So this morning I’m scrolling through my news feed and I come across this:
Apparently a Chinese police officer, who is a member of the Beijing Police department SWAT team, has broken the world record for planking. According to the Metro, Mao Weidong stayed in a plank position for four hours and 26 minutes.
Very cool and impressive at face value. Considering I get bored when my rep range goes above 6, I can’t imagine doing any activity for that long, so kudos for persistence to this gentleman.
BUT, you know what scares me? Many people and places are going to assume that this is now the fitness ideal and will start wasting countless hours on their forearms and forget why they are actually training in the first place.
Dan John brilliantly says in training that we need to “keep the goal the goal”. When I teach trainers and clinicians exercise prescription, I constantly remind them that every movement you choose is a means to an end and that everything we do should be done with the goal of that activity will then lead you to be able to better do another activity.
That is why when I came up with the tag line for ONE Human Performance, I boiled it down to the three reasons why anyone trains:
1. Look Better
2. Feel Better
3. Perform Better
That’s it. It’s one, some or all of those. No one comes in to get a 21 on their FMS or hold a 4 hour plank. The ability to be better at those things only lead you to be better able to achieve the goal you came in for.
Where it gets confusing is now that with extreme races and CrossFit has become the rage, the goal of training has become to get better at training. Before all of the CrossFitters and Mud Run crowd starts attacking me, realize I am not knocking those activities at all here. But also realize that you are not the norm or the masses, and so with that, the norm and the masses may not benefit from simply training to get better at training. As trainers we have to be very careful not to impose our goals or training on to our clients. As much as I may want to have a better bench press, having my 50 year old golfer benching may not be the most effective and efficient means to achieve his goals, which probably have nothing to do with a bench press.
Are planks bad? NO, but training should be done, as Gray Cook says, at the “edge of your ability”. I teach that I want you to always train at the level that you are challenged, yet successful. So if I prescribe a plank, it is an entry level trunk and shoulder stability intervention that eventually becomes a building block to being able to do a push up or press. This may be done to create better posture for every day living, greater upper body control and positioning for athletic endeavors or a window into training for a nicer chest and arms. It is a means to an end, not the end goal.
It’s kind of like when people read about Navy Seal training and try to follow their workout regimen. I’ve had the good fortune to work with the Seals and they are unique and special breed of human being. Average Joe who sits in an office 8 hours a day and hasn’t worked out since high school football should not (and probably could not) even attempt to do what these highly specialized individuals do as their occupation.
Life is too short, so before you go and waste your valuable time trying to break this gentlemen’s record, realize that things like this are noteworthy and remarkable, but also generally frivolous in nature. Remember on Happy Days when Fonzie broke the world record for jumping the most garbage cans on his motorcycle???