The plank works almost every muscle in your body and is one of the best core strengthening exercises out there (when performed correctly). Unfortunately, a majority of the people I see doing a plank are far more likely to injure themselves before they see any of the benefits.
Here are my top 5 tips to perfecting your plank so you can be the best planker in the gym!
1. Perform your plank next to a mirror
It is so hard to tell where your body is in space without visualising it. For example, a lot of people sink their hips down to the ground and round their upper back when they perform a plank. If you can visualise where your hips and shoulders are, then you can continually correct yourself and hold your plank for longer.
2. Avoid looking like a breakfast dish
I’m sorry what?! OK, so one thing I observe way too frequently is people sinking their hips right down to the ground when they are in a plank position. This will not only put pressure on your lower back causing pain, but it also means that your core is not working to its full potential. Look in the mirror and make sure that your body is in a straight line and that your lower back is not resembling a breakfast dish AKA forming an inwards curve.
3. Imagine you are trying to fit into a pair of pants 2 sizes too small
To avoid your hips dropping down to the ground, it is important to draw your belly button in towards your spine. Not sure what I mean by that? Imagine that you are trying to fit into a really tight pair of pants or imagine that you are walking into an extremely cold ocean and the water is touching your stomach!
It is important to keep your belly button drawing in towards your spine as this helps to engage your abdominals and take pressure off your lower back. Think of your abdominals as bodyguards for your back. They help to protect it from injury!
4. Slide your shoulder blades into your back pockets
It is important not to tense your shoulders when you are planking as this can cause your back to change position and it can also cause neck, shoulder and wrist tension. Instead, pull your shoulders back and down. Think: trying to slide your shoulder blades into your back pockets OR that someone has pressed an ice pack into your upper back and it has caused you to stand upright!
5. Listen to your lower back
All too often, people plank incorrectly and it causes their back to hurt, which only means they are not doing it properly! Your lower back should never hurt when you do a plank so if it starts to hurt, simply lower back down, reset your posture and start again. Try holding it for less time or drop your knees down and get stronger in this position before progressing to lift your knees off the ground. Practice holding your plank for 10 seconds at a time and repeat x5-10.
Best of luck planking!
You can find out more about The Duo Pilates Method here.