Common plank mistakes to watch out for
The plank feels like the simplest movement. Heck, it’s not even a movement, it’s really a still position with no movement. It specifically forbids movement. And yet it is the simple exercises that can really go wrong.
The plank is simple, but not easy. When you are in the plank position, every fiber of your being resists gravity. You need to lock and tone every inch of the muscles in your body to resist collapse. In order to maintain coherence across the line, your body is forming. During a plank, you literally hold the line against the most ubiquitous force in the known universe.
At least one push-up is where you move. You have to focus on something else. For a plank, much of the difficulty is mental. You’re just in the same position and getting more tired moment by moment. You have to sit with the pain.
Okay, what is the basic shape of the planks?
Forearms or hands.
First, choose whether you want to do it on your forearms or your hands. When you are on your forearms, there is more emphasis on the core. When you are on your hands (as if you are on top of a push-up) there is more emphasis on the shoulder girdle. Try both and find out which one works best for you. I would recommend doing both varieties on a regular basis just to cover your bases.
Align your elbows or hands just below your shoulders.
Imagine your arms are Greek pillars holding the temple that is your body. These pillars must be straight and vertical to support the weight in the best possible position. If your elbows or hands are not aligned with your shoulders, the exercise becomes more difficult and you can put strain on your shoulders.
More advanced versions of the plank move your hands / elbows in front of your shoulders to add difficulty, but today’s release isn’t about those.
Form a plank – a straight line.
The technique is right there in the name of the exercise: plank. Form a plank, a single continuous piece from head to toe. Tighten everything. They should be a straight board.
Squeeze your glutes.
A good keyword is the idea that you are pinching a quarter between your buttocks cheeks. Really activate these glutes as they will support the entire rear chain and keep your hips from falling.
Look at the ground.
To keep your head in line with the rest of your body, get down on the floor. This promotes a neutral spine and head position.
Put your pelvis in.
Instead of arching your back, do a slight bend in your pelvis to really use your abs. With the pelvic crook, you can also use your quads and press your feet against the floor. The plank is designed to activate / activate every muscle in the body, not just the back, and the pelvic flexion encourages this.
With the slight bend of your pelvis, you may feel like your bum is in the air, but it really isn’t. Just feels like that.
Press firmly against the floor.
Use your hands / forearms to press firmly against the floor as if trying to push the floor away from you to elongate your shoulder blades. This activates the serratus anterior, an often neglected muscle group.
Common plank mistakes
The plank is simple enough, but people make mistakes. Here are the most common.
Hands / elbows not aligned with your shoulders.
As you become more advanced, you can slide your hands / elbows forward to increase the difficulty. However, if you’re just starting out, your hands / elbows should be directly in line with your shoulders.
Excessive arching of the back.
People do this because they are concerned about their hips rising, but this takes the abs, affects the quads’ ability to engage, and can actually put strain on your lower back. Put your pelvis in.
All the weight on the arms.
Many people consider the plank an upper body workout. You hold yourself up with your arms and tighten your abs, but your legs and feet are just “there”. Do not forget to actively press against the floor with your feet and legs.
Do not elongate the shoulder blades.
Many trainers teach scapula retraction during the plank, but this is a mistake. It takes the serratus anterior out of the exercise entirely and changes a lot of tension (and therefore force) that you can apply.
Going to failure.
Stop just before the form collapses. It’s nice to test the maximum plank time every now and then, but don’t make it a habit. Such training can lead to poor motor patterns and increase the risk of injury.
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Marks Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal Food and Lifestyle movement, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, which describes how he combines the keto diet with a pristine lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which is credited with the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement in 2009. After three decades of researching and educating people about why food is the key component in achieving optimal wellbeing, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real food company, the Primal / Paleo, Keto and Whole30 friendly kitchen staples manufactures.
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