Do you remember your first plank you were asked to hold? Did it feel like the seconds were minutes and that someone had lit a fire under muscles in your stomach that you never knew you had? Well if you dread the plank or are having a difficult time maintaining good form here are a couple methods to use to improve your experience.
Do you ever get pain in your lower back? Set up is key!
When preparing to plank it is important to remember the focus of the exercise is preventing hyperextension of the lower back. That being said, engaging the muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvis properly before even lifting off of the table is crucial in preventing any excessive motion in the lower spine. One strategy is utilizing the Posterior Pelvic Tilt. This exercise will teach you how to build tension in your lower abdomen and create a “flat back” to help aid in any drooping or arching of the lower back when in the prone position.
Supine Posterior Pelvic Tilt with Ball Squeeze
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a ball between your knees and squeeze. Slowly bend your low back and tilt your pelvis towards the floor. Return to start position.
Do you feel more pressure in your shoulders than your stomach?
Improper alignment of the shoulders over the elbows can cause abnormal strain on the individual’s tendons and ligaments of the shoulder joint leading to possible injury. It is just as important to ensure to keep the weight of your torso from sinking to the ground as well as shifting forward during the plank. This can again place a shearing force across the joint line of the shoulder and needs to be avoided. One exercise that can help is the Scapular Push Up on a Table.
Plank on Table with Scapular Protraction Retraction
Place both hands on the edge of a table and step your feet back into a plank position. Slowly round your upper back, pulling your shoulder blades apart. Next, lower your back down, squeezing your shoulder blades apart.
Remember to breathe!
How often do we tend to hold our breath when performing strenuous exercise? This sometimes can hurt you more than help you. In our case with the plank, a deep exhale through pressed lips can help tighten your core just before you lift up and continue to hold the ribs down to prevent hyperextension at the back during the hold. Quadruped Diaphragmatic Breathing drills can help you establish a good spinal position as well as core contraction just from breathing!
Quadruped Diaphragmatic Breathing
Begin on all fours. Breathe in, pushing your abdomen down, then exhale and repeat. Make sure there is no movement in your chest or shoulders as you breathe.
Plank with Elbows on Table --> Plank on Knees --> Standard Plank
Plank with Elbows on Table
Plank on Knees
Blog post by Craig Moody.