What’s up Gronk Fitness!
If YOU can hold a regular plank for more than 30 seconds straight, then you are simply doing it wrong. You are NOT very critical of your posture and, as a result, you are not getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to the plank.
Regardless of how much weight you can lift with an ab pulldown, a weighted crunch or a deadlift, the plank will always be the true test of core strength for any lifter and non-lifter alike!
And that’s because the plank is literally a full body exercise that requires strength, stamina and most of all, stability across all joints. Sure you could plank like a banana and hold it for 5 or 10 minutes but is that really a true plank? And is this actually doing your body or your athletic performance any good?
So, to perform a plank 100% properly, you need to master its 6 individual components. You need to be able to think about these components while planking and execute them perfectly throughout your set and ONLY THEN can you start timing yourself and bragging about your achievements!
1. The Feet
There are many plank variations but for the standard version, the feet need to be close together. This will make it easier for you to activate your glutes and hamstrings. Your toes should be bent as much as possible so that the bottom of your feet (your arches) are vertical to the floor. Your feet and your hands are your contact points with the earth, which means you need to pay extra attention to both of these components.
2. The Hands
You guessed it! The second thing you need to be aware of when doing a plank is your hand positioning. Your hands need to be directly underneath your elbows which should be directly underneath your shoulders. This is known as joint stacking and helps you gain maximum stability during any lift or movement.
Now, to get more specific…Your palms! If you are doing your planks from your elbows, it’s time to graduate to doing them off your hands. Now, this is not a very natural or stable position for the wrist joint and can cause several wrist or forearm issues. This is exactly why we recommend using a pair of Push-Up Bars which will help you keep your wrists in-line and prevent discomfort and injuries.
Alternatively, you could use a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells if you don’t have a pair of Push-Up Bars available to you.
3. The Elbows
Your 3rd concern when performing a plank should be your elbows. More specifically, your elbows need to be rotated forward, pointing in front of you. Why? Well, this will help externally rotate your upper arm, which is the preferred position for your shoulder joints. Especially if you are struggling with shoulder pain, impingement or anything similar, doing the plank properly will help you combat that issue by strengthening the shoulder the right way.
4. The Shoulder Blades
If your shoulder blades are relaxed during a plank, then you are definitely doing it wrong. In fact, this might be one of the reasons why your shoulder blades are winging in your everyday life and during your lifting. It simply means you are not activating your serratus anterior muscle and your shoulder blade control is lousy.
To prevent scapular winging, all you need to do is press your body away from the floor. A great cue would be to try to reach your thoracic spine to the ceiling above you. In any case, you want your blades to be as far apart as possible and NOT retracted or relaxed.
5. The Pelvis
This is extremely important. Especially if you tend to have a huge anterior pelvic tilt, you really need to concentrate on tucking your pelvis under. This means you need to activate your glutes and flatten or even completely round your lower back so that your glutes and lower abs are firing. This will make the plank much harder than usual, but it’s also the proper way to do it, if you’re looking to gain any meaningful benefit from the exercise.
6. The Core
As soon as you nail down the previous component, which is to tuck your butt under, you will immediately feel your abs firing like never before. You do not have to squeeze your abs as much as humanly possible! You just need to activate your core enough so that your spine remains stable throughout the duration of your plank.
Advanced Bonus Tip
If you really want to take your plank to the next level, try this on for size! What you need to do is “try” and “push” the floor towards your feet using your hands. Of course your hands are not going anywhere since they are gripping the floor but the sole intention of pushing your hands towards your feet will instantly activate your lats and your entire core to the max. This slight motion is very similar to the lat pushdown where you push the bar towards your body or even the deadlift when you are constantly pushing the barbell towards your legs to keep everything tight.
Get Your Mind Right
Now, if you can apply all these 6 components of the plank and hold them for more than 30 seconds while inhaling and exhaling normally, it means your body is truly strong and functional. If you find your body shaking during every breath you take, it simply means there is weakness that needs to be addressed. Fear not! It just means you have work ahead of you. Acknowledge it, accept it, put in the work and as always…get your mind right.