Remember a few years back when everyone was planking all over the place (it was around 2012 if I remember correctly). Well, that was just silly … but real planking – now that’s another matter!
While some people would rather stare at paint drying than doing the plank, those that have stuck with it have found out that the plank is a very useful exercise and necessary for all of us.
There are many variations of the plank. The beauty of it as well is that we don’t need any equipment to do it and very little space. Pretty much all we need is gravity, so unless you’re heading to outer space you should be good to go!
Doing the plank in the right way works your core in the best way possible and will not only strengthen your muscles but it can also greatly improve your posture!
Now who doesn’t want that? – particularly that last point!
How to Perform a Basic Plank Exercise
Here are the basic steps for performing a plank, from the American Council on Exercise:
- Hold your elbows directly under your shoulders and place your wrists in line with your elbows.
Push your body up into your upper back and hold your chin close to your neck (like you’re holding an egg between your chin and your throat).
- In this position, brace your abdominals—contract them like expecting a punch in your stomach, squeeze your gluteal (tailbone) and thigh muscles simultaneously while continuing to breathe normally.
- Hold a plank at least 20 to 30 seconds. (When using correct form, it is not necessary to hold it for longer than this amount of time.) Rest for approximately one minute and repeat three to five more times.
- Start doing the plank using your elbows and toes (feel free to drop to your knees if necessary) and progress up to a high plank when you feel you have developed the necessary strength.
Here are two additional points for performing a front-facing plank correctly:
- While in plank position, pull in your belly button. Your bellybutton is attached to your transverse abdominis, that inner sheath that holds your gut inside and gives your spine and vertebrae a nice, weight belt-tightening type of support. So by pulling it in, you begin to contract that deep inner transverse abdominis muscle. If you want to work your six-pack rectus abdominis muscle, drive your chin down toward your toes while you’re focused on squeezing your belly button in.
- Next, do a Kegel squeeze. More women than men might be familiar with this term. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight. For men who aren’t familiar with that term, it’s similar to trying to stop urinating in the middle of the flow. This squeeze will allow you to feel and focus on your abdominal muscles.
List of Planking Exercises
Here is a list of some plank exercises, ranging from the easiest to the most difficult ones.
Remember to start off easy and work your way up. Be very very careful of your back and keep those abdominal and back muscles tight!
4 Common Plank Mistakes
Proper form is very important when performing planks and overdoing it could lead to injury. As noted by certified personal trainer Estelle Underwood in the Huffington Post:
“If you feel any neck or low back pain while doing the exercise, this may be an indication of weakness in the upper or lower regions of the spine. If the core is too weak, the spine will sag, causing compression in the vertebrae, pressure on vertebral discs, and/or shoulder joint inflammation.”
Be particularly careful doing planks if you have back pain or injury. And if you’re just starting out, try holding the plank position for several seconds only, slowly working your way up to where you can hold it longer.
Be very careful to avoid these common plank mistakes:
- Allowing your hips, head, or shoulders to drop
- Placing your hands too close together, which creates internal rotation and instability at your shoulder joint
- Holding your breath
- Trying to hold the position too long – it is better to maintain proper form for a shorter period of time than to hold improper form for longer