The Benefits of Planking

Not me, but good technique nevertheless

My diabetes went undiagnosed for months. It was a strange time looking back now. The constant thirst, the cravings for sugar. I remember drinking a 2L bottle of Pepsi in about an hour. Crazy.

I suppose I was slowly dying. My body could not metabolise food properly and, as a result, it was trying to get energy any way it could. I was wasting away. I think I lost about two or three stone (30-40lbs) in a few of months. This wasn’t good weight loss mind you. I lost a lot of muscle mass.

Of course, I bounced back quickly with the insulin injections, but I had managed to wrench my back out in the gym before my diagnosis. I had an old lower back sports injury, which returned with my muscle wastage. Even after I put my weight back on (muscle and fat), the back pain remained. Indeed, it morphed into horrible sciatica that ran all the way down to my toes.

For months I tried all kinds of stretches to relieve my pain. There was some improvement, but I was always in some degree of discomfort.

Enter Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and the section Lift Heavy Things. In it he discusses planking. Now I had been a gym guy since I was fifteen, and I had never done a plank in my life. As every workout type knows, it’s easy to get into a routine and stay in that rut. That was me. But ruts also get boring, and planks looked very easy. So I started planking. I worked my way up to five sets of planks holding the planking position for around a minute. Nowadays, I hold it until I shake uncontrollable for ten seconds or so.

This is a fantastic exercise for core strength. It not only works your abdominals and obliques, but your lower back muscles too. I agree with Mark:

We need strong cores in order to maintain a stable torso while putting in work, whether it’s lifting heavy things, carrying a heavy load, or transferring power from our hips while throwing a punch or a ball. Having that stable, strong core with the capacity to resist the influence of outside forces is far more important than having the capacity to perform a million situps.

So why the long preamble about back pain brought on by slow death by diabetes? Because within a month or so of planking, and building up core strength, my sciatica went away. This was never expected, promised or hoped for. I was simply following the Primal Blueprint because I was seeing results around my waistline. What a bonus to lose the back pain!

What’s my routine now? I’ll plank once a week. I’ll do four to six sets and hold the planking position for at least a minute. I only do the classic forearms and tippy toes plank.

Here’s a good video on proper technique and progression:

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