The ultimate exercise, targeting every muscle in the body, requiring significant core and shoulder strength and stability, the plank is a great total body activity.
Many find it difficult to hold body weight in one position, while others seem to do it flawlessly. The fact is, unless there is a foundation of strength the plank can do more harm than good.
It’s important, as with any exercise, to perform with proper technique to avoid muscle imbalances and/or injury.
Also, recognizing your limitations and adjusting your routine is so important!
Step 1: Alignment
Proper technique is all about alignment. When holding a high plank remember these key tips:
- Wrists under elbows, elbows under shoulders, elbows are soft and not locked out.
- Shoulders are down away from the ears.
- Neck is in a neutral position with chin slightly tucked.
- Tummy muscles are slightly engaged, gluteus is engaged (your butt muscles)
- Hips should be parallel to floor (hip bones facing floor)
- Back is straight
- Hips should not fall toward floor, and should also not be elevated
Step 2: Holding the plank
The plank is an ISOMETRIC contraction (basically a hold of muscle contraction for an extended period of time).
As you begin to hold the plank, you may feel your body begin to shake. This is your muscles being challenged and letting you know they are getting fatigued (tired).
Hold as long as you can tolerate WITHOUT losing your alignment.
Step 3: Challenging the front plank
As your muscles become stronger, a simple plank may not be as challenging anymore. There are a few ways to bump up the intensity.
- lift one leg from the floor
- lift one leg and the opposite arm, hold
- alternate lifting and lowering the extremities.
- tap your toes left and right
- roll a ball back and forth to a partner
The list could go on, but that is a good list to get you started. Check out the photos:
Knowing your limitations
Always be sure to be cleared for exercise post pregnancy or any kind-of surgery. The plank is definitley an advanced exercise and knowing your limitations is vital to prevent injury. Here are a few things to pay attention to:
- Lower back pain–if you notice pressure or pain in your back while trying to hold a full plank, STOP.
- Shoulder pain–a decent amount of shoulder strength is required to perform a plank too, so if it hurts, don’t do it.
- If you suffer from Diastisis Recti, the plank is not a good place to start and can actually make this worse. Check out Auburntpt_thrive on Instagram as a great resource from a Physical Therapist for postpartum and Diastisis Recti information
BONUS. If a full plank is not quite right for you yet, no worries. There are other ways to build up muscle and core stability progressing towards a full plank. This includes:
- Wall planks–stand at the wall with your hands shoulder width apart, step back until arms are extended (but not locked out) resume a “plank” in the standing position.
- Kneeling plank–follow all alignment tips, but instead, keep your knees on the floor. This is not a “dog” position, you should still be planked forwards and feeling it in your core, without the stress on your lower back
Want to see more planking options? Watch this video I put together->> PLANK VIDEO
Looking for a fun way to add planks to your daily routine? Check out my recent plank challenge posted in my stories on Instagram I did over the holidays.
Have a resolution to get fit and start exercising this year? Check out my 15 minute per day FREE Body Crush by nfergyfit program.
Visit nfergyfit on YouTube for more quick exercise routines.