If you have been looking to increase your strength, and strengthen your core you know that the plank is one of the best exercises you can do for yourself. However, it is so easy to do it wrong that you may not be getting its benefits. In fact, a lot of us do it so wrong that it may hurt you in the long run. Again, it is not the exercise that is bad, but more of how you do it that affects the results you get.
Here is what you will be learning from today’s post on the plank exercise:
- Understand the plank exercise so that you know which muscles should be engaged.
- Identify why everyone should plank to avoid injury, and have strong integrated body systems.
- How to do it properly so that next time you plank; you do not feel it in your low back, and to finally see those abs.
Let’s dive in.
First of all, let me tell you my story with the plank exercise. I have been planking for years and years, and always felt there was one thing off about it. I was supposed to feel a burn in my abs and core, yet after few moments, only my arms and legs start shaking.
Are you experiencing the same thing?
Nobody ever tried to correct me at the gym. I understand that it can be daunting to approach strangers at the gym especially if they are the opposite gender.
But still, I truly would have appreciated someone pointing to me what I was doing wrong. Maybe they were also doing it wrong or just didn’t care 😉
This was maybe 7 years ago. About 4 years have passed, I was still doing the plank wrong. I was not a Strength Coach back then, and fitness was more like my favourite hobby. I just gave up on it all together.
I had to start athletic therapy for a low back injury and my therapist kept emphasising that I have to start working on my deep abdominal muscles by holding a plank at home, in addition to other exercises she game (some of which I was already doing on my own). I told her that I perform the plank every now and then but used to never feel it in my core.
This is the most common thing people experience when planking. It is supposed to be a core exercise but we just feel it anywhere but in our core. So How the heck is this the best core exercise?
She made me do the plank, and in 5 seconds corrected my form. I remember my whole body was shaking from how challenging it was. I was only able to hold for 20 seconds. My chest and abs were fired up from simply correctly my form.
That was a game changer for me. So let me ask you again. Do you even plank?
I recently bought this amazing book, that I highly recommend if you want to take your body to the next level. It teaches you the mechanics of the core, and also has programs you can follow based on your level. I am loving this book.
Understanding the plank
I see it over and over at the gym. People try to do the plank at the end of their workout just for the sake of doing it. It is not about seeing how long you can last holding yourself up – you body will hold itself up but it would probably use all kinds of muscles that were not meant to be holding you up (i.e. knees, low back) which will increase stress and even chances of injury in the long term.
The plank is an isometric exercise that primarily targets the deep abdominal muscles. It should not be seen as a balancing exercise but as a full body strengthening exercise. This is where people make the mistake and they just try to balance themselves by any means.
The main muscles engaged should be: Deep abdominal muscles, (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominus and erector spinae)
The secondary muscles engaged are: upper back muscles (traps, rhomboids, deltoids, rotator cuffs, pecs), and the glutes and quads
Why you should plank (the right way)
I can hold a plank for at least one minute. I know many people try to break the record for 2 minutes plank but I’d rather try harder variations and stick to one minute. I try to aim for a good quality repetition every time. I would prefer a “good quality” 10 seconds hold than a bad 1 minute hold.
Doing the plank the right way will result in many amazing benefits. It will target your deep abdominal muscles that you need to stay away from back injuries in general.
Your core is literally your spine safety belt. Your core consists of an inner unit and an outer unit. These units work together to stabilise your back and your whole body. It is the integration of many systems.
A strong core will help prevent injury by alleviating a lot of the stress that can load up on the spine, pelvis and joints.
Check out my post here to learn more about how important your core is to stabilise your back, hips and your overall posture. Pin it for later too 🙂
How to perform the plank properly.
Holding the plank can be tricky for so many of us. You need to think about every detail. But there are few things you can focus on that will play a huge roll in the overall form.
- The arms should be under the shoulders (joints will be in one line),
- The back should be in a straight line. You can use a stick and make sure it touches your head, upper back, and low back. Your spine will be nice and long.
- Always squeeze our glutes. This will ensure your energy is maintained to keep you stable.
- Activate your core – when you squeeze your glutes, your hips will move into a posterior tilt (drawing your lower abs towards your belly button)
- The leg muscles (quads) should also be activated. This will ensure you are not balancing your body on your feel. It will stabilise you further
- Make sure you breathe throughout the exercise.
Here is a description of how to perform the plank. Notice in the first and second images how my hips are too high and too low. This is a common mistake.
You may not be doing these, but a slight anterior pelvic tilt will literally ruin your plank because you won’t feel it in your core.
Now, get on the floor and practise 🙂 Let me know if there is something not clear in the post or any questions. Post them below.
Also, don’t forget to pin this post and save it forever!