Planks are a fantastic recovery & strength exercise (for those of you who love your H.I.I.T, dropping to plank during your recovery intervals is a great way to bring your heart rate down and keep your body working). They can also be done anywhere, need no equipment, and get easier with time.
Planks are core heaven, but they work everything else too… when they’re done properly. Read below for tips on how you can make yours more rockin’, even if you suck at it now. :)
Note: I mention cues for “from the hands” planks below, but tips for forearm planks OR planks from the knees are essentially the same! Just make sure your elbows/hands line up with your shoulders.
1. WIDEN YOUR BASE. The wider your base, the easier it is to balance: take feet wide apart, instead of having them together. Hands should also be shoulder width apart or wider: whereever’s comfortable. SPREAD your fingers: a wider base through the hands and weight in the palm will help too. (As you get better, take the feet in more narrow to make it challenging).
2. SQUEEZE EVERYTHING. Flex your quads, tighten your core and squeeze your TUSH. When people think planks, they often only engage their upper body and yeah, sometimes core. But keeping everything “stiff as a board”, will work your whole body AND help you stabilize. Butt too.
3. DON’T LOOK AT YOUR FEET. Keep your eyes forward, and let them fall in front of your fingertips. When you look towards the toes, it throws off your center (and most people can’t help themselves). Try to look at a spot about 2-3 feet in front of you.
4. THINK “STRAIGHT LINE”, BUT FROM THE TOP. NOT THE BOTTOM. Think straight body line from the top part of you (not the underside). Hips should be lifted, and in line with your shoulders: like a table top. For those with back issues, this will take the pressure off considerably. Many people do their planks thinking a straight line from the underside, NOT the top, which can put too much pressure on your low back. Tip: ask a friend to place a broomstick along your spine in plank. If it tilts too far back or forward, you need to adjust: getting it parallel to the floor means you’re in the right position.
5. HEELS FLEXED. Flex THROUGH the feet, with heels pushing towards the back of the room (toes fall in slightly front of them). This helps engage the lower body and helps with stability. Nice little stretch too.
6. PRETEND THE FLOOR IS TRYING TO CRUSH YOU. Imagine you’re lying on your back and the floor is actually trying to smush you. Think about keeping it away from you, instead of holding yourself up. Arms are straight but not overly locked.
7. BREATHE. So key. Big & deep. Focus on it.
8. ENGAGE THE CORE. NO, REALLY, ENGAGE THE CORE. Brace yourself like a punch OR pull your belly button in towards your back (either cue works). You don’t want the hips to sag down. If your lower back hurts in plank, 99% of the time it’s because the core isn’t engaged properly.