If you’re doing plank pose correctly (read: safely), it’s a seriously awesome way to build strength throughout your whole body. And when you’re starting, even holding it for a couple of breaths is plenty to get you on the right track. And if plank feels pretty familiar, you might find that these tips make it harder again.
How to set up your plank pose:
Since we’re not doing plank as part of a flow, we’re going to get into it a little differently to set your body up for amazing plank success.
Lie down on the floor on your belly. Position your feet so that the tips of your toes (rather than your toenails or the soles of your feet) rest on the floor behind you. Bring your hands down next to your low ribs, so that your elbows are almost-but-not-quite stacked above your wrists.
Draw your belly button in toward your spine. Press into your hands to push yourself up to plank on your knees, with the tips of your toes still on the floor.
From there, you can stay on your knees, or you can straighten your legs. As you straighten your legs, your toes will tuck and you’ll set yourself up for a great foot position, with your heels stacked above the balls of your feet.
You can also see in the two images above that the position of my spine doesn’t change when I lift my knees. If yours does, there is no shame in working plank on your knees until you build up strength. It’s better than the alternative of screwing up your low back!
Why do plank pose?
If done properly, plank strengthens pretty much everything in your body. Seriously: hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, chest, back, abs, butt, legs. Plank pose means business.
What to watch for:
- The same way you wouldn’t stand only on the heels of your feet, don’t just drop your weight into the heels of your hands. Press down into all ten fingers and the entirety of your palms, and especially into your index fingers and thumbs. Similarly, in forearm plank, don’t let the weight rest only in your elbows–use your hands as well!
- Your shoulders are stacked above your wrist creases. This sets you up with your hands shoulder-distance apart, and you won’t have your hands too far forward (harder on your shoulders) or too far back (increases strain on your wrists).
- Press back through your heels as if you were pushing into a wall. In fact, try setting up with your feet against a wall to really feel that action.
- Lift your thighs away from the floor.
- Use your lower abdominals to help support you: draw your belly button in toward your spine to engage the muscles below your belly button.
- Push the floor away from you so that your shoulder blades spread away from each other, rather than squeezing together.
- Look at the floor several inches in front of your hands, not at the wall front of you, not down at your hands, not back at your feet.
When to practice this pose:
- Whenever you want! Plank pose is its own warmup. Or you could do it as part of a sequence for your sore back, or a bit of a bootcamp.
- Lower your knees down to the floor.
- Take plank on your forearms rather than your hands. Forearms should be shoulder distance apart (hug your upper arms with opposite hands to find that distance), and hands can either be flat on the floor or with fingers interlaced. The latter will be a little easier on your shoulders.
- Do plank on your forearms with your knees down, too.
- Try plank at the wall, as I demonstrate in this video:
- Pick up one foot and the opposite hand while holding plank–and keep your hips level as you do that.