Published in Jun 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
A lot of people seem to have a strong love-hate relationship with the plank workout.
On the one hand, there are reports that the plank could be devastating for your back. On the other, you’ve got to love this workout because you don’t need any equipment to do it.
In short, you can do the plank practically anywhere and enjoy the immense physical benefits it can offer.
The benefit of doing this workout is that it will strengthen your core, shoulders, arms, and glutes. Of course, it is worth mentioning that you can do planks practically anywhere.
Today, we will see how you can do the perfect plank. Essentially, a perfect plank needs you to maintain a perfectly straight line, but this is easier said than done.
So, here’s is how to do it right.
1. Standard Plank
If you already know how to do a plank, chances are that you have tried the standard plank. Here’s how to do the perfect standard plank.
First of all, lie on the ground with your belly and put your hands right under your shoulders as you would when about to do a push-up.
With your toes to the floor, squeeze your glutes to firm up your body, but don’t lock or overextend your knees. Lift yourself from the floor until your arms are straight.
Also make sure your head is aligned with your back so you look at a spot on the floor about a foot from your hands.
2. Forearm Plank
This plank is a little easier to execute. You should put your forearms on the floor with the elbows aligned below the shoulders.
Your arms should be parallel to your body at a distance about as wide as you shoulders.
3. Knee Plank
In comparison to the standard plank, this variant is much easier to perform. That’s why it’s highly recommended for beginners who struggle with the standard plank.
With your knees on the floor, there will be less pressure on your lower back. You can even use a mat to make your knees more comfortable as you perform this plank.
4. Side Plank
If you are on a special mission to engage your obliques (the muscles at the sides of your core), then a side plank is even preferable to a standard plank. You might also think of this plank as a classic yoga pose.
Basically, you should lie on your side with one leg on top of the other. After that, you should lift your body using your hand with your feet either stacked, crossed over for extra support, or even raised for a better workout challenge, as shown below.
5. One Leg Plank
This plank is perfect when you want a little more pressure on your core. You start off with a standard plank pose, and then you lift one leg up while keeping your hips parallel to the floor.
After a couple of reps, you should alternate your legs.
6. Medicine-ball Plank
This is an especially intense workout. Since you will be placing your hand on an unsteady ball, a balancing aspect will be added to the workout, making it a little more challenging.
If the above information doesn't help you do the perfect plank, here are a few more tips that might be of help.
It is important to control the position of your back, head, butt, and many other factors to make the most of this deceptively simple yet incredibly effective workout.
1. Positioning Your Lower Back
You should not dip your butt, as that can hurt your lower back. The whole purpose of this workout is to ensure you engage your core to keep your torso flat and your spine safe.
So, your core, and not your back, should do most of the work.
2. Positioning Your Butt
When your butt is too low, the plank can be dangerous for your lower back, but when it’s too high, you will not benefit your core as your abs won’t be engaged during the workout.
Your butt should be in a straight light with the rest of the body.
3. Positioning Your Head
Although there should be a lot of focus on keeping your butt and back in the right position, you should consider your head an extension of your back to make this workout effective.
There is no specific period for which you should hold a plank. You should go with what feels comfortable for you.
Basically, a plank shouldn’t last longer than you can maintain perfect form. Some people can plank for hours, while others can only hold it for minutes.
You can also try to plank for 30 seconds at a time when starting out and increase this duration over time.
When in an awkward position, it’s natural to hold your breath. However, as you do planks, if you hold your breath, you will start feeling dizzy and nauseated.
So, you should work on your breathing and ensure you are comfortable and breathing properly as you workout.
6. Know When To Stop
It’s more important to do an effective and safe workout than trying to beat some record. So, if you start to strain too much, take a break until you are ready to go again.
Usually, when you get too tired when doing a plank, you start slanting your head, which can strain your neck. So, as soon as you can’t keep your body straight, stop.
Otherwise, struggling to do a sloppy plank can harm your back without giving you any of the intended health benefits.
What’s The Big Deal With Having A Stronger Core?
You might be wondering why you should even do planks or any other core strengthening exercises.
First of all, the muscles in your core help you turn right and left. However, what’s more important, is that strong core muscles can resist pressure to your back and protect your spine.
Although planks are most beneficial to the core, they offer a great all-round workout.
They will exercise many muscles in your body, and you should notice a substantial difference in your overall fitness after doing these workouts, especially when engaging in things like cycling and running.
Unfortunately, lately, planks have been getting a lot of bad publicity with claims that they can damage the spine. Some people also think they are boring to do.
However, if you know how to do a perfect plank, you will not worry about how boring it is once you see the fantastic fitness results it can offer you.
A perfect plank also puts most of the focus on the core and not the back. So, the perfect plank won't harm your back.