Planks are one of the most beneficial movements for your body around. When done properly they enable you to master finding—and holding—your neutral spine, can be used as the foundation for spinal stabilization, increase the mobility of your hips, activate your core muscles, and energize your entire body. They’re also the perfect exercise for anyone who sits at a desk all day—which I know describes most of us—so if you’re not making planks a regular part of your fitness regime, you should change that immediately.
Whether you’re new to the plank or a regular planker (yes, I just made “plank” into a verb) it’s important that you perform the movement properly so that you can reap its many benefits. To help get you into the best form possible, I have prepared a couple of video tutorials on how to execute two common variations of the movement for you. The Bench Plank—which is for beginners or for those who have a tendency to experience low back fatigue during core-based exercises—and the Hard-Style Front Plank—which is reserved for anyone who has mastered the Bench Plank.
Hard-Style Front Planks
Tips for successful planking
- Get into a linear body position—where your head, shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line
- Keep your neck long (in axial extension) and your gaze fixated just in front of your fingertips
- Make tight fists with your hands or spread your hands apart as much as you can
- Firmly press your elbows into the floor and gently “pull” your elbows towards your toes, while pulling toes towards your elbows (watch the video above if you need further clarification)
- Make sure your legs are actively straight. Meaning your quads and glutes are contracting the entire time you are planking
- Hold your plank position for 10-15 seconds. If you can hold for longer you are not tensing hard enough, and should work harder.
- I recommend performing 3-5 reps x 2-3 sets
Common plank mistakes
- A faulty neck position. Your neck position greatly impacts your ability to set a neutral spine. A poor neck position will also force you to stabilize from your neck and shoulders, rather than your core—which is where your stabilization should be coming from. So make sure that you’re neck is in the correct position.
- Having an anterior tilt of your pelvis or an excessive arch in your low back. If you are making this mistake, your hip flexors and low back are doing all the work in a shortened state—which will only feed your compensation pattern. When performing your plank you should NOT feel low back fatigue (or pain). If you are, you are not doing it correctly.
- Excessive rounding through the thoracic spine. This will put a greater emphasis on loading your shoulders, (instead of your core) as well as cause your rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) to contract in a shortened position—which is essentially like holding a reverse crunch. Again, making this mistake only feeds a compensation pattern and/or poor posture. So do your best to avoid it.
If you have any questions about the plank, or need further clarification about anything that was highlighted in this post please feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment.