Here’s why mastering the basic Plank exercise is essential if you are just beginning a core strengthening program. With this exercise, your core muscles work while your spine remains in a stabilized position. No flexing or twisting your spine – these motions may be inappropriate for people with certain types of back pain or for those with osteoporosis. The basic plank can be done by most everyone – it involves isometric muscle contractions throughout your core and shoulder girdle as you hold your body stable as shown in the picture. As you hold this position, you must contract your abdominals and back extensors to keep gravity from pulling your low back toward the floor. The muscles in your upper back and around your shoulders must also work to support your body and protect your shoulder joints.

How to Do Plank

  1. Start on your hands and knees and then come down onto your forearms. Elbows in line with your shoulders.
  2. Straighten out one leg behind you, then the other. Toes curled under heels pressing back. To decrease the challenge if you are just starting out, you may keep your knees on the floor.
  3. Lower your hips until your body forms a straight line (like a “plank”) from the back of your head to your heels (or knees if using the modified position).
  4. Keep your eye gaze looking toward the floor and your head in line with your spine; not too lifted or dropped.
  5. Now hold this position for 15 to 60 seconds or more if you are able to maintain good form.
  6. Press your elbows into the mat to keep your shoulders lifted and your shoulder blades wrapped around your ribs. This is important in order to protect your shoulders and prevent too much stress through the tendons and ligaments that support this joint.
  7. Engage your abdominals by pulling your belly button toward your spine. This will prevent your lower back from sagging.
  8. Use the energy through your entire body to assist in holding the position. Lengthen your spine by trying to reach forward through the top of your head and in the opposite direction through your heels.

One final note: Only hold the position as long as you can maintain good form. Shoulders lifted, hips low, abdominals engaged! Please remember that quality form is the key to developing strength and preventing injury. You will get stronger, quicker if you listen to your body and build your strength gradually with good alignment through your spine.

If you feel your form falling apart, rest and then perform another rep. Do this 3-5 times. Within a week or so you WILL be able to hold the position longer; be patient with your body, it will thank you.

I’d love to hear how it’s going for you or if you have any questions for me. (I will address how to advance this exercise in another post – there are so many options …)