Plank is one of the most effective bodyweight exercise. You can literally do it anywhere and you don’t need any equipment to do it. It’s great for strengthening your core by targeting all the abdominal muscles and it also works your biceps, neck, shoulder down to your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. That’s a lot of muscle groups targeted for an exercise that’s very simple to execute. But the benefits of planking does not stop there. Your core plays an important role on your posture. Because planks train your core to activate, it not only improves your posture, you’ll also notice reduced back pain because your abdominal muscle groups share the burden with your back muscle to help hold you upright. On top of this, performing different plank variations can help improve your overall coordination and balance.
Here’s how to perform an effective plank according to American Council on Exercise:
- Hold the elbows directly under the shoulders and place the wrists in line with the elbows.
- Push your body up into your upper back and hold your chin close to your neck (like you’re holding an egg between your chin and your throat).
- In this position, brace your abdominals—contract them like expecting a punch in the stomach, squeeze your gluteal (tailbone) and thigh muscles simultaneously while continuing to breathe normally.
- Hold a plank at least 20 to 30 seconds. (When using correct form, it is not necessary to hold it for longer than this amount of time.)
- Rest for approximately one minute and repeat three to five more times.
- Start doing the plank using the elbows and toes (feel free to drop to your knees if necessary) and progress up to a high plank when you feel you have developed the necessary strength.
Common mistakes to avoid when doing the plank:
- Allowing the hips, head or shoulders to drop
- Holding both hands together (creating internal rotation and instability at the shoulder joint)
- Holding your breath
- Trying to hold the contraction too long—it is more preferable to hold optimal alignment for a shorter period of time than to hold a poor position for an extended period of time.