MUSCLES IT WORKS
Abdominals (Stomach), Low Back, Shoulders
HOW TO DO IT
Position yourself on the ground on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders. Lower your forearms to the ground, keeping them parallel to each other (as much as possible). Your elbows should be exactly where your hands were placed. Extend your feet one at time back behind you so your knees are off the ground. Position your feet about hip- or shoulder-width apart. Look on the floor slightly in front of you. Breathe as you hold this position for a set amount of time.
SETS & REPS
1 to 3 timed sets
WEIGHT OR RESISTANCE
None needed (body weight)
DON'T DO THIS MOVE IF
Don’t do this move or modify if you have shoulder or low-back problems. However, if done correctly and modified when needed, this exercise has benefits for just about anyone.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT
You will feel your core (abdominals and low back) and shoulders working during this exercise. To maintain correct form:
- Keep your gaze on the floor slightly in front of you so your head and neck stay in line with your back and hips. Do not look forward or drop the top of your head toward the ground.
- Push your forearms and hands into the ground to lift out of the shoulders. If you feel your shoulders scrunching toward your ears, drop your knees to the ground to modify the exercise.
- Hold your abdominals in strong, tuck your tailbone slightly, and keep your hips lifted slightly. If you feel your hips lifting higher than your shoulders or sinking lower than your shoulders, drop to your knees. If you're maintaining correct plank form your head, shoulders, back, hips, legs, and feet will form a straight line.
HOW TO MAKE IT EASIER
If you notice that your shoulders are scrunched toward your ears, your low back is sagging, or you feel discomfort or pain in your low back, do plank on your knees. If doing it on your knees, lower your knees to the floor directly below their position in full plank; do not bring your knees closer to your hips. In modified plank on your knees, lift your chest off the ground to about 45 degrees. If you're maintaining correct form, your upper body will form a straight line from head to knees.
You can also make this exercise easier by doing plank with your feet in a wider stance or in upper push-up position. If your feet are hip-width apart, consider walking them out to shoulder-width apart or wider. To do upper push-up position, instead of lowering your forearms to the ground, hold plank with your palms on the ground directly below your shoulders.
Finally, if upper push-up position bothers your hands or wrists, you can do this move while holding dumbbells in each hand. Place medium-weight (approximately 8-lb.) dumbbells on the ground directly below your shoulders. As you lift into plank position, hold on to the dumbbells with each hand (leaving them on the ground).
HOW TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF OR PROGRESS
If you are able to complete 60 seconds without fatigue, consider adding time and/or sets. To increase intensity without changing time or sets, try one of the following variations:
- Lift one foot off the ground no higher than your hips (repeat both sides) or walk your feet in to a narrower position.
- Instead of placing your forearms on the floor, place them on a stability ball. If using the ball, specifically focus on pushing your forearms into the ball and lifting through the shoulders to avoid scrunching your shoulders toward your ears.
- From a plank or upper push-up position, transfer your weight into your right arm and open your body to face the left side, moving into a side plank. Place your left arm on your left hip or extend it upward towards the ceiling. Repeat on the left side, facing to the right. Side plank can be done with your feet staggered (top foot in front of bottom foot) or stacked (one foot directly on top of the other foot; this is more challenging). If side plank is too difficult, lower the knee of the lower leg to the ground to modify.
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