The plank exercise is the BEST workout for your abs! Learn how to do a plank, the most common plank mistakes, and how to perfect your form.
As much as I love planks, there are a LOT of people out there that need a little bit of help to really perfect them.
I wanted to put together a little “how to” to help you get the most PERFECT planks. I’m going to tell you exactly how to do a plank, and also going to show you some of the most common mistakes that people make and how to fix them, so you can be a bad a** planking babe!
The Plank Exercise – How to Perfect your Form
- Start by laying on your stomach on the ground or on an exercise mat. Position your elbows so that they are directly under your shoulders, and bent at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms flat on the floor and keep your forearms parallel to each other. (If your doing a full plank on your hands be sure your shoulders are directly over your hands, and your middle fingers are pointing straight forward.)
- Curl your toes under so that you place the weight on the balls of your feet.
- Engage your abdominals to lift your hips off the ground, keeping a straight line from the crown of your head to your knees. (You should be in a modified plank on your knees.)
- Squeeze your glutes, quadriceps and abs even more to lift your knees off the ground so that you are now in a straight line from head to feet.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds, and as you get more comfortable and stronger, hold this position for as long as possible without compromising form. Remember to breathe naturally.
Most Common Plank Mistakes
The “Booty Pop”
No Kardashian booties around here! (At least not with planks!) When your booty “pops” during a plank your abs are NOT fully engaged — which can lead to a LOT of stress on your lower back. Plus, we all want as much ab work as possible, right?!
To prevent booty popping in your planks, scoop your pubic bone towards your belly button, then lengthen your lower back and engage your abs, and especially your lower abs. This should create a lengthening feeling in your lower back and will prevent injury.
Neck is out of Alignment
Keeping your neck neutral will also help to prevent injuries AND ward off things like “text neck”. (You know, that ugly forward tilt you can develop from looking down at your phone for too long! — and YES it’s a real thing!)
Focus on a point that is about 12 inches in front of you. Be sure not to look too far in front and crank your neck forward.
That being said, also make sure that your head does not “hang” down. You should NOT be looking at your stomach or belly button. The crown of your head should be reaching forward, and your neck should be lengthened.
Your Hips are too Low or too High
This is probably THE most common mistake I see. Most people tend to have their hips too high — because it’s easier AND it’s cheating! LOL
But, it’s really easy to fix, all you have to do is lower the hips so that they are in line with your head and toes. Just be sure you don’t start to “sag” your hips. Really, it’s all fixed by just tightening up those abs. So go back to the “Booty Popping” steps to help correct that.
Wrists or Elbows are not under Shoulders
More than likely, if you have either of these issues it will be that your hands or elbows are too far forward. It is possible for them to be too far back — it is just way more uncomfortable and you more than likely wouldn’t want to do a plank that way, anyway. If your hands or elbows are out of alignment you will be putting a lot of added stress on your shoulders and the ligaments and joints throughout your arms.
Make sure that when you are doing your planks the your elbows or hands are under your shoulders as opposed to right under your face or chest. Hang out and do your planks in front of a floor length mirror to help you check your alignment.
The ULTIMATE Plank Workout
Shoulders + Chest Not Engaged
It’s also really easy to forget to keep your chest and shoulders engaged. When you don’t engage your shoulders and chest, your upper back can start to “sink” between your shoulder blades, and you will “wing” your shoulders out.
Keep your shoulders away from your ears, but make sure they are engaged. Feel as if you’re drawing your shoulders down your back, creating space between your ears and your shoulders. It should feel like there is a flat space between your shoulders, and you should be able to hold a glass of water between your shoulders.
Engage your chest by pressing your palms and your forearms into the floor. Feel as if you were trying to press the floor away from you. This will also help to engage your biceps and triceps as well.
Your Legs + Booty are not Engaged
Planks truly are a FULL BODY exercise. A lot of people forget to use their legs during planks. Engaging your legs will help to maintain proper form, and also helps to take stress off the lower back.
To properly engage your legs, squeeze your booty cheeks together, then tighten your quadriceps (the front of your legs). Your legs should be fully engaged (similar to how you should feel at the top of a squat position). Also, make sure your hips don’t drop or sag towards the floor.
Remember: As soon as you begin to feel your form is suffering, lower out of the plank. You’re going for quality not quantity.
Let me know in the comments if these tips helped you, and what other fitness tips you’d like to see next!