Plank: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

Are planks one of the most overrated exercises, or do they live up to their reputation?
To answer this question, we have to take a look at different points.
Right away, we will start with the muscle activation. The basic plank is done on your forearms. Baseline variation target the muscles mostly located at the front side of your body
The plank is an anterior chain focus movement, so the primary muscles you use are hip flexors and your abs. Of course, you need many other muscles to stabilize a body like the quads muscles, serratus anterior, and even your erector spinae, which works as an antagonist to the abdominal muscles. Depending on the execution, you can increase the activity of different muscles.

What is the function of the core?

The core function is to transfer the forces and resist the movement, not to create it.
Daily, core muscles are involved in flexion, extension, and rotation. But in training, they resist these movements with the idea of protecting the body from excessive movements and injuries (spine in most cases). In that sense, a plank is anti-extension exercises with significant self-muscle activation of the person performing this exercise.
The study from 2014 compared modified versions of the standard plank where the modifying position will be different muscle activation.
Keeping all those facts in mind, we move on to the question.
Is plank an effective exercise or just a waste of time? Well, it depends.
If you are already pretty advanced and can hold the basic flying longer than 1-minute, it’s not that effective in terms of strength.
That’s why Be Strong personal trainers are suggesting different variations of plank using regressions or progressions depending on your current training level.
Those exercises benefit from that your muscles have a lot more work to do in different variations in different variations to stabilize your body.
If you are a beginner and already struggle to hold a plank for about 30 seconds, you should know that the regular plank is one of the best basic exercises you can do.
With this exercise, you can do your necessary strength coordination and body alignment.
This is very important when you progress to other exercises like mountain climbers, push-ups, and others.
Most beginners are just totally overstrained if they have to aim for proper body tension in their core while maintaining the proper joint alignment in their arms and shoulders.
Of course, we also have to talk about the downsides of the plank. The often-heard argument of the plank is that it is very hip flexor dominant.

What is true?

You shouldn’t worry too much about over-train your hip flexors when it comes to strength exercises. Following a proper training program that trains a body in a balanced way without neglecting basic mobility
Most of the hip flexor problems result from sitting all day or repetitive movements like long-distance running.
If you still need help designing a program and how to start or train in a balanced way, book your free assessment with Be Strong personal trainers to find out more.

Sciatica nerve pain

What Is Sciatica nerve pain?

Sciatica nerve pain happen when the patient suffering from the impingement or pressure on the way of the sciatica nerve root which causes pain down to the foot. Conditions that commonly causes sciatic nerve pain lumbar disc degeneration/disc herniation, isthmic spondylolisthesis, lumbar spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

The sciatic nerve starts in the lower spine and follows a long path through the buttock, down the back of the thigh and leg, and finally ends in the foot.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body.


Symptoms of the Sciatica nerve pain typically affects one or more regions in the low back, thigh, leg, and foot. The Sciatica nerve pain can be acute if the duration of the pain is less than 8 weeks and if it is more its called chronic.

Pain and numbness are the first symptoms of the Sciatic nerve pain and indicates irritation or inflammation. Types of the pain you may be feeling are electric shock, shooting pain, dull ache, discomfort that comes and goes, tingling.


Tailored and controlled progressive exercise program or neurokinetic therapy must be part of the treatment program. The specific exercise for the sciatica nerve pain has purpose to reduce the sciatic nerve pain and to provide help prevent future return of the pain.

Before you start with exercise it is important that your personal trainer or personal coach to do adequate necessary sports diagnostic.

Most of the reduce pain program for sciatica nerve pain should include core muscle strength, hamstring strength and piriformis release.

Frozen shoulder

What is it?

Frozen shoulder , also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in shoulder joint. Symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and than resolve, usually within one to three years.


Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages:

-Freezing stage: Shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited and any movement in shoulder joint causes pain.

-Frozen stage: Shoulder becomes more stiff and any movement in this joint starts to be very difficult.

-Thawing stage: The range of motion in shoulder begins to improve.

Common causes:

The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up shoulder joint are encased in a capsule a connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs even this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement. Also muscle around shoulder becomes tightens.

Risk factors:

This condition is very often in people who has problem with some systemic diseases:
-Overactive thyroid
-Underactive thyroid
-Cardiovascular disease
-Parkinson’ s disease.

As well this condition occur very often after a long immobility or reduced mobility.
Immobility could be the result of many factors, including:

-Fractures arm
-Recovery after surgery
-Rotator Cuff injury

Treatment for frozen shoulder include increase range of motion exercises, corticosteroids and sometimes arthroscopic surgery, but the best “treatment for frozen shoulder is prevention”. If you’ve had an injury that makes it difficult to move your shoulder, contact us about exercises which could help you to keep better range of motion in your shoulder.

Effect of massage on performance

How much sports massage affects performance and recovery

Athletes and coaches often believe that sports massage improves performance. Massage is ubiquitous in elite sport and increasingly common at the amateur level.

Studies have been looking in evidence of improvement in performance measures (strength, jump, sprint, or endurance), even though some studies might have been expected to be affected by placebo effects.

They have found no evidence that massage improves measures of strength, jump, sprint, endurance, or fatigue, but the massage was associated with small improvements in flexibility and DOMS.

There were also two studies that suggested massage may have a detrimental effect on performance.

Hope this will help to guide the personal trainers, coaches, and athletes about the benefits of massage and inform decisions about incorporating this into personal training and competition.

Davis HL, Alabed S, Chico TJA. 2020

Diagnostic procedures

There are no serious personal trainers who program personal training for their clients without (prior to) adequate sports diagnosis.
All diagnostic procedures can be roughly divided into direct and indirect.

  • DIRECT tests • very accurate and often require highly trained personnel and expensive equipment. This should not worry you as there is a number of indirect methods that can evaluate the functional and motor skills of non-athletes or athletes.
  • INDIRECT tests • short and easy to perform, can be performed on both healthy people and those with injuries or illnesses (e.g. locomotor or cardiovascular system).

To evaluate maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max), use bench or bike tests provided by any gym  (Step test, Astrand test).
Conconi test is good for assessing anaerobic threshold as a measure of exercise, and 1RM tests for large muscle groups (chest, legs, back, ..) for determining muscle strength. Our personal trainers in Dubai use Indirect test.

Well-executed test and proper use of the results obtained will allow you to optimize the training period and achieve significantly better results in a short period of time!  What tests do you perform as personal trainer in Dubai while working with clients? What is your experience regarding this matter?

What you should expect from a Personal trainer

Why do we hire a personal trainer? Two reasons: knowledge and motivation.

But how do we know if a personal trainer is qualified? From a certain age, we all start to have smaller or bigger injuries, pain or challenges with our body. Therefore it is crucial to hire a trainer who can offer the support to get fit and strong without risking further injuries.

To train yourself is always different from training others. What works for the individual trainer doesn’t work for most of the clients and vice versa.

We strongly believe that it takes a strong education in personal training and lots and lots of experience in personal training in working with different body types, injuries and age groups to finally be a personal trainer trainer. Don’t be shy to ask a personal trainer what his background is!

A personal trainer has to start with a proper body assessment. Start with the following questions: Is your personal trainer testing the composition of your body including the muscle mass, fat ratio and viscelar fat? Does he/she test the mobility and flexibility in your joints? Is he/she testing your level of hydration, protein and mineral intake? Does he/she do a cardio test? Is he/she giving you health and nutrition guidelines? And is the personal trainer doing all of the above mentioned tests on a regular basis to monitor your development?

Very important: Incorrect exercises often don’t produce negative reaction in the body right away. More often they do quite the opposite. Our bodies adapt to them with a feeling that we are making progress. The side effects of improper exercise techniques sometimes come up later in life. Bones, muscles, ligaments and joints can get damaged with time if exposed to an unprofessional and inadequate coaching.

It is not enough to just exercise, but to exercise the right way. Our bodies are perfect! But they need to last a lifetime. Treat them with care! Be Healthy, Be Strong!