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How to Progress Your Plank

The plank -- holding yourself on your hands and toes as if you're about to do a pushup -- is one of the most effective body-weight exercises for strengthening the core, not to mention a great way to sculpt abs. It's so good for the body there are now workouts based around that movement, including the plank challenge.

However, the plank is only a great exercise when done correctly. Unfortunately a lot of people do the plank with poor technique, dumping pressure into the lower back rather than strengthening the abdominal muscles. Here are some of the most common mistakes:

Common planking mistakes

  1. Collapsing your lower back

Instead of compromising your lower back by dipping your butt, engage your core by imagining your belly button pulling in toward your spine. This will help keep your torso flat and, in turn, your spine safe.

If you want to get super technical, have a friend gently place a broomstick or yardstick on your back. The top of the stick should make contact with your head, and the bottom of the stick should rest between your buttocks.

The stick should also make contact right between your shoulder blades for proper alignment.

2.Reaching your butt to the sky

Planks aren’t supposed to look like Downward Dog.

To really get your core working the way it should in the plank position, keep your back flat enough so your abs feel engaged from top (right below your sternum) to bottom (directly below your belt). Just don’t dip your tush too far toward the floor.

3. Letting your head drop

While the focus may be on keeping your hips, butt, and back in the proper position, form isn’t just about your core and lower body in this move.

It’s important to think of your head and neck as an extension of your back. Keep your eyes on the floor, letting them rest about a foot in front of your hands, which will help keep your neck in a neutral position.

4. Forgetting to breathe

It’s human nature to hold your breath when you’re in a strenuous position. But denying yourself oxygen can bring on dizziness and nausea, which are unpleasant at best and dangerous at worst.

5. Focusing too much on the stopwatch

Quality trumps the quantity of seconds ticking away. When your form begins to suffer, it’s time to call it quits. If your back starts to bow or your shoulders start to sink, take a break.


Click on the video below to learn about key technical points for the plank and how you can progress the plank, depending on where you are at:

Apologies for the not so good sound quality. You can also check out some progressions on our instagram page here

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