: How I hold my feet doesn’t matter for a TRX plank
A lot of people overlook proper foot form once they place their toes in the foot cradles, but flexing the ankle and pushing your heels against the Suspension Trainer handles will improve your TRX Plank. According to Vargas, driving your heels against the handles mimics an active standing plank, and creates more stability. When your toes are pointed in the foot cradles, you can also fall into a dip, which can trigger lower back pain. Flexing the ankle supports proper form.
The plank is the basis of hundreds of movements in TRX and in life, which means that you’ll move and feel better if you take the time to perfect it.