Core work done flat on your back is out; core work where 360 degrees of your core can be accessed is in. Plank is the new situp.
Plank is an empowering position where your core can be fully accessed and utilized; a position in which gravity and your own body weight can be your best friends. Instead of cranking on your neck and upper back as in a situp, Plank can teach you how to hold up your own body weight by using your core and working from the inside out.
Plank is a challenging pose, but for many for the wrong reasons. As a fitness professional, I often hear things like “My wrists hurt,” “My lower back aches,” “I can’t hold this very long,” or I see questionable — if even effective — variations of Plank, mainly because students often lack the true understanding of how to use their bodies in a pose like Plank to build strength and effectiveness.
Improve your Plankasana
To improve your Plank Pose, consider a deeper understanding of your core region. For starters, work to locate and get comfortable contracting your pelvic floor. Everything feeds into the pelvic floor and the rectus abdominus muscle is not exempt. Working with your exhales and toning the pelvic floor like it’s being pulled up toward the base of the head is a great image to keep while holding plank.
As you get more comfortable with a deep pelvic floor contraction, focus on the deep transversus wrapping around the torso and the rectus abdominus muscle that covers your front belly. These two large core muscles work to support the torso and body in a pose like Plank. When contracted properly, they help to more evenly distribute the weight of the rest of the body for less wrist and lower back pain.
How to practice Plank Pose
- Begin in Table Top Pose.
- Check that your hands are under your shoulders, with the “eyes” of your elbows forward and fingers forward, spread wide.
- Before stepping back into Plank. Activate the deep muscles of the pelvic floor, feeling as though they are being drawn internally toward the crown of your head.
- Exhale. Step back one foot at a time, without moving or shifting your body backward or your hips upward.
- Coming off your knees, align your body into one long line.
- Keeping your neck long, let your eye line drop to the floor between your hands.
- Exhaling, actively press your quadriceps upward into the hamstrings while engaging your inner thighs; activate your abdominals toward your spine, against gravity. Finally, allow your tailbone to drop slightly (due to the strength of the core), instead of turning up.
- Inhale. Press up through your arms and down through every finger and your palms to push out of your shoulder and broaden your upper back. Note: Avoid winging in the scapula and over-rounding in the mid-spine.
- Extend from the heels of your feet to the crown of your head.
- Hold this pose for five breaths to one minute.
- Exhale. Release to your knees and drop back to your heels.
No matter where you are starting from, Plank is a powerful core-strengthening pose and one that can and should be incorporated into everyone’s fitness routine.