Core strength is a huge buzz word over the past few years and there are a lot of opinions out there as to how to manage your middle.
But, buyer beware! The exercise promoted by well-meaning fitness enthusiasts - anywhere from mommy bloggers to high-level athletes - can cause more harm than good to many people. Our clients often fall into this category - those with back injuries, neck problems, following abdominal surgery or having a baby.
One exercise that gets the most attention is the plank. So, let's break it down and find out how to do a plank without causing more harm than good.
Why Should We Do Planks?
First, we need to know why we are doing planks in the first place. The goal is to improve the strength and stability of your torso to both support your internal structures and resist the strain of outside forces. This means your body is able to lift heavy things, remain in proper alignment, throw a ball, or push off powerfully through your hips without causing injury.
So, the plank is not an "exercise move" at all - it's actually a non-movement. The key to success is forming an immovable plank with your entire body. From your head to your toes, your body should remain firm and straight like a board.
How to Do the Basic Plank
- Get on the flour in the pushup position with your elbows and wrist lined up directly underneath your shoulders and your toes on the ground.
- Squeeze your buttock and abdominal muscles to achieve a straight line from your head to your heels (don't let your hips sag).
- Keep your eyes looking between your hands so you don't strain your neck.
- Hold this position only as long as you can without letting your back arch or bow.
- Progressing the move - As this position becomes easier, move from having your arms straight to supporting yourself on your forearms. The same rules apply here for creating a straight, strong line from your head to your toes.
Other Things to Remember
The most important thing to remember when it comes to planks is that you are only getting the benefit if you have perfect form. I see folks in the gym trying to stay in the position for a set period of time (say 30 seconds) and continue until the timer dings even if they lose good form.
I would say 30 seconds is a great goal for holding a plank, but most of us will have to work up to that starting a few seconds at a time. See, core strength is not a race (although we like to make everything competitive don't we) - it's a skill learned and relearned over time.
If you aren't quite sure how your core strength ranks and if you need additional work in this area check out this previous blog: 5 Signs Your Core is Weak and Keeping You From Your Fitness Goals
Now that you know how to Plank correctly, head over to Facebook to see some demonstrations and variations . . . if you're brave, tag us in your plank pic on Instagram @peakpotentialpt