The term "functional" gets thrown around a lot. But that word doesn't refer to your ability to plank for an hour or do a balancing act on a Swiss ball. These don't make you better at the things you routinely do.
An exercise is functional if it transfers over to your daily life or your sport. The exercise must improve your ability to function at a specific task to be truly functional.
In most daily and sporting scenarios, there's an element of resisting spinal extension, but you're resisting forces that also rotate. Especially in sport, you're not just resisting them, you're often trying to control that rotational force and fire it back in the opposite direction.
Traditional planks aren't completely useless, but when you have plenty of other options to choose from why would you pick them? If your ability to hold a front plank is stopping you from doing something like a push-up, then sure, planks can be functional for that purpose. Otherwise, dig a little deeper into your toolbox.
Since a plank is like a non-moving push-up anyway, why not try the eccentric one-arm push-up? Not only will it pack some meat on your shoulders and triceps, it challenges your rotary stability too.
How to Do It
- Set up in your regular push-up position but with feet slightly wider apart. Brace your abs hard and engage your glutes.
- Pick one hand up off the floor and begin to lower with control.
- Keep your hips level throughout. If you're twisting and dropping one side at a time, go back and master some regressions of these first.
- You can use a pad on the floor to gauge a consistent depth, or just eyeball it. Catch with the free hand and come up pushing with both arms. You can either alternate arms or stick with one at a time.
- Aim for 4-5 reps on each side to start out. Lower for a 4-second count and that'll be close to 30 seconds of high-level core engagement on each side.