If you are looking for an efficient exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, you can’t go wrong with the plank. Plank exercises are highly effective at working your abs, as well as toning the glutes, thighs, back, and shoulders. That doesn’t mean you can achieve good results from just any old plank, as correct form is a must. Here are five tips you can make that will ensure your plank is spot on.
#1. Keep your Wrists Directly Beneath your Shoulders
According to personal trainer Chelsea Aguiar, hands that are too far away from the body can result in additional strain in the neck, shoulders, and wrist, particularly when performing side plank exercises. This can make your plank feel wobbly, and may not actively engage your back and shoulders. Ideally, your shoulders, elbows, and wrists should all be in a single straight line that is perpendicular to the floor.
#2. Don’t Let your Tummy Drop
Allowing your tummy to drop can cause a dip in your lower back, making it more likely you will suffer a back injury. This type of dip can also prevent you from fully engaging your core and glutes. Personal trainer Cole Williams advises clients to tuck their tailbones under while squeezing their buttocks, a move he claims will automatically engage the abs.
#3. Keep your Upper Back Parallel
It can be tempting to let your upper back droop toward the floor, particularly when performing plank exercises on your elbows. Research from the University of Waterloo suggests that difficulty bracing the spine can be a good indicator of lower back pain. Check your form in a mirror to see that your shoulders are not shrugging and that your shoulder blades are not protruding higher than the rest of your back. If you are unable to maintain good form, consider adding a few more shoulder strengthening exercises such as lateral raises, overhead presses, and upright rows to your routine.
#4. Prevent your Hips from Sagging
Aguiar also claims that allowing the hips to sag towards the floor is another common mistake made in both high and low plank exercises. To ensure correct alignment, keep your hips lined up with your shoulders and pull your belly button in toward your spine. If you are unable to maintain this position, modify by placing your hands on a low bench or reducing the length of time you hold your plank.
#5. Avoid “Chicken Neck”
Many people allow their neck to protrude too far forward, resulting in what is known as a “chicken neck.” According to Yoga instructor Bria Tavakoli, this causes increased tension from the base of the skull to the upper back, leading to headaches and neck pain. To counteract this problem, draw the chin slightly in and keep the back of the neck in line with the rest of your spine.
When it comes to plank exercises, correct form is more important than the length of time you hold this pose. Gradually increase your time while maintaining proper alignment to ensure you get the maximum benefits from performing plank pose. Once you have your regular planks dialed in, learn how to boost your planks here.