The plank is the ultimate core exercise. Although gentler on the back than crunches, this core-strengthening exercise must be done properly to get the most out of it without hurting yourself.
Review the basics to get into the right posture for the plank, then find out how to avoid the 5 most common mistakes.
The benefits of the plank
The plank is the most popular movement in fitness, and rightly so:
● This movement is isometric, so it doesn’t put excessive strain on the joints. It is ideal for
muscle strengthening, as a complement to dynamic exercises.
● The plank works all the stabilising muscles of the trunk, abdominal and back muscles. It is
considered to be as effective as other more traumatic spinal exercises, such as crunches,
in building abdominal muscles and improving posture.
● This exercise is part of every sports training programme because a strong, well-muscled
core is crucial for good performance in all sports.
How to do the plank correctly
Even if it seems simple, it is always good to review the basics. Here’s how to do the plank the right
● Lying flat on your stomach, on a yoga mat, for example, support yourself on your
forearms with your elbows positioned vertically under your shoulders. Keep your hands
● With your body perfectly straight, straighten your legs, resting on the balls of your feet,
which you keep the width of your pelvis apart. Push on your heels as if to move them
● The whole body is stretched to maintain the balance of the posture. The head is aligned
with the spine.
● Contract your abdominal muscles during this exercise to optimize its effects and avoid
● Remember to breathe: your muscles need oxygen and you will become less tense.
Hold the position for a few seconds, you will get more and more comfortable as you
There are several variations of the plank, such as the high plank, which is performed with the arms
outstretched. The general tips are the same.
How to avoid the 5 most common mistakes when planking
By avoiding these few common pitfalls, you should quickly master the plank:
- Looking up: Even if you are trying to monitor your posture in a mirror, avoid moving your
head when you are planking, otherwise, your body will no longer be straight, which can
lead to back or neck pain. Instead, focus on your hands, or on the floor in front of you if
you are doing a high plank.
- Arching the back: it is not necessarily easy to realise, but with fatigue, the lower back
tends to sag, creating a traumatic arch if it is repeated too often. This also impairs the
effectiveness of the abdominal work. To avoid arching, imagine that your navel meets
your spine and bring your pelvis down to the floor.
- Raising the hips too high during the execution: this often unconscious reflex is a way to
relieve the abdominal muscles. In addition to making the plank less effective, this gesture
transfers too much weight onto the shoulders. Your lower body is your best ally in
avoiding this mistake: contract your quadriceps and glutes to keep your hips in line with
the rest of your body.
- Stooping shoulders: Also due to fatigue, stooping shoulders show that you are tensing up,
which can lead to neck pain. Watching your breathing will help you to sense when you are
getting tired, so you can be more vigilant in keeping your shoulders back.
- Holding the stance for too long: breaking your plank record is the challenge of many
athletes, especially at the beginning, but the first thing to do is to listen to your body. A
haphazard plank with poor support can be more harmful than beneficial: it is better to do
several shorter plank exercises. The right duration? The one during which you can safely
maintain the correct plank posture.
You know everything you need to do to use the plank wisely, so happy working out to you!
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