Exercise Spotlight: Plank to Rear Support

Challenge both your anterior and posterior chain on every rep with this demanding bodyweight exercise

Especially if you’ve been in the habit of lifting heavy, training hard, and focusing on building muscle, there comes a time when it would behoove you to take a step back and reassess your goals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the training goals I’ve listed above, but when they come at the expense of other areas of your health and fitness, things can get a bit more complicated.  We don’t want to forget that strength and hypertrophy don’t comprise total body fitness.

Many lifters who fit this category are rudely awakened when their mobility, locomotion, lateral stability, muscular endurance, or true core strength are put to the test – stuff their praiseworthy squat and deadlift numbers can’t stand up to.  Leg raises, planks, and other ground work can be a bit redundant, and only tackle one side of the coin – core strength and stability. I like zeroing in on the mobility aspect too – especially of the shoulder and hip regions, which are two joints that could really use it when surrounded by a ton of muscle and size.

Enter the Plank to Rear Support

This is an exercise that cannot be taken lightly.  Ripped right out of the gymnastic world, it incorporates a strong tuck position, a front supported plank, and a rear supported plank. It looks pretty simple, and even a little “fun”, but performing it with technical proficiency is a tall order – one that’s much harder than meets the eye. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Posterior chain strength. Having a strong posterior chain is usually quantified with exercises like squats and deadlifts, and lifters are often quite surprised with bodyweight support exercises like Chinese planks, back planks, bridges, and rear support exercises like this one at just how functionally poor their posterior chain strength actually is. As a result, the hips fall toward the floor faster than you can say “glutes”.
  2. Shoulder mobility. Holding a front facing plank is easy for literally anyone who’s trained. The focus can be oriented entirely toward the mid section and pelvis for proper positioning. When it comes to holding a true rear support, however, the priorities change to shoulder mobility as the position places the shoulder in an extended Muscular lifters often have limitations to their range above the head, and also behind the back – the latter of which gets tested when doing this movement. Insufficient range of motion frustrates the ability to do this with ease and highlights areas that need immediate attention.
  3. Core Strength. Long story short: If you have a weak core, you won’t be able to pull this off. Your hips will fall to the floor in both the front and rear planks, and you won’t be able to tuck your knees tightly enough in the transition phase, and your feet will keep catching the ground.

If the above reasons aren’t enough for you to put this in your training routine, nothing will be. In the video, note that I’m pausing in each end point in order to establish and ingrain positioning and hold a good quality plank. I never said I was a master of this movement, but it’s certainly one I can be proud of for my height and weight.

Plank to Rear Support: Coaching Cues

  1. Set up two low gymnastic parallettes approximately shoulder width apart from one another. If your gym doesn’t contain parallettes, simply makeshift something to mimic the ideal height and handle position. Take another look at my video, and you’ll see that I’ve used a combination of steps, plates, and stable dumbbells. My handles are about 12 inches off the ground. If you’re smaller, you may be able to start closer to the ground.
  2. Get into a push up plank position with the hands on the handles. Your chest and shoulders should be directly over your hands, and the legs straight back.
  3. Place your weight on the handles, and in one motion, tuck the knees tightly into the chest. Swing the body through the arms so that the legs transition toward the front of your setup.
  4. As the body moves forward, kick out the legs by pushing the hips through strongly. Aim to land on the heels with straight legs, and a high chest and hips. Avoid sagging.
  5. Hold position for a full second count, and then reverse the movement. Tuck the knees into the chest and “swing” back to a full front plank. As you fatigue, don’t let your range of motion suffer.
  6. Focus on sets of 8-10 reps, with each rep being counted as the return to your start position.

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