The plank is quite possibly one of the most foundational exercises out there. It teaches you how to completely stabilize the body by building tension and tapping in to multiple major muscle groups. Unlike the other movements we’ve described so far in the #BackToBasics posts, this movement is an isometric movement, meaning that you are holding a position versus moving your body or moving a weight. It relies a lot on building tension throughout the body and learning how to keep your muscles contracted for a longer period of time.The plank can be worked on either your forearms or your hands (and I’ll explain both) and can be regressed as needed, but I will just be touching upon the full movement from the hands and forearms for the purposes of this article.
Key points: The plank relies on building tension throughout the body. Begin by lying on the stomach with your feet together and either your hands directly underneath your shoulders (if you’re going to hold the plank position on your hands) or your elbows bent and directly underneath your shoulders. Press yourself up (to either your hands or your forearms) and immediately take a full body check in:
1. Your spine should be in one long neutral line from your neck all the way down to your tailbone. (don’t cock your head up or down as that would break that line)
2. Your hands (or elbows, if you’re on your forearms) should be perfectly in line with your shoulders.
3. You should be actively engaging your lat muscles (the muscles under your armpits.
4. You should be actively pulling your belly button toward your spine to create a hollow sensation in the abdominals.
5. You should be squeezing your butt cheeks and actively pulling your hips up so they are in line with your spine – any dip in the hips will cause you to arch your back and send pressure to your low back.
6. You should be squeezing your inner thighs together.
7. Your feet should be together and you should be up on the balls of your feet.
Breathing: Since you’re trying to maintain this isometric pose and keep the tension built throughout the body, it is important to keep breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Your breaths may be a bit more shallow as you’re trying to maintain that built up tension in your muscles.
Muscles engaged: Almost all of the muscles in the body are actively working here! As previously mentioned, your lats, abdominals, glutes, and inner thighs should all be actively working to keep you stable in this position.
Here’s a photo of each plank variation!
Try out the plank position during your next workout! Start with 20-30 seconds, and then see if you can slowly increase your time until you can hold it for 1 full minute (or longer)!