World Cup for an abdominal workout
Updated: 2014-08-01 09:55
By Tiffany Tan (China Daily)
Lei Taiyang, 3, set a personal record of 2:46 the first time he tried planking.Photo provided to China Daily
In June, some 2,000 people flocked to the Galaxy Soho in Beijing to participate in the first-ever World Cup for planking, an abdominal exercise that looks like a push-up stuck in the "up" position. The challenge is to stay in that pose for as long as possible.
Contestants, who planked on blue and pink yoga mats, included a 12-year-old girl, a 75-year-old retired teacher and Pan Shiyi, co-founder and chairman of Soho China, who supported his weight with only one arm. The event was recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest number of people planking simultaneously.
At the finals, held at the China National Convention Center the following day, another world record was made. George Hood, a former United States marine and now personal trainer, stayed on his elbows and toes for four hours and one minute to break his existing Guinness record of 3:07:15 for the "longest time in an abdominal plank position".
I was incredulous when I heard about that World Cup and learned that the Guinness World Records actually has a category on planking. The exercise was always something I dreaded in my gym, especially when the instructors made people repeatedly move their arms and legs to the side while holding the plank.
Another torturous variation I've experienced is bringing one knee toward an elbow three times before repeating the movement on the other knee.
Yes, the plank is a strengthening workout and helps promote good posture. But I never imagined someone would stay in that muscle-burning position for almost the entire time it would take me to fly home to Manila.
Planking must attract only a niche group of fitness enthusiasts (including former US ambassador to China Gary Locke, who was also at the Plank World Cup), I told myself. I didn't think many Chinese people, who love playing badminton and ping-pong, dancing and swimming, would be attracted to such a stationary workout.
Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that planking has become so popular in parts of China this year that many colleagues have incorporated it into their fitness regimens.
Du Xiaoying, a fellow reporter who took up planking as a new way to stay fit, even participated in the World Cup, excited at the prospects of helping the tournament achieve a new world record. After starting to do the exercise about two months before the competition, she doubled her personal best to 3:02 at the event.