How To Do a Plank

Plank and Variations

If there’s one exercise we all love to hate and hate to love, it’s this one. A plank is a simple, effective bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment and can be performed just about anywhere.

Holding your body stiff as a board develops strength primarily in your core — the muscles that connect your upper body and lower body — as well as your shoulders, arms, and glutes.

Benefits of Plank

Planks are one of the best core exercises. It’s debatable as to whether or not an exercise regime consisting solely of planks would give you a six-pack by itself. The odds are pretty slim, and the amount of planking you would have to do would be absolutely ridiculous, but including a plank as part of a varied routine shows some immense benefits.

Planks will also improve your posture. Good posture prevents your body from developing injuries by improper weight distribution, which can affect everything from major exercise routines to small movements like bending over. With that, the improved posture alone helps to align the vertebrae, which takes off unnecessary stress in the spinal region. This also helps to arrange the ligaments in the back properly, which further prevents painful back conditions.

There’s even a free mental workout in it too, because your willpower is tested by the challenge of staying perfectly still for as long as possible.

Common Mistakes

Sagging Your Hips

Your hips will start sinking once your abs have reached their fatigue limit. That’s a sign it’s time to end your plank. If it seems your hips are sagging from the beginning, try separating your feet a bit wider and focus on engaging your abs.

Tilting Your Head Up

Your neck should be in line with your body, not tilted up, which could strain the neck. Keep your gaze down at the floor.

Variations

Basic Plank

  1. Rest your forearms on the floor, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel.
  2. Extend your legs out behind you and rest your toes on the floor. Your body should form one straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
  3. Squeeze your entire core, your glutes, and your quads, and tuck your butt under a little to keep your lower back straight. Make sure you are not dropping your hips or hiking your butt up high toward the ceiling.
  4. Position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your gaze is on your hands.
  5. Hold this position.
Ab Workout Side Plank
Side Plank

Side Plank

  1. Lay on your side with your forearm flat on the floor, bottom elbow lined up directly under your shoulder
  2. Both legs extended out in a long line. Feet can either be staggered for more stability, or stacked for more of a challenge.
  3. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your head to your feet.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Your top hand can be on your hip

Plank to Downward Dog

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Keep your shoulders directly above your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  2. Tuck your toes under and straighten your legs. Your core should be engaged, and don’t let your back sag or your shoulders scrunch up toward your ears. Relax your head and neck. You’re in Plank Pose.
  3. Press your hips and butt back. Push away slightly with your arms as you engage your core. You’ll be in an upside-down, V-shaped pose. This is the Downward Dog Pose.

Reverse Plank

  1. Sit tall on the floor with legs extended long in front of you. Place your hands behind you, either on the floor or atop a foam roller.
  2. Engage your glutes, core, and arms to lift your hips, forming a straight line from heels to shoulders. Cautions against letting your hips sag or lift too high. Ensure that your shoulders are drawn down, away from your ears.
  3. You can stop here or continue to challenge yourself by adding a triceps dip: While holding your plank, bend your arms, pointing your elbows straight back.
  4. If you want an even greater challenge, add a leg raise: Hold your reverse plank, bending at the hip, and kick your right leg up toward the ceiling. Be sure to keep your hips stable and upper body strong while kicking. Return your leg to the floor with control.
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