How to Do the Perfect Plank
(And some common mistakes to avoid)
Planking is a simple but effective total body exercise that can be very beneficial to increasing core strength and activating other areas of the body if done correctly. Holding your body correctly in a stiff straight line develops strength primarily in the core but also targets the shoulders, arms and glutes. So do you want to know if you’re performing your planks with full activation for the most potential? Then read on and become a planking pro in no time!
Step One: Hand Placement
Place your hands directly under your shoulders in a straight line and slightly more than shoulder width apart.
Step Two: Foot Placement
Place your feet straight back with your toes planted into the floor. Squeeze from your glutes all the way down to your toes for full lower body stabilization.
Step Three: Proper Neck and Back Alignment
This is where things can get tricky. To allow your body to come into proper alignment, lift your chin and chest so that you are looking about a foot in front of your hands. Your head should be in line with your back.
Modifications to the Plank
Forearm Plank- This variation is slightly easier than holding the body up with the hands but allows some relief if your wrists bother you while planking. Your elbows should be lined up under your shoulders with hands flat on the floor in front of you. The same neck and back alignment (above) applies to the forearm plank also.
Knee Plank- This is a great variation if you are new to planking. It allows you to build up strength in your core so that you can begin to attempt harder planks. Resting the knees on the ground also causes less stress on the back. The same hand/neck/back alignment above will apply to this plank also.
Common mistakes to avoid
Collapsing the lower back: This applies to all planking forms and even to burpees! Instead of compromising the lower back by letting your bum sag down toward the floor, embrace your core by imagining drawing your belly button in toward your spine. To check if you’ve really got it down, have someone place a broomstick or yardstick down your back. If the top of the stick makes contact with the head and the bottom rests between the buttocks then you’ve got it! The stick should also make contact between the shoulder blades for proper alignment.
Reaching the butt to the sky: This can happen when you’re new to planks and struggle to hold them for periods of time. To really engage the core keep your back flat enough so that you feel your abs squeezing from top to bottom. Hold until your hips start to drop, rest for 3 seconds and then return to the plank. This will help to build your planking endurance!
Letting the head drop: Often times when you are focused on proper alignment of other parts of your body you forget to keep the eyes and head lifted. If your head drops this will create a curve in your upper back (between the shoulders) and not allow for full core activation. Make sure to lift your chin and chest slightly and focus on something 1 foot in front of your hands.
Forgetting to breathe: When you perform a strenuous move that engages many muscles it can be very natural to want to hold your breath. Make sure to allow for a normal pattern of breathing while planking. This can be especially important, as holding your breath during strenuous exercise can lead to dizziness or nausea.
Now that you know how to perform a perfect plank start practicing a little bit at a time! Hold your perfect plank for as long as you can, take a quick break and then hold again. This will help you build your core strength and planking endurance!!