How to hold a Flawless Plank - ensuring proper form for effectiveness and injury prevention
Updated: Oct 31, 2018
When done correctly, the plank is one of the most effective exercises you can do to strengthen your core musculature.
Unfortunately, many people don’t do the plank correctly. No coincidence that many people also think that the plank is an easy exercise.
Here’s the truth:
If the movement feels easy for you and you generally feel your arms, shoulders, and low back doing most of the work, you’re probably doing it incorrectly.
A properly executed plank will light your abs and obliques on fire. You’ll also feel your glutes, hamstrings, and quads working to a lesser extent.
Today, we’ll take a look at proper technique and what you need to know to pull off a flawless plank. But first:
What are the Two Biggest Plank Mistakes
As we fatigue, our bodies tend to find more efficient ways to perform certain tasks. In the case of planks, this means that we slowly allow our technique to break down thus giving our abs and obliques a break.
Do this enough number of times, and you’ll find yourself banging out sets of 3-5 minute plank holds without ever feeling your abs working. All without getting any of the wonderful benefits!
Here are the top 2 mistakes most of us fall into:
Mistake #1: Hips too high
People tend to start in this position because it tends to challenge the core musculature less and is easier to stick to. This position is only good for dissipating the fatigue across multiple muscle groups in your upper body and thus allowing you to plank for longer.
But, since our goal is to train the core effectively, having your hips too high is not the right position to do that.
Mistake #2: Hips too low
Unlike mistake #1, this tends to happen as we fatigue, and we don’t even notice it happening. Once your core muscles become fatigued, your body tries to find a different position to compensate with other muscles.
Your butt sinks down, and the stress moves away from your abdominals and into your low back, hip flexors and quads.
How to Pull off the Flawless Plank, Step-by-Step
Now that we’ve gone over the don’ts, it’s time to see what the do’s are.
Step 1: Get down on your knees and place your forearms on the floor at shoulder-width level with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Your hands should be flat on the floor.
Step 2: Lift your knees off the floor and use your toes as a balance point. Your legs should be completely straight.
Step 3: Squeeze your glutes and engage your abs. Two good cues you can try are to think of bringing your belly button toward your spine and bracing your core as if you were to get punched in the stomach.
Note #1: Your body should resemble a straight line while planking. A good way to ensure that your spine is properly aligned is to try and drive your chest forward.
Note #2: If possible, do the plank using the free FlawlessPlank app and use it track your alignment and how it may change as you get tired. This is as effective as having an experienced coach to review your form in real-time.
By the end of each set, your core should be very much on fire. If you are feeling other muscles working more, it’s time to take a step back and review your form.
Aim Also for Form, Not Just Time
Normally most people get so fixated on the timer count that proper technique goes out the window.
As with most things, there’s an easy way to do things, and then there’s the right way.
Even if you’re able to hold a plank position for 3+ minutes, that won’t translate into a strong and stable core unless the position is optimal and your core is engaged – i.e. the form is flawless.
Because of that, the #1 tip would be to practice great technique and ensure that your core is working properly the entire time. Don’t fixate on an arbitrary number on the timer, at least until you master good form. Focus on the amount of time you have held a #FlawlessPlank instead
As little as 20-40 second holds with proper alignment and form are much better than 3+ minutes of sub-optimal planks.