I have been into bodyweight/calisthenichs training for 1 year now. After working on basic exercises (+30 pull ups/+40 dips/50 pushups/10ish handstand pushups to wall), I decided to start training for skills like planche and front lever.

After learning how to front lever (I can actually hold 10+ sec of full front lever), I decide to start working for the planche. After a while I realized that my main problem is the lack of activations in the abdominal part,probably caused by the executions of the planche in the propaedeutics (mainly tuck planche).

Do you have any exercises to learn correct activation of the abdominal area in the planche? Are there any specific exercises to train the core for the planche?

For the moment, the only exercise that I feel lightly in my abdominal area is the famous "Planche lean", should it be effective for the abdominal?

  • Can you hold a full back lever? Many of the lower body muscles you use in a planche are also used in a back lever. If you can hold a back lever for 10 seconds for example, you know that the lower body part of the movement (lower back, glutes, legs) is not the issue.
    – MJB
    May 7 '21 at 8:18
  • Yes, i can hold a back lever... Don't know for how long because I've never trained it, just tried some times, but for sure more than 5 seconds...
    – Liiuc
    May 7 '21 at 9:38

The planche does not require any contraction of the abdominal muscles, so that's extremely unlikely to be what's limiting you. The natural tendency of gravity in the planche is to pull your hips down, causing your spine to flex. This is the same movement that is performed by the abs, so it is actually the opposite muscles that must be activated in a planche in order to resist gravity.

In order to hold a planche, your shoulders (anterior deltoids) must be strong enough to hold your arms away from your body, in slight flexion, when loaded with your entire bodyweight (extremely difficult), your spinal erectors must be strong enough to hold your torso straight against the weight of your hips and legs (not difficult), and your glutes must be strong enough to hold your legs up (easy). It's worth noting that as this technique is pretty much the opposite of a front lever, it uses all the opposite muscles, so those developed by training front levels (lats, abs, and hip flexors) will not be of use here.

So in pretty much all cases, anterior deltoid strength is the limiting factor. I'd recommend training this through a progression of increasing difficult planche variations, starting with the tuck planche and progressing to extending your hips and legs more and more. If you have access to weights, you could also supplement this with some decline bench front raises, performed with a supinated grip (palms facing upwards) and a bench set up at the same angle that your arms would be in in a planche (i.e. just above horizontal).

  • I really appreciate your answer. I forgot to include this in the question,now i've edited it, I think it is an abdominal problem because doing a straddle planche I cannot raise my legs in line with my body, but they stay much lower (even if they are contracted!).
    – Liiuc
    Apr 15 '21 at 13:27
  • could it be a scapular depression problem? for example if I try to do a tuck planche max, I feel my shoulders approaching my ears.
    – Liiuc
    Apr 15 '21 at 13:28
  • 1
    In terms of difficulty, straight planche will be hardest on the shoulders, straddle planche will be a little easier, and straddle planche will flexed hips (legs dropping towards the floor) will be easier still. So not being able to raise your legs in a straddle planche could still just be hitting the limits of your shoulder strength. Try lying face-down on a bench and performing a bench hip extension exercise. If you can raise your legs there, then your core and hips are strong enough to raise them in a planche, it's just that your shoulders might not be strong enough to hold that position. Apr 15 '21 at 13:46
  • 1
    I don't think it would be a scapular depression problem. Your shoulders will often elevate in a tuck planche because the torso is more upright, like in dips, so gravity causes scapular elevation. But in a planche, the torso is horizontal, so gravity makes the scapulae retract instead. Apr 15 '21 at 13:48
  • thanks man! Greatly appreciated!
    – Liiuc
    Apr 15 '21 at 14:13

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