Planking (fad)

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Planking in a field

Planking (or the Lying Down Game) is an activity consisting of lying face down—sometimes in an unusual or incongruous location. According to The Daily Telegraph the palms of both hands must touch the sides of the body while toes must touch the ground.[1] Some players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play.[1] The term planking refers to mimicking a wooden plank. Planking can include lying flat on a flat surface, or holding the body flat while it is supported in only some regions, with other parts of the body suspended. Many participants in planking have photographed the activity in unusual locations and have shared such pictures through social media.

Jay-Z and Eminem have made reference to planking in their songs "Gotta Have It" for Watch the Throne and single "Rap God" respectively after the practice gained popularity and eventually notoriety from late 2010 to early 2011 in Australia.[2]



A planking-like activity – called face dancing by its participants – was initiated in 1984 in Edmonds, Washington by Scott Amy and Joel Marshall.[3][4] The two high school age boys were walking in a park when they came upon a baseball game. They decided to lie face down in right field to see if anyone would react.

The first video-recorded occurrence of planking was in 1994 when Tom Green performed a stunt he called "Dead Guy" for a cable TV show, which consisted of Green lying down on an Ottawa sidewalk without moving. Green, who was in an MTV show in the 1990s, is a comedian known for his pranks. He informed CNN about this video evidence and how it did not air on the show, stating that it was “a very obscure piece of video.”[5] Green tweeted “Just found video of me #planking in 1994. I will post it soon. Let people know. :)” on July 12, 2011.[6]

However the video sketch was never aired. So when, in 1997, two bored school boys in Taunton started lying face-down in public places to amuse themselves and baffle onlookers they could not have known of Green's stunt. Gary Clarkson (then aged 15) and Christian Langdon (then aged 12) called it the "lying down game". As Clarkson puts it, "It was just a really stupid, random thing to do."[7][8]

The Lying Down Game remained within Clarkson and Langdon's circle of friends until 2007, when their friend Daniel Hoppin created a Facebook page for their craze. As Hoppin says, "We began a Facebook group to see who could get the craziest photo."[8]

The term "Planking" was coined by Sam Weckert, of Adelaide, South Australia, "Planking was a term myself and two other mates came up with in the summer of 2008".[8] Weckert created a Facebook fan page to share "planking" photos. After reports of the practice started appearing in the Australian media, it grew rapidly and the meme became a global phenomenon.[9] After reports of the craze in the British media in 2009,[10][11] the lying down game spread to the rest of the world. Worldwide it has also been known as "extreme lying down" (2008, Australasia), "facedowns" (2010, USA and Ireland),[12] and "planking" (2011, Australia, New Zealand and worldwide).[13] In the years following its explosion in popularity, several variations on planking have proliferated, some inspired by the fad, and others that have arisen independently.


The popularity of planking has generated a backlash.[14] Some people object to the more ridiculous photos that have circulated, such as a girl planking with her head in a toilet or a woman planking on a stripper pole.[15] Also, planking in dangerous places has resulted in many injuries and at least one death.[16]

Notable incidents[edit]

  • The game made news in September 2009, when seven doctors and nurses working at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, England were suspended for planking while on duty.[10][17][18][19]
  • On 15 May 2011, Acton Beale, a 20-year-old man, plunged to his death after reportedly "planking" on a seventh-floor balcony in Brisbane, Australia.[20]
  • On 29 May 2011, Max Key, son of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, uploaded to Facebook a photograph of himself planking on a lounge suite, his father standing behind him. Afterwards, the photograph was reproduced on the front page of the New Zealand Herald.[21] Confirming that the photograph was indeed genuine, John Key remarked that he doesn't see anything wrong with planking when done safely.[22] Key was criticized for his appearance in the photograph, with some going as far as to comment that he "killed" the meme.[23]
  • On 2 September 2011, Dwight Howard and about 100 of his fans planked in Beijing, China.[24][25]
  • On 20 January 2012, Pat Barry planked on television after a mixed martial arts match in which he won a knockout victory over his opponent. This was broadcast in the United States and internationally.[26][not in citation given]

Derivative posing fads[edit]

Teapotting is one of the many variations of planking that arose shortly after planking went viral. Teapotting consists of bending the arms into the shape of a teapot, in reference to the children's song "I'm a Little Teapot". This variation was created by teachers in Mortlake College in an attempt to create a new 'craze' after noticing the amount of attention given to planking.[27]


Playing Dead[edit]

Playing Dead (known as "시체놀이" in Korean) originated in South Korea in 2003.[28] It involves a large number of participants pretending to be dead. It was inspired by the manga character Crayon Shin-Chan and is thought to have arisen independently of planking.[29]

Hadoukening[disputed ][edit]

Hadoukening also known as Makankosappo, involves multiple people staging a “Ki attack” knockout sequence and photographing themselves in mid-action, posed like in the popular Japanese fighting arcade game Street Fighter or manga series Dragon Ball.[30]

Gallon smashing[edit]

Gallon smashing is a similar fad to Milking. It involves a person purchasing one or more gallons of fluid (usually milk) and then spilling the fluid, usually by slamming or dropping the bottles against the floor. The fad also involves falling in the mess or slipping on it, getting members of the public to help them, and sometimes having difficulty getting back to a standing position.

Vadering[disputed ][edit]

Vadering mimics Darth Vader’s Force Choke hold. One person has their hand up in a choking gesture, while their “victim” looks to be raised off the ground while clutching at their neck.[31][32]

Owling[disputed ][edit]

Owling (and planking) in the snow

Owling is a variation on planking in which a person squats "like an owl" in a populated but unusual area. Participants commonly make noises similar to an owl, to make the owl impression more realistic.[33] It was first documented on 11 July 2011 in a post on the social news website reddit.[33][34]

Horsemaning[disputed ][edit]

Horsemaning involves posing two people so that they appear to be a single body with a detached head and is a revival of a photography fad popular in the 1920s.[35] It is thought that the name comes from the Headless Horseman in Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.[36]



Batmanning involves hanging upside down by the feet.[37][38][39]


Dufnering is a variation of planking that involves a person lying with the bottom half of their body on the floor, the top half leaning up, their arms close to the side of their body, and their hands ending towards the bottom of their thighs. The person would also be looking straightforward. The fad began when Rory McIlroy tweeted a photo of himself imitating 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner.[40]

Pratting[disputed ][edit]

Pratting is a variation of planking that was spawned from a scene in the film Jurassic World in which Chris Pratt's character uses a defensive posture in order to save himself from velociraptors while inside of their cage. The pose requires the user to have their knees slightly bent, head forward, arms extended out far (sometimes with one closer to the subject) and fingers up. Immediately following the film's wide release, many zookeepers posted images of themselves in similar formation with their respective animals.[41]

Football-related[disputed ][edit]

Tebowing[disputed ][edit]

Tim Tebow's original "tebowing" position

Tebowing is a phenomenon that began to spread in October 2011. It involves imitating National Football League quarterback Tim Tebow's habit of getting down on one knee, resting one or both arms across the upright knee, and bowing his head, especially in a setting where others are doing something unrelated.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48]

Gronking[disputed ][edit]

Toucher and Rich, of Boston's 98.5FM sports talk radio station, started a trend for New England Patriots fans to compete with Tebowing during the 2011 NFL season. Rob Gronkowski, a player for the Patriots, was known for spiking the football in a very characteristic manner. Replacing the football with any inanimate object and spiking it when Gronkowski made a touchdown became known as Gronking.[49]


After the loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, a photograph of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spread throughout the Internet, with him sitting down with his head lowered and hands clasped between his legs. The picture was taken after Brady threw an interception late in the game. Unlike "Gronking" and "Tebowing", Bradying is not considered a "celebration". Many called Tebowing the pose of 2011, and Bradying the pose of 2012.[50][51] However, creator Jared Kleinstein claimed that the pose would not catch on for long, suggesting that it was too negative.[52]

Griffining[disputed ][edit]

Rookie Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (RGIII)'s first NFL touchdown pass was an 88-yard pass play to Pierre Garcon against the New Orleans Saints. In the process of throwing the pass, Griffin was knocked to the ground, and watched the rest of the play from that position. As Garcon streaked across the goal-line, Griffin, seated on the turf, thrust his hands in the air showing a #1 with both index fingers, thereby spawning the Griffining Internet meme.[53] The Griffining movement began in earnest when Brent from @BurgundyBlog tweeted, "How has the sitting-down-arms-up posture not yet incited a 'Griffining' meme?" Soon afterward, the Griffining pose was featured on an ESPN segment and on the front page of The Washington Post. Robert Griffin III was later asked how he felt about the new meme by ESPN's Rick Reilly and he responded with, "Who would have thought getting knocked on your butt and throwing a touchdown would start a phenomenon like that? I’m not opposed to it. It’s pretty funny to me."[54][55]

Kaepernicking[disputed ][edit]

In the 2012-13 NFC Divisional Playoffs between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrated a touchdown by flexing his right arm and kissing his bicep.[56] Afterwards, 49ers fans began posting photos online of themselves performing the pose, and Kaepernick had retweeted other fans' photos of the pose on Twitter.[57] However, USA Today pointed out that Kaepernicking had already been performed by other athletes prior to the game, including wrestler Scott Steiner, Steve Nash, and Metta World Peace.[58] Kaepernick later trademarked the pose.[59]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Fall 2011 season premiere of the U.S. version of The Office featured several employees planking in the parking lots, the restroom, on desks, and on top of file cabinets.[60][61]
  • On "Faith Hilling", the 28 March 2012 episode of the animated American TV series South Park, trends such as planking were parodied.
  • In the 2014 animated film Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Mr. Peabody claims to have invented planking.



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  30. ^ Prakash, Neha. "Hadouken Meme Strikes Internet Like Lighting". 
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  38. ^ "Holy cow! Now students develop another craze... Batmanning". Daily Mail. London. 10 September 2011. 
  39. ^ Batmanning is a Christian Bale stunt with an Adam West flavour Sept 11 2011, The Guardian's Sam Leith
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