The Plank exercise is one of the best total body exercises that one can do. We’ve all heard that, and it’s totally true. The problem with the plank, is that no matter how many times we look at that photo, it’s still a really hard exercise to get RIGHT! When it’s right, it’s challenging. When it’s wrong, it’s challenging AND painful! The plank should be tough, it’s working your core, your arms, your thighs, your shoulders, not to mention those weak little wrists that start burning a few seconds in.
It really doesn’t matter if you do your plank on your knees, or you toes. If you can’t lift your knees off of the ground, that’s ok. Keep working on your knees, you’ll build the strength eventually. If your wrists hurt because you’ve got an injury, it’s perfectly fine to do your planks on your elbows. If you are able to do them on your hands, you’re going to get that arm workout that you won't get if you’re on your elbows.
So how do you get it right without someone like me standing over you, poking and pushing and pulling your body into the perfect plank?
- Let’s start with your pelvis. Know first where your pubic bone is, and where your tailbone is. Your pubic bone is in the front, the tailbone is in the back. There should be a slight tuck of your pelvis. Think, NEVER let your tailbone float toward the ceiling! When this happens, there will be an arch in your back and you will feel the “work” and or pain in your low back. I like to think, ALWAYS pull your pubic bone toward your face and your belly button up to the ceiling. Your back may round a bit, but this is better than being arched. When you are in that slight pelvic tuck, you will feel your abdominals start work immediately! Stay in this position for as long as you can stand. When you start to feel your butt sticking out (tailbone floating to the ceiling), STOP, rest, and reset!
2) Let’s check out those shoulders next. Are they up by your ears? Do you feel lots of tension in the neck and trap area (the area above your shoulder blades and below your neck)? I want you to think of this….don’t just relax your shoulders. Relaxing them won’t work for longer than 10 seconds, before you’re feeling that strain again. I want you to actively pull those shoulders down and put them in your back pocket. The key word here is actively! When you’re doing this, you WILL feel work in your shoulder blade area. That’s good!
3) And finally your face…! Can you see your knees or toes? You should NOT be looking at your knees or toes. Don’t let your head hang down. This is not a “neck vacation!” Here’s what I want you to think about: you want your neck to be in line with your spine, so try to pull your chin in and up as if you were giving yourself a double chin. I know that’s not something we like to practice, but for this move, it’s a great way to keep your neck straight. Do it in the mirror a few times, just so you can get the feel for it before you start. Then make sure your eyes are pointed right at the floor in front of you, straight down. Don’t look up, don’t look under you, straight down.
Use this in your practice of the Plank and hopefully you will not be in pain and you will gain the full benefit of the exercise. I recommend you do this two or three times per week with whatever other workouts you do for at least 30 second intervals. If you can go longer, do so. Do at least 3 repetitions. You will get stronger and you will see improvement in your core strength if you practice this!