Category: Training

The History of the Plank Exercise

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Chances are every single one of use has spent a seemingly endless amount of time stuck in the ‘plank’ position shown above. When I first began weight training for rugby as a starry eyed teen we did every kind of vacation imagine. We did it for time, we moved in circles, we placed weights, and even at times each other, on our backs to increase the resistance and improve our core.

Was it all a waste? Probably if truth be told. Though one can feel the effects of the plank on their abdominals almost instantly, any pain I suffered from having a week ‘core’, that oh so mercurial term, was eventually solved through copious amounts of squats, deadlifts, reverse hyper extenions and back extensions combined with strict cable crunches and hanging leg raises If these exercises don’t challenge your core, I’d suggest re-evaluating your form.

Now in any case it’s undeniable that the plank exercise has become a mainstay in the fitness community over the past two decades. Though fading out in my own gym, at least somewhat, it’s still used by numerous personal trainers and classes the world over. This leads us to the point of today’s post. Who invented the plank exercise and how did it become so damn popular? Furthermore, is it actually beneficial? I’ll put my own prejudices aside as best I can for the last point.

Alan Stephen – Bulking is Easy (1950 article)

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Published by the mid-century Bodybuilder Alan Stephens, the following article from Your Physique magazine details some time honoured means of bulking up in the easiest and most efficient way possible. Though much of Stephens’ advice will seem like old hat to those a few years in the Iron Game, his writings were geared toward the beginner and those seeking to change things up.

What’s more. It was never overly complicated. Indeed according to the man himself

All you need to do is follow the right exercises, eat plenty of nourishing food and get as much rest and relaxation on your non training days as you possibly can.

With that in mind though, we’ll dig a little deeper.

Fred Hatfield, ‘I May Know Diddly, But I Know Squat!’ (2001)

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The passing of Dr. Fred Hatfield in 2017 saw the passing of one of the lifting community’s most prolific coaches. Known as ‘Dr. Squat’ thanks to his own immense strength, Hatfield also helped to popularise scientific forms of training. The above article, written sometime before 2001 is perhaps the most comprehensive guide I’ve come across dealing with different types of squatting. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as me!

Bill Kazmaier, ‘Bench Pressing Style And Technicalities’, Bill Kazmaier and the Bench Press (1981), 4-6

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The basic concept of lying on a bench and taking a bar from arm’s length to the chest and back is a very simple one. However, bench pressing with maximum efficiency and power is an extremely exacting art relying on many major and minor principles and utilizing the coordination of the many muscles involved. While there is no one universal style that is perfect for every lifter-hand spacing, d<;gree of arch and foot placement being the most individual variables, there are other aspects that should be applied by all lifters. In this section I would like to consider all these intrinsic aspects of bench pressing technique as correct form is an important feature in increasing bench pressing ability and accompanied muscle growth.

Brian Minogue, ‘Injury Recovery,’ Hard Gainer, 61 (1999), 18-21.

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The reality of physical injury is omnipresent to all human beings. Whether it comes in the form of broken bones, muscle tears, strains or sprains of connective tissue, damage to our all-too-fragile form is a cost of doing business on earth. While a proper strength training program can do much to decrease our risk of injury from outside forces, it can’t make our bodies impervious. Not only that, but improper exercise can do much to inflict the injuries that we try to avoid. But even with the safest training practitioners and environments, sometimes people still get hurt.

Informal acts of weightlifting in Ireland

That stone had lain in that place as long as the oldest traditions in the village could remember. And from time immemorial it had been the custom of the young men of the village to test their strength by lifting it …[i]

Liam O’Flaherty, 1937.

Simply titled, ‘The Stone’, Liam O’Flaherty’s short Irish story from 1937 centres on an unnamed elderly man wandering the outskirts of his coastal village. Struggling to accept his mortality and loss of vitality, the protagonist stumbles across the village’s ‘challenge stone’. Readers are told that ‘from the time of the most remote ancestors of the people’ men from the village challenged one another to lift the stone to the chest and prove their strength. Far from a meaningless act of bravado or spontaneous play, the stone served as an important social signifier. Accordingly, O’Flaherty’s protagonist claimed that

Harry B. Paschall, ‘How Barbell Men Go Wrong’, Muscle Moulding (London, 1950)

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You cannot spend a third of a century around physical culturists and barbell men without coming to a few conclusions. You see many enthusiasts who thrive on their training schedules and attain a perfectly satisfactory degree of physical development. You see others work and strain without noticeable improvement for months or years. Quite often these latter cases come up with the time-worn excuse that they are simply not the type to gain. Some experts even have given various names to these unsuccessful barbell men and inform them with regret that they cannot change their type and they are therefore doomed to failure.

The History of Weightlifting Belts

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Owing to the increasing popularity of powerlifting, cross fit and olympic lifting, chances are you either own a weightlifting belt or see them on a regular basis on the gym floor. A means of bracing the abdomen, weightlifting belts are a source of controversy in the weightlifting world between those who see them as legitimate tools in the quest for heavier weights and those purists who prefer all lifts be done without any equipment whatsoever. For the majority of us, they’re simply a novelty to break out on a deadlift PR.

In today’s post, we’re going to explore the history of the weightlifting belt, from ancient mythology to the present day. Far from a new phenomenon then, the belt has long been a lifter’s friend.