How to plank correctly

& what to do if you’re not quite there yet!

The plank is an extremely effective isometric exercise that primarily targets the muscles in your back (erector spinae) and abdominals (rectus abdominis, transversus abdominus). When performed properly, a plank will also target secondary muscles in your shoulders and chest as well as your quads and glutes. The plank is one of the best exercises for building overall strength and endurance in the core.

The pictures and information shown below represent how best to plank upon a Reformer but can certainly be applied to a mat.
Remember that when you are planking on the Reformer the lighter the spring, the harder as you are far less stable. Follow the steps below to ensure you’re using proper form while performing a plank. Good form is essential to your workout routine not only because it makes the exercise more effective, but because it will help you avoid injury, too.

Types of planks

Planking from your hands:

1. Plant the hands directly under the shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width apart) like
you’re about to do a push-up.

2. Ground the toes into the floor and squeeze the glutes to stabilize the body. Your legs
should be working in the move too; careful not to lock or hyperextend your knees.

3. Neutralize the neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond the
hands. Your head should be in line with your back.

4. Hold the position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your
plank for as long as possible without compromising form or breath.

Planking from your forearms :

This variation, also one of the most common ways to perform a plank, is slightly easier than holding the body up with just the hands. Place the forearms on the ground with the elbows aligned below the shoulders, and arms parallel to the body at about shoulder-width distance. If flat palms bother your wrists, clasp your hands together.

Planking from your knees:
This plank is noticeably easier to hold than the traditional straight-arm plank, making it great for beginners because it allows them to concentrate on form. By resting the knees on the ground, there’s less stress on the lower back. Rest your knees on a rolled up mat or towel if they feel uncomfortable on the floor.

** Reformer regression of a plank = Reverse Knee stretch**

Top 5 planking mistakes (and how to fix them)

The Mistake: Collapsing the lower back.

The Fix: Instead of compromising the lower back by dipping the bum, engage the core by imagining your belly button pulling in toward the spine. This will help keep the torso flat, and in turn, the 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 the head, and the bottom of the stick should rest between the buttocks. The stick should also make contact right between the shoulder blades for proper alignment.

The Mistake: Reaching the butt to the sky.

The Fix: Planks aren’t supposed to look like a downward dog. To really get the core working the way it should in the plank position, keep your back flat enough so your abs feel engaged from top (right below the sternum) to bottom (directly below the belt). Just don’t dip the tush too far toward the ground.

The Mistake: Letting the Head drop

The Fix: While the focus may be on keeping the hips, butt, and back in the proper position,
form isn’t only about the core and the lower body in this move. It’s important to think of the
head and neck as an extension of your back. Keep your eyes on the floor, letting them rest
about a foot in front of the hands, which will help keep the neck in a neutral position.

The Mistake: Forgetting to breathe.

The Fix: It’s human nature to hold your breath when in a strenuous position for a period of
time. But denying yourself oxygen can bring on dizziness or nausea, which are unpleasant at
best and dangerous at worst.

The Mistake: Focusing too much on the stopwatch.

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