The planche is a move that demonstrates a high level of body strength and control. Even those that aren’t well versed in bodyweight exercise see it for the amazing feat that it is.
It should also be obvious that it’s not something you can just jump into. You have to be aware of how to be properly prepared for the training and the best way to go about it.
What You’re Getting Yourself Into
2883 words (13-15 minutes read time), covering:
- How to get started with the planche
- Body positioning and fundamental progressions to work up to the tuck planche.
- Straddle planche progressions
- Optional assistance from parallettes, bands, or a partner.
- We'll look at some advanced progressions for the planche.
- How to program your training for the planche.
- Finally, I'll address common questions and concerns about the planche.
Take this tutorial with youAfter reading this detailed article, you may want to come back to certain parts later. Click to download our 24-page guide to the planche, along with 4 detailed videos.
This move is not for everyone but if you’ve been working your handbalancing and strength and have wanted to learn the planche, it is definitely within your reach. You just need to practice smartly, be honest with yourself about your current level of ability, and work towards the skill patiently and consistently.
The progressions, variations, and positioning I’ll show you below will guide you the right way toward getting a planche.
What You Need to Know About the Planche Before Getting Started
Before we jump into the tutorial portion of this article, there’s some general information you need to know about the planche.
This is a really cool skill that I’d guess most people would love to be able to do. But since the planche is quite advanced, I wouldn’t recommend that everyone out there train specifically for it right away. And there are some people I’d encourage to stay away from it completely.
The planche is not for you if:
- You have a more pressing issue to work on, such as losing weight or rehabbing an injury.
- Your goals are more general, such as building strength.
- You’re relatively new to hand balancing.
- You have issues with wrist weakness or stiffness.
If you do fall under one of the above categories, all is not lost. You’ll just need to address those issues prior to beginning work on the planche.
So, for instance, if you’re looking for a more generalized fitness program or you’re just getting started, our introductory course, Elements, is a great option. Or if you have work to do on wrist and straight arm strength, our programs Parallettes One and Parallettes Two will help you out with that.
Benefits of the Planche
The planche is one of the most impressive bodyweight feats of strength around. You won’t find too many people able to do this.
But besides just a cool party trick, it will help you build incredible straight arm strength, powerful shoulders, and crazy strong wrists. Even at the easier levels of the planche like the open tuck planche you will still have achieved impressive wrist, shoulder, and straight arm strength.
The training also carries over to help with other movements such as a press to handstand, back levers and other hand balancing skills.
If you have the fundamental strength and flexibility to begin working the planche, there are a lot of good reasons to incorporate the work into your training.
How to Train For the Planche
The planche is a difficult skill to work on, so I don’t recommend just tacking this work on to your regular training. It will have to be integrated appropriately.
I obviously can’t make recommendations in this context for your training specifically without knowing exactly what you are doing, but I can make general suggestions for how to structure planche work into your routine.
Don’t do your planche work with other intensive straight arm work, such as the iron cross or one arm handstand, in the same workout.
You may be able to get away with that if you are more experienced and have been training this type of work for a while but not if you are just starting out on them. This is very intensive exercise and places a lot of stress and strain on the tendons of the wrists, elbows and shoulders.
I suggest pairing exercises that work the back with your planche training, such as a rowing movement like the reverse row sit back, or front lever variations.
It’s not necessarily just about being “balanced” in your training but also giving areas of your body a break.
We’ll get into the tutorial portion of this post now, and I’ll walk you through how to specifically train for the planche. You’ll see that there are quite a few steps to follow to get to the planche, but don’t get overwhelmed.
Just take it one step at a time, be consistent and patient, and you’ll make great progress.
Planche Fundamentals – Body Positioning and Working Toward the Tuck Planche
The training for the planche is best worked on gradually and patiently. You can’t force progress, but you can definitely force an injury and get set back before you’ve even properly started.
Begin your training correctly, strengthen the body in specific ways, and work toward the planche incrementally.
The position of the wrists, shoulders, and legs in the planche is quite precarious, and could lead to strain or injury if you don’t first understand how to position yourself properly, so in the video below I’ll go into detail on proper body positioning for the planche.
We’ll then demonstrate how to work toward the tuck planche, which is the first step to getting a full planche.
Let’s take a look at these planche fundamentals in detail.
With more advanced progressions of the planche, some of the following body position recommendations will change, but the basic positioning is as follows:
- Elbow pits facing forward.
- Shoulders pulled down as you lean forward.
- Fingers can be facing forward or out to the side, and you can elevate the heel of the hands on padding or a small block if it’s more comfortable.
- Lock out your arms and push down into the ground.
You may notice I didn’t even mention the legs here. That’s because the leg position will change quite a bit with each progression.
Tuck Planche Progressions
The tuck planche, also called the “floating crane,” is the first step you’ll need to master, and the following will get you to the tuck planche and is the start of your journey to the full planche.
|1. Basic Planche Lean||Start in a basic plank position and lean your body forward until your shoulders are in front of your wrists. Work on this position with your toes curled under, as well as coming up onto your toes.|
|2. Straddle Planche Lean||Widen your legs so that they are in a straddle position on the floor. Lean forward, keeping your toes on the ground.|
|3. Raised Planche Lean||Raising your feet onto a chair, box, or any other raised surface, repeat the instructions for #1.|
|4. Raised Planche Lean with Bent Legs||Move your raised surface closer to your arms so that you can bend your legs from the raised surface as you lean your body forward.|
|5. Crane with Raised Feet||Placing just your feet on a raised surface, tuck your knees into your arms, so that you are in a supported crane position.|
|6. Full Crane Pose||Now, you'll go into a full crane pose, with your knees supported by your arms, and your feet up in the air.|
|7. Crane with One Floating Knee||From a crane position, practice taking one knee off your arm at a time. You can practice this on the parallettes if it is easier or more comfortable.|
|8. Floating Crane (Tuck Planche)||Once you're comfortable with pulling one knee off your arms at a time, start to work on pulling both knees off, coming into the floating crane pose.|
|9. Straddle Planche Lean into Tuck Planche||Another way to work on getting into the tuck planche is to go from the straddle planche lean and work on first lifting one leg off the ground at a time, then tucking one knee into your chest at a time, and finally, pulling both knees into the chest, coming into that tuck planche.|
Once you’ve worked up to the tuck planche, you can start working towards the full straddle planche.
The Full Straddle Planche – Variations and Progressions to Get You There
Unlike the tuck planche, the steps to work up to the straddle planche are a bit more fluid. The reason for this is that any of the following exercises will help you work up to the full straddle planche.
It’s a matter of preference and what exercise you find works best for you and your body type. I would try them all and then choose two to focus on at a time. Spend at least 3 weeks on those two, then switch them out for others for another cycle.
Here’s a description of each of the variations included in the above video.
|Straddle Open Tuck Hold||Starting in the tuck planche, pull your knees apart and hold.|
|Tuck Push Back to Half Straddle||From the tuck planche, push your knees apart and back into a half straddle. Repeat.|
|Tuck Push Back to Open Tuck Planche||Start in a tuck planche, then move your knees back until they are floating in an open tuck planche.|
|Tuck Push Back to Single Leg Planche||From the tuck planche, push one leg back into a single leg planche.|
|Tuck Push Back to Straddle Planche||From the tuck, straighten the legs into a full straddle planche. You can work on these with a pause, a longer hold, and/or repeats for conditioning.|
You should feel free to play with these variations, but remember to stay with a couple of the variations for a few weeks before moving on.
Optional Use of Parallettes, Bands, and Partner Assistance
There’s a lot that can be done with the help of certain apparatus. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use parallettes, bands, or partner assistance to help you out.
These are completely optional but many people feel these tools are helpful in getting a feel for the position. If you have access to these pieces of equipment and a good partner to help you, these can be a nice addition to your planche training.
Advanced Planche Exploration
These advanced planche variations are beyond most recreational bodyweight trainees, but it’s important to see where you can go with this with enough time and dedication.
Here our GMB Lead Trainer, Junior Vassiliou, demonstrates what his training has led him to in this past year.
There are many other advanced variations but those included in this video are:
- Handstand Lower to Planche
- Open Tuck Push Back to Single Leg Planche
- Top Position Pull to Straddle Planche (on the parallettes or rings)
- Floor Tuck Push Back to Straddle Planche (repeats)
- Straddle L Pull Back to Straddle Planche (on parallettes)
- Single Leg Tuck Pull to Single Leg Tuck Planche (on parallettes)
- L-Sit Push Back to Full Planche
Programming for the Planche
As much practice as possible is ideal, but in the beginning of your training, daily work will lead to burnout and injuries. You’ll need to gradually work up to higher volume and frequency of training.
I suggest spending at most 3 days a week. After 2 months of practice you can add another day of training, and after about 4-5 months of consistent work, you’ll understand enough about your body to be able to wave intensity levels for daily practice in this training.
How do I progress from one progression to the next?
In the video above of the progressions working up to the tuck planche, I like to structure my clients’ sessions like this:
- Starting at the lowest level, work up to 5 sets of 20 seconds, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.
- When you can perform an exercise with good form for those 5 sets of 20 seconds, go ahead and move on to the next level. It may seem much harder than the previous level, but still “workable.” This may sound a bit vague, but as you get more experienced in your training, you’ll know what I mean.
Now, this doesn’t mean you stay at that new level and just grind away at it. You’ll need to get more practice in, so I recommend working the harder progression first then going down to the previous progression to get some more practice in.
This is much like “drop sets” in weight training where you work hard at one weight, then decrease the weight to get more repetitions in.
Here’s a sample workout session to illustrate what I mean:
You are able to get the Raised Planche Lean with Bent Legs for 20 seconds for 5 sets.
Start your session by warming up with the Raised Planche Lean with Bent Legs for 3 repetitions. A short hold for the first one, then a bit longer for the second and then the third for 20 seconds.
Then move to the Crane with Raised Feet progression. You see that it’s difficult but “workable.” You’ll then perform this hold for sets of 3-5 seconds. Don’t go to “failure,” but instead, stop before your form breaks down. Do several sets of these (up to 8) at your predetermined hold time (3 seconds is a good start when you are moving up a level).
Don’t do another set if your form breaks down so much you can’t even hold it a second. It’s time to change it up.
You’ll then go down a level, going back to the Raised Planche Lean with Bent legs, and work those for 10 second holds for up to 5 sets. You’ll be fatigued by then, so dropping down to about half of what you can hold is good, you may even need to hold it even less as you get to the fifth set.
Remember quality technique is key! Don’t sacrifice that just for a few more ugly seconds. It’s not worth it and you won’t be any better for it.
If you still feel fresh you can drop down another level to the Raised Planche Lean for a few more sets or try some assisted work with the p-bars, bands, or a partner to finish up your workout. But if you feel like you’ve done enough, there’s no need to do more if you aren’t up to it.
Save the longer and more intensive workouts for the days you are on fire. Those are the days that you will benefit from more work, not the days where you are barely dragging yourself in to train.
So, to recap:
- Whatever level you’re at, warm-up with 3 repetitions of that progression (working up to 20 seconds on the third repetition).
- Move up to the next progression, and do about 8 sets of 3-5 seconds.
- Go back to the previous progression, and perform 5 sets of 10 seconds.
- If you still feel fresh, work on some of the band or partner assisted conditioning exercises. If you’re tired, just stop there for the day.
This type of workout progression gives you some leeway in the level of progressions you end up working on over the course of your training.
Too many times people will feel they need to hit a “magic number” of seconds in a particular level before they can move on and they end up doing the same exercise for months. That’s no fun! And it’s also not productive.
As you can see, with the plan I outlined above you are still getting a lot of work in, but you’ve also found a way to test out the next level without adhering to a strict long hold at the previous level.
You may find out the the so-called harder progression is easier than you thought it would be and you end up moving on to the next one more quickly in your practice. Whereas if you didn’t even try, you’d still be stuck trying to add more seconds two levels back.
Work hard on the exercises, build some volume up patiently with one progression and the level below it and you’ll gain strength consistently and be less frustrated. And what more can you ask for?!
FAQs and Concerns About the Planche
The planche is obviously a tough move with a lot of potential issues that may come up. I’ll try to address some of the biggest questions you may have below.
What are the minimum basics you need before trying what’s covered in this tutorial?
First off, I would suggest making sure that your wrists are in great shape. The planche puts an incredible amount of stress on the wrists and some people never get the planche simply because they neglect their wrist prep.
Something else that would be good is to have a solid top position on the rings, and also to be able to hold a decent handstand, both with arms completely locked.
How do you know if you’re ready to begin planche work?
When you can comfortably hold a standard plank (push-up) position for up to 30 seconds you can start working on the planche leans.
How long will it take to get the planche?
That depends on your desire to get it, how strong you already are, and how much time you are able to put into it. For some people it could take less than 6 months, while for others, it could take up to 2 years of continued training.
How often should I train?
If your main goal is to get the planche, then start off with three days a week. If you find that your body can handle another day then slowly work on adding it in.
Just be careful not to move up a progression too soon because you’ll just be asking for trouble with your wrists and tendons. So, I suggest spending as much time as you can on the basics and gradually working on building up your wrist, arm, and shoulder strength in each hold.
Can women do planches?
Of course! If you watch the videos above you’ll see GMB Trainer, Kirsty Grosart, showing off her amazing planche skills. With enough time and strength, anyone can work on the planche.
These progressions aren’t exactly like other progressions I’ve seen for the planche. Are these wrong?
No, I promise. Once you get the tuck planche, there are many ways to work from there to the full straddle planche. You don’t need to follow an exact order of progressions, and you don’t need to hit a specific number of whatever exercise to move on to the next step.
Work at whatever level you’re comfortable with, and whatever variations work best for you, and you’ll get there.
Don’t Be Intimidated – You Can Do This!
Whew… You made it to the end of this very long, detailed article. As you can see, the planche is not just some move you can jump into and expect to “get” in a few weeks, or even a few months.
Even though it’s a complex move that requires a big commitment, it’s absolutely within reach with the right approach, mindset, and enough patience. As long as you’ve got a decent base to work off of, and it’s a reasonable goal for you – don’t forget, this skill is not for everyone – you CAN get it if you follow the progressions and recommendations above.
The planche and other intermediate straight arm strength exercises are covered in detail in our Parallettes Two program. If you want to improve, not just your planches, but your overall upper body strength, P2 is a good option.
Learn Impressive Hand Balancing Skills
Parallettes Two is an intermediate-level strength program for developing straight-arm strength and increasing control in inverted positions.
And if the planche and similarly difficult hand balancing moves are too advanced for you right now, but you’d like to work toward them in the future, don’t worry! Our beginner-level program, Parallettes One, is a great place to start. It will prepare you for being able to work on more advanced skills later on.