By Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC
Over the past few years, the plank has become more and more popular in gyms, and for good reason. It’s a great addition to crunches and leg raises and is a worthy exercise for beginners or anyone who has neglected developing core stability. If you can effectively hold a plank for 60 to 90 seconds, it may be time to increase the challenge. This can be done by adding external load (weight vest), external stimulus (planking on an unstable surface) or movement. Enter the “seal walk,” which is essentially a moving plank. Generally speaking, you are “walking” around in a push-up position on your hands with your feet sliding behind you.
There are three potential issues to consider when setting up this exercise:
- Space: While 30 to 40 feet is ideal, a 10- to 15-foot straightaway is viable.
- Sliders: This exercise is performed with a pair of slider products such as Valslides or HavykSliders. However, a pair of cheap furniture sliders from a home-furnishing store will work just as well.
- Conducive flooring: Carpeted or wood floors work best with most slider products. The aerobics room in a gym is the perfect place. Common rubber flooring may be hard for some sliders to slide on, unless you have wheels on your tool of choice.
How to Walk Like a Seal
Start in a quadruped position on your hands and knees. Come off your knees, placing a foot in the middle of each slider. You are now in a push-up position with your abs braced and your spine in a neutral position. If more comfortable, turn your hands out slightly to about a 45-degree position. To initiate the movement, move one hand about a foot out in front of you and then repeat with the other hand. Continue this “hand-walking” pattern for the desired time or distance. Beginners can start with two sets of 20 yards and work up to three to four sets of 40 yards.
This is a great “anti-rotation” movement because your goal is to minimize the rotation and lateral shifting of your hips as you move. Keep your abdominals braced and be sure not to lock out your elbows during this exercise. This is also great for working the stabilizing muscles of the shoulders as well as challenging the shin and quad muscles.
You can also increase the challenge with weighted options such as sandbags or plates. Ditch the sliders and hook your toes onto a 45-pound plate, and your abs, as well as your shin muscles, will definitely talk to you. You may get a couple funny looks from fellow gym members, but don’t let that stop you. This truly is a great core exercise that will produce tangible results.
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, has been the strength coach for dozens of pro athletes and was a coach on The Ultimate Fighter reality show. DBstrength.com