Here’s the Right Way to Do a Plank

Finally, planks also help improve your posture, since you have to be very aware of your body’s positioning during the move. When you do a plank with proper form, you focus on keeping your shoulders down and back, Dorworth says.

“It really works that mind-muscle connection to hold your body still in an isometric position,” she says.

What’s the right way to do a plank?

To make the most out of the forearm plank, it’s really important that you take the time to learn how to do a plank properly. This will ensure that you’re working the muscles you want to be working—again, your core muscles, shoulder stabilizers, glutes, and even your quads—and not overstressing other muscles, says Dorworth.

First, on an exercise mat or yoga mat, position your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your forearms on the ground. Many people keep their hands in fists, but some flatten them out on the ground—either way is fine. Then you’re going to pop up on your toes, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe, says Dorworth.

Make sure you’re engaging your core—think of pulling your belly button up to the ceiling—firing your glutes and quads, and focusing on keeping the weight distributed evenly throughout your body.

Once you’re up, there are some important cues you should keep in mind: For one, you should keep your eyes down on the ground—look at a spot between your hands. This will stop you from cranking your neck up.

“This means that your spine can remain in a neutral, normal alignment,” Dorworth says.

Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades back and together (you want them to adduct, or come together toward the midline of your body, rather than abduct, or pull away). This will prevent your shoulders or upper back from rounding—one of the top plank mistakes Dorworth sees with clients. If you tend to do this, you may feel the plank more in your shoulders than spread evenly throughout your body.

You also want to make sure your hips stay level. People tend to hike up their hips or stick their butt out, almost like they’re setting out to do a Downward Dog yoga pose. “It’s usually because they don’t have the core strength yet to control that neutral position,” says Dorworth. (If that’s the case, focus on pulling your belly button up, which can help cue your hips into more of a posterior pelvic tilt.)

And, finally, breathe. People tend to hold their breath when they’re performing an isometric contraction, but you want to make sure you’re taking deep, regular breaths while you’re doing a plank, she says.

Got all that down? If so, here’s what it should look like:

Katie Thompson

How can you make a plank easier—or harder?

One reason a plank is such a versatile exercise is because there are a number of plank progressions and regressions that can make it harder or easier.

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