Planking is one of the most common exercises people perform. The benefits are numerous, and it can be done anywhere! However, unless you have someone helping you adjust your form or you can see yourself in the mirror, it's tough to know if you are doing it correctly.
Often times, our bodies begin to lose form as we add time or complexities to our planks. We end up NOT working our core, and in some circumstances, risking injury.
I encourage clients to start on their forearms rather than being on their hands. It's easier to perfect your form, and you are less likely to dip your back and drop your head.
When planking on your forearms, your elbows should be aligned below the shoulders and your arms parallel to the ground. Your arm positioning is slightly wider than shoulder width. You want your toes to be grounded into the floor and glutes engaged. Rather than looking down, look about 12 inches in front of you to help keep the spine and neck in a neutral position. (Looking down is what gets me every time - definitely something I'm always working on!)
If you are planking on your hands, make sure the hands are planted under the shoulders and are positioned slightly wider than shoulder width. As with the forearm plank, keep your spine and neck neutral by looking at a spot on the ground about a foot in front of you.
These are the three most common mistakes I see when clients are planking:
Raised Hips - Keep your body level, so your hips don't raise up into a "Downward Dog" position. Yes, it's harder when you keep your hips level, but it keeps the emphasis on your core. When possible, I look at myself in a mirror while planking, so I can see if my hips are level and my body is in a straight line. If you don't have a mirror to plank in front of, have someone take a picture of you while planking. Sometimes I do this if clients are having a hard time getting the feel for proper planking positioning.
Dipping the Back - As individuals plank for longer periods of time, their midsections sink toward the ground, which forms a dip in their backs. When planking, you want to be in a straight line from shoulders to feet- with level hips. Think about pulling your bellybutton into your spine and engaging those abs.
Clasped hands with hunched shoulders - As the plank gets more difficult, I see clients clasp their hands, round their backs and hunch their shoulders over their hands. Your shoulders and back are now doing much of the work - not your core. In these situations, I like to remind clients to step back to a position where they can maintain good form for the duration. Maybe its planking on their knees or being positioned on their forearms rather than their hands.
Planking is one of the best exercises to strengthen your core, test your endurance and even benchmark your workout progress. Have someone snap a picture of you while planking, so you can evaluate your form. I will admit that whenever I have photos taken of me, I can always find a tweak that I need to make to my form .