Have you ever wondered the biomechanics of a Planche? The basic planche is one of the gymnastic static positions. Basically, a planche is a push-up position that’s held with the feet off the floor. These static holds, in disadvantaged leverage positions and performing dynamic movements into and out of these positions, are the secret to developing the enormous strength of world class gymnasts. All the involved muscles during the exercise have to work in perfect harmony otherwise force production will be compromised. The planche holds as much as three times the body weight on an average.
For any compound exercise some muscles act as stabilizers and some as agonists. The stabilizers provide a framework or foundation on which the agonists can produce force. For the planche the agonists are primarily the deltoids and pectorals because all the torque is produced at the shoulder joint and these muscles act to counteract that force. The stabilizers make up the bulk of the muscles active in the planche and the primary ones are the trapezius, latissimus dorsi and teres major. During the planche position the wrist of the body is flexed and the ground reaction force is being transferred to the shoulder blades. This force being transferred produces a moment* about the shoulder joint due to the weight of the body creating a moment arm from the center of gravity to the shoulder joint. The ground reaction force creates an equal but opposite in direction moment about the shoulder joint.
*The moment produced is always about a certain joint. The shoulder joint, although, has 6 degrees of freedom but for the simplified version to make our calculations easier we assume that it acts as a pin joint.
Looking at the bench press example retracting the shoulder blades prevents them from moving during the exercise and anchors them to the bench giving more stability which equals greater force production. The bench press is an open chain exercise performed in the supine position. Whereas the planche is the closed chain exercise performed in the prone position; therefore, it makes sense to slightly protract the shoulder blades and contract the upper traps to immobilize them thus giving scapular stability.
A good exercise to help recruit the stabilizers and maximize the contraction is a repetitive movement of rocking back and forth while in the beginning position with the legs bent and feet in contact with the ground. The muscles and the bones develop according to the mechanical loading. In order to sustain a planche, the pre-requisite exercises involve loading the muscle fibers involved with similar force patterns to develop sustainability.
In order to effectively hold the planche at any level of progression stabilizers need to be activated first. For this hands are planted on the ground, the shoulder blades slightly protracted, and then upper traps are contracted as hard as possible. Weight is then transferred onto the hands by leaning forward; As the feet come off the ground agonists are contracted.
They’re a lot of fun to work, require no specialized equipment and yet give enormous returns in strength. Basically this exercise promotes extreme strength and stability throughout the shoulder girdle both anteriorly and posteriorly. In addition, they’ll trash your core and work your lower back/hips thoroughly.