The plank is one of the most basic but effective exercises there is. No equipment necessary. All you need is a flat surface. The plank will strengthen and develop your core muscles, which consists of your abdominals, obliques, back, and glutes. Below I’ll discuss the correct way to do planks, variations, mistakes to avoid, and the benefits of doing planks.
Proper Form – Technique Is Key
Even though the plank is a simple exercise to perform, many people aren’t practicing correct form. This leads to being cheated out of the full benefits of doing planks. Here is the proper setup for a plank.
- The simplest way to setup for a plank is to setup like you’re about to do a push up.
- Place your hands directly beneath your shoulder.
- Your feet can be shoulder width apart or close together, as long as your toes are grounded to the floor.
- Keep your body straight by engaging your core. Squeeze your abs and clench your butt.
- Look slightly ahead of you and towards the ground, about a foot.
- Now that you’re in the up position for a push up, place your elbows on the ground directly beneath your shoulders. Continue to keep your core tight.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, or however long you want to.
Congrats! You just did a plank!
- Beginner Planks
- If you find yourself struggling to do the basic plank, the up position for a push up is a simpler variation of the plank. Follow the steps as discussed, but don’t place your elbows on the ground.
- Side Planks
- Side Planks target the obliques, which are the muscles on the side of your stomach next your abs. The obliques often get overlooked, so don’t neglect side planks! To setup, lie on your side, place your elbow directly beneath your shoulder, stack your nonsupporting foot on your supporting foot. Engage your core by driving your hip toward the sky, and focus on keeping your body in a straight line. Hold this position for 10 or more seconds.
- Weighted planks
- Planks are too easy now? Add some weight to make it more challenging. Have a buddy place a weight on your back once you’re setup. Don’t have a buddy? Use a weighted vest to add the resistance.
Common Mistakes Made Performing Planks
While the plank is one of the most basic and simplest exercises to perform, it is still easy to do wrong. If you perform any exercise with incorrect form, you won’t notice yourself getting any stronger and you may even hurt yourself. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.
- Low hips
- This is what happens when you don’t squeeze your glutes. If you allow your hips to sink, you’re relying on your lower back to hold you up, and therefore putting unnecessary strain on it.
- Arched back
- If you don’t engage your abs, your back will begin to arch. There will be strain on your spine, causing lower back pain, and your abs will be cheated out of to do the work.
- Looking too far up
- You want to look down at the floor, about a foot in front of you. If you look straight ahead or up, it’s throwing your neck out of alignment with the rest of your body. This will put more strain on your neck and may cause neck or upper back pain.
- Sticking your butt in the air
- This usually happens during the exercise when you’re getting tired. Sticking your butt in the air will help you finish a set, however, it is the wrong thing to do. By sticking your butt up, your shoulders, upper back, and neck are holding you up, and cheating your core out of the workout.
The Benefits Of Doing Planks
The first benefit of the plank is that it requires no equipment. You can do them in your living room, hotel room, or at work during some down time! Here are some more benefits of planks.
- Strengthens your core
- The core is a group of muscles that contain your abs, obliques, back, and glutes. The plank is a compound exercise that targets all these muscles, so your getting quite a workout with this one exercise!
- Improves your posture
- You can tell if someone’s core is weak just by looking at their posture. The core muscles include muscles surrounding your spine, and by doing planks, you are strengthening these muscles and therefore improving your posture.
- Back pain disappears
- By strengthening your core muscles and improving your posture, the pain that you feel in your back will begin to disappear. Planks help strengthen the abs, which will help alleviate some strain the back has from holding you up.
I can’t stress enough the importance of performing the plank with perfect technique. You won’t see any of these benefits if you don’t do them correctly. In fact, it may even worsen your posture or back pain., or cause it them if you didn’t have them before. So just remember to take it slow and work your way up to wear you want to be. It’s all about progression!
Now You’re The Plank Expert
Now that you know how to do a plank, you’re well on your way to growing a stronger core! Just remember the technique and remember not to make those common mistakes.
I hope this article helps you on your fitness journey! Leave a comment below.