latisimus dorsi

What Every Yogi Should Know About Plank Pose

Jenifer Parker from Healium has a fantastic variation on plank to prevent sag-asana. It's great! Read on for some practice-changing tips.

So many people fear or hate the plank pose. I can see why. For many of us -- girls in particular -- we are taught that this is difficult, and that we don't' have the upper body body strength to do this well. Add to that idea that we might have a few specialized (awesome!) curves, and for many of us, it just seems ridiculously unattainable.

But that is just so not true! Plank pose is totally possible. You can do it!

This modification is designed to access our strongest muscle groups and make this possible for pretty much anyone. So long as you don't have shoulder, wrist, elbow or hand injuries, you'll succeed. If you have any of these problems, other modifications exist -- and you'll have to ask your teacher for those!

This modification has three primary elements:

1. Push away!

One of the big problems that gals have is that they think their arms are weak. And while that may be true, the reality is that this pose is meant to use your back muscles -- in particular your massive lats!

Oh yes, you know you have massive lats.

The MASSIVE lats of bodybuilder Dorian Yates.

The MASSIVE lats of bodybuilder Dorian Yates.

Ok, maybe not that massive.

Still, you have angel wings -- we all have them, and they are a pretty large muscle group. In plank pose, we need to use them, which means "pushing away" when you stack your shoulders over your wrists. Most of us "sag" our chests down (and drop our heads!), which means we are not using our lats, which is super important.

And by the by, there's no way in hell you'll ever look like Dorian from doing plank pose. Dorian is the only man on the planet who looks like that. I've been watching body building competitions since I was a kid (Arnold Classic anyone?) And ain't nobody looking like Dorian in the lat-region.

2. Engage your Legs

If you have sexy thighs, you can leverage them for plank-awesomeness. The sexy thighs, btw, come in all shapes and sizes, so if you don't think you have sexy thighs, think again.

Here are some good ways to think about your sexy thighs in plank pose --

A. Press the back of your thighs up toward the ceiling.

B. Push back into your heels as you press those thighs toward the ceiling -- this accesses the whole leg.

3. Hips High

The typical version of plank shows a steady decline from shoulders to ankles. That's cool and all, but it requires a different amount of back/belly strength that most of us don't have access to when we start.

Please note the language "don't have access to" -- if you can stand up, you have the belly/back strength to do this posture (or most of them honestly). It's just that your body isn't using to "standing up" against gravity in this way. That is why it's about access. You have the strength, you just don't have the experience/body awareness yet to access it.

This helps us to develop that body awareness and access the right muscle  groups.

So, put the hips up in line with the shoulders. It cuts the weight a bit, and allows you to access the two larger muscle groups that we want to access for the posture -- lats and legs.

4. Pelvis Aligned

This is the real key to this modification and transfers not only into the full version of the pose, but pretty-much most of the postures that we do!

So, a (probably not so) quick chat. In order to get the pelvis to the right point, you want to back that thing up. It's a good idea to try this standing first -- just to get a feel.

Add in the rather common tendency to, rib-shearing and you have a perfect storm of back pain. Yowchers! You'll need to stop doing that too...

Ok, so, most people tend to think that the fix to all this is to flatten the back entirely. But pushing the pubic bone forward -- often with the accompanying pelvic thrust and total gluteus engagement-- causes a different kind of misalignment and back pain -- a tight, rounded lower back with a tucked-under tailbone.

So where IS the right alignment?  Well, it's specific actually.

First, you'll need to put on underwear. I'm not talking about cute boy shorts, boxers, or your thong. None of these will help. Regular old grannie panties will do. Though, even better is the "french cut" which is slightly higher along the mid-line of the butt than the grannies but not quite as high as the brazillian cut.

Guys who are reading this, it'll be extra exciting for you to imagine you are wearing panties.

So, if you start standing up and imagine that you are wearing underwear, then you'll feel this diagonal line across your back side that makes a stripe from hip to the bottom of the butt.

You want to feel this engage, without feeling the whole gluteus engage. This is the gluteus medius, and accessing it moves the tailbone down toward the heels without thrusting it forward or tilting it back and away.

Do you feel it? If you don't, don't' be too alarmed, it can take practice. But it's "somewhere in the middle."

So in plank pose, we have shoulders over wrists - and pushing away from earth in the process -- hips in line with shoulders, strong thighs, and then your gluteus medius engages.

You'll notice as you do this that the posture is lighter.

Now: Breathe for goodness sakes.

Here's a video.

Here's another: Melanie giving her experience of learning plank pose.

You can do it.

And don't forget to finish with a nice cuppa!