January tends to be a month of resolving to be the best version of yourself...
...and plenty of people imagine this to include having less low back pain and a flatter and stronger core. The "plank" is a great tool for all of the above! One of my favorite aspects of it is the ability to progress or modify it depending on where you are in your conditioning journey, as well as the fact that it is truly accessible almost anywhere you can sprawl out. While planking is a strengthening stability exercise that largely targets the core, it also strengthens the entire body, unlike other core exercises such as a sit up or crunch. It also minimizes the risk of injury, whereas the sit up or crunch can cause more harm than good if done incorrectly. And there are so many ways to progress it that monotony is unlikely.
Ready to get started?
Use these cues to guide your plank practice. If you're doing this as part of a workout, warm up with a few minutes of cardio first. If you're just looking to fit some quick planking in on its own, that is fine, too. Imagine you are at the top of a push up. Place your palms on the ground under your shoulders, and keep a very soft bend in the elbows so they are not locked out. Imagine you are pushing your shoulder blades apart instead of letting your chest cave to the ground. Extend your legs back, hips width apart with your toes tucked under and knees straight. Pull your kneecaps up to engage your quads/thighs. Keep your back FLAT as if you are balancing a glass of water on your low back, making sure not to sag your hips down or point your bottom up. (if you can, enlist a helper to take a photo of you or tell you if your back is flat, otherwise check yourself in a mirror if you're able). Keep your neck in a neutral position, looking straight ahead at the ground. HOLD! If this is too much for you, modify below. If you're up for more of a challenge, progress below.
Keeping your hands and shoulders exactly where they are, drop your knees to the ground, so that they are behind your hips about a foot or so, keeping your spine in a straight line. Hold here.
If this is your first time planking, try holding the plank until fatigue before your form starts to falter, then rest for 30 seconds. Do this three times. You can plank daily!
Progressions: try one of all of the below:
1) Keeping your hips square and stationary, bend your right knee, tapping it to the ground, then return to straight legs. Repeat on the other side, alternating back and forth for 10 taps on each side. Repeat 3 times. 2) Keeping hips square, shift your weight into your right palm, bending left arm and tapping left hand to right shoulder. Return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side, alternating back and forth for 10 taps on each side. Repeat 3 times.
3) Keeping hips square and back flat and stable, shift weight into left palm lift right arm away from the body like you are forming a "t" on your right side. Return to starting position, and repeat on the other side, alternating back and forth for 10 lifts on each side. Repeat 3 times
Now you're planking!