What is the plank other than holding yourself in push-up position for one of the most boring exercises ever imagined, right? Nah bruh. In truth the plank is one of the best total body strengthening techniques around. When it comes to your mid-section, a solid, sustained plank is a testament of true strength.
Done properly, planks are extremely challenging. People tend to bail too quickly without examining why. Their minds says “we’re done,” their bodies follow and they seldom consider anything other than “that was hard AF.” There is much to be learned within the discomfort thresholds of planking!
When holding yourself in plank position perform a full body scan. Be aware of which areas of your body are holding steady, shaking or giving out. Shaking or giving out means additional training is needed. These often turn out to be areas where repetitive injuries occur. Fortifying these with plank training will dramatically improve the efficiency, accuracy and stability of your dynamic movements and possibly reduce the instance of new and/or repetitive injuries.
Ready to Plank?
I recommend having a mirror nearby or filming yourself. Sagging posture and poor positioning that goes unnoticed may push you out of alignment and towards injury.
Start off in a solid push-up position, elbows locked straight and fingers spread out wide gripping into the floor as if holding bowling balls. Wrists should be directly under the shoulders. Legs as straight as possible, balance on the balls of your feet. The closer your feet are together, the more challenging your plank. So take it easy at first, settle in and see where you are.
Next, use verbal cues to yourself (yes out loud dammit) as you initiate your chain of focus: “fingers, forearms, triceps, chest, belly, glutes, quads, calves, toes.” These cues fortify your full body check in. Your body should look like a plank of wood on a slight slope.
Now, take a peek in the mirror. If your back sags, tighten your glutes and tuck in your pelvis. If your butt is in the air, chances are your shoulders are not over your wrists. Push forward from your feet to correct this. Your neck should be neutral and not hang between your shoulders. If your neck dips, push into your fingers and contract your chest.
Begin with 15 seconds, staying focused on posture. Increase daily in 5-10 second increments. The length of time doesn’t matter as much as the strength of posture. The longer you hold the posture, the better. Plank can be a daily practice but if you can’t muster up 1-5 minutes a day to make your body into a rock solid mass of human sexiness, then three times a week is sufficient. Thirty seconds to a minute for beginners, 2-3 minutes for intermediate and 5 minutes for advanced hard bodies.
Master sustaining your basic plank before dropping to your elbows, side planks, plank punches, plank rows or other variations. When you do move forward, apply the fundamentals of posture checks, full body check-ins and verbal cues.
Tah Whitty is a lifestyle design and body curation specialist.