How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Planking is an excellent exercise for the core and abdomen, which has several benefits. Include the technique in your ab workout routine to make sure you maintain a strong and stable core.Keep reading to find out plank exercise benefits and different variations along with instructions How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes.

What Is a Plank?

A plank involves lifting your entire body off the ground and maintaining balance on your toes and forearms. Your head, torso, and legs are all in alignment, and your spine is maintained in a neutral position.
Planking is an isometric exercise since keep your core muscles contracted in one position How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes.

How to Do a Plank

Select a position where you can extend your whole body length. Using a yoga mat or exercise mat will give you enough padding to be comfortable on all fours. You can do a plank on your palms or forearms, as seen in the video. There are lots of wrist wraps available to support joints.

  • Step 1: Begin in the plank position, face down with your forearms and toes on the floor. Your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your forearms are facing forward. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes.
  • Step 2: Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your navel toward your spine. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from your ears to your toes with no sagging or bending. This is the neutral spine position. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched over your ears. Your heels should not be higher than the balls of your feet.
  • Step 3: Hold this position for 10 seconds. Release to floor.
  • Step 4: Over time work up to 30, 45, or 60 seconds.

Plank Benefits

Planking provides many physical benefits. Strengthening the core is an important aspect of any workout regimen. A strong and solid core looks and feels good How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes. But more importantly, it helps the body power through, balance, and regulate itself throughout nearly all other activity.

Core strength is the basis for all coordinated and powerful athletic movements. A strong core can reduce stress on the joints and allow you to achieve better posture How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes.

The plank exercise can also be used as the basis for a core muscle strength and stability test. The plank is more of a strength-building exercise than a cardio exercise, but by engaging a range of muscles it can also help to boost your calorie burn How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common MistakesHow to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes.

Plank Modifications and Variations

A plank can be performed in a variety of ways to strengthen and stabilize the core muscles. If you’re a newbie, there are additional ways to tweak it.

Need a Modification?

If you find the plank difficult at first, try these two variations as you build up strength.

Tabletop Plank

Practice plank from a tabletop position by actively pressing into your hands and pulling your abs in, which will help you learn how to keep your spine neutral, as pictured. You can also tuck your toes under and practice lifting your knees slightly off of the floor How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes. Doing a plank with your knees bent and lifted can help take some of the pressure off of your feet as you build core strength How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes.

Incline Plank

You can also do an incline plank with your forearms or palms resting on a bench or step. Place your forearms or palms on a flat, elevated surface with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Walk your feet back until your body forms a straight line on a diagonal How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes. Pull your abs in as you tuck your tailbone slightly and actively press into your forearms or palms.

Up for a Challenge?

Try these variations to change up your plank and challenge your core strength even more.

Plank With Leg Lift

Start in the plank position, with your forearms and toes on the floor, to complete a plank with a leg lift. You can substitute your hands for your forearms in this workout to make it a little easier.

  1. Slowly raise one leg 5 to 8 inches off the floor
  2. Count to two and slowly lower your leg to the floor.
  3. Switch legs and repeat.
  4. Do two to three sets of 10 reps.

Plank With Arm Lift

Another way to add variety to the basic plank is to add an arm lift, either by pressing into the opposite forearm or palm. To perform a plank with an arm lift, follow these steps:

  1. Start in plank position.
  2. Carefully shift your weight to your right forearm (or palm).
  3. Extend your left arm straight out in front of you.
  4. Hold for three seconds while keeping your core tight.
  5. Slowly bring your arm back to starting position.
  6. Switch arms and repeat.
  7. Do two to three sets of 10 reps.

Sets of Shorter Planks

Rather than doing a single plank for 30 seconds or more, some exercise routines say there are good benefits for doing a 10- to 15-second plank, resting for 30 seconds, and doing three to five sets. Your total time spent in the plank in an exercise session should be 60 seconds or less.How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Common Mistakes

To get the most out of this workout and to prevent strain or injury, steer clear of these mistakes.

  • Arching your back: If you arch your back, you are not engaging your abdominals sufficiently and you are putting more of the weight onto your arms. Check to be sure you are keeping your shoulders down and wide.How to Do a Plank: Proper Form, Variations, and 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: Instead of tilting up, which could put strain on the neck, your neck should be in level with your torso. Continue to look at the floor.

Plank Safety and Precautions

You should not do planks if you have a shoulder injury. If you feel shoulder pain, end the exercise. In pregnancy, planks are considered safe for most people though there may be a concern for placing stress on the abdominal wall. It could be better to alter the plank and perform an incline plank or side plank exercise instead. To find out if this is a suitable activity, consult your physician or physical therapist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What muscles do planks work?

The plank exercise works the entire core, including the abdominal muscles that run from the pelvis along the spine and up to the shoulder girdle.

Muscles worked during planks include:

  • Rectus abdominis, or top layer of core muscles at front of the pelvis
  • Transverse abdominis, or the deepest layer of core muscles that run horizontal like a corset
  • Obliques, which are core muscles that run along your sides of your abdomen
  • Erector spinae, which run along the length of your back
  • Shoulder stabilizers, which support the shoulders
  • Gluteus maximus, or the largest muscle of the buttocks and hips
  • Quadriceps,which run along the front of the thighs

How many calories does planking burn?

Your weight and the length of time you hold the plank determine how many calories you burn. A 150-pound person will usually burn three to four calories per minute when performing a plank.

What do planks help with?

Planks are great for building core strength and stability, which helps improve balance and coordination during everyday activities. A strong core can also support you during other forms of athletic or physical activity and can even help protect your lower back from injury.

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