I originally posted this blog called ‘Proper Plank’ one year ago. I’m always learning new tips on better ways to do things and I found a more effective way to do this amazing core exercise. This one trick will totally engage your core like never before. Face it, if you can hold plank for more than a minute, or two or three, you really should be challenging yourself in new ways to make it harder and get the most out of it. Below is my original post, and my new tips appear at the end in bold (Points 6 and 7).
I’ve recently seen plank challenges all over social media. Plank is my favorite total body, core strengthening exercise. It’s challenging for everyone, from beginner to the super fit, especially with advanced variations.
To the beginner, plank may look like merely balancing on your forearms and your feet for as long as you can, but it’s so much more than that. It’s pretty difficult to tell everything that’s going on by looking at a picture. You can get so much more benefit out of the exercise by having proper body position, alignment and by engaging the proper muscles in your body.
Here I’m reviewing forearm plank position.
1) Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and your weight should be on your elbow area, not on your forearms or wrists caused by a forward lean. Your hands can be in whatever position that is comfortable. I see many people grasp their hands in the middle, which is a little easier. I like to go the more challenging route and point my forearms straight ahead with palms facing up. Try both ways and you’ll feel the difference. Making fists, like the picture above, it also an option.
2) Your spine should be elongated and in a straight line from your head to your feet.
3) To keep your spine in alignment you have to contract your core muscles and your glutes. This will ensure your spine doesn’t sag in the middle. If you’re sagging, your’e not engaging.
4) Instead of just balancing on the balls of your feet, drive your heels back. This will also help keep you in alignment and engage your quads.
5) Your feet can be together or hip width apart. Again, it’s what’s comfortable for you.
6) Once your quads and glutes are totally engaged, create a tension between your elbows and your feet by driving your elbows back towards your feet (without moving them) and your toes forward towards your elbows (without moving them either). If you create this tension correctly you will feel a definite contraction through your core. Keep this contraction as tight as possible. If you must release it, go down out of plank, rest as needed and then go back in the same position. This one tweak will give you more bang for your buck.
The stronger you get in your abs, back, shoulders, chest, quads, glutes and calves, the longer you will be able to hold the plank position. Yes, it uses all of these muscles. That’s why it’s so great! Added benefits are it helps your lower back become more resilient to injury and it will tone and tighten your abs.
7) If you master the tips in step 6 and are looking for an increased challenge, place your elbows an inch or so above your shoulder line (rather than directly underneath your shoulders as suggested above). This will create a longer lever and make the work more difficult. Additional advanced options include elevating a hand or foot and holding.
Try these tips and feel the difference!