How to Perform a Proper Plank That Targets All Muscles

The plank is the smarter, more effective sister of the sit-up. According to Geralyn Coopersmith, VP of member services at Exos and former global director of performance and fitness training for Nike, less than 10 minutes of planking (properly) a few times a week flattens and develops the deep abdominals more effectively than a thousand crunches.

A proper plank is a test of muscle control as well. You shouldn't move an inch once you're in a plank (except to remember to breathe!). Planks are important for a svelte midsection on the outside, but they're also important for a strong core, a healthy spine, and a pain-free back on the inside. Coopersmith explains, "Strong abs keep your spine supported." "Think of planks as multitasking for your midsection."

How to Do a Plank


To get the most out of this versatile motion, you'll be able to complete a plank correctly and safely every time. You'll work your abs, shoulders, and triceps, as well as your glutes and quads, with a solid plank.

Getting the Upper Body in the Right Position

1. Firmly push your palms into the floor and press up from your foundation, broadening your shoulder blades as much as possible (this engages your upper back). Consider elevating your back of your neck toward the ceiling while maintaining your neck stretched forward (i.e., don't look down). Allowing your shoulders to compress or shrug up toward your ears is not a good idea.

Your arms should feel tense but not strained—not as though they're going to snap.

Legs and Feet

2. A plank will work your abdominal, but your legs should also feel the burn. If they don't, they'll push through your heels and into the floor with the balls of your feet. To activate the muscles in your lower body, engage your quadriceps (also known as thighs) and squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) together. Consider the muscles in your buttocks tightly wrapping around your sit bones.

3. While we're on the subject of gluteal, keep your booty down during a plank—not raised into the sky. A straight line, rather than a triangle, should appeal to your body.

Take a Deep Breath.

4. Don't forget to take a deep breath. Your lungs should not cease moving just because you're forcing your muscles to maintain tension. Remember to inhale and exhale in a rhythmic pattern throughout the plank. In fact, if you're not one to watch the clock—but are one to forget to breathe—timing your plank by breaths in and out can be a good idea. If you're just getting started, consider holding a plank for five breaths in and out before releasing.


5. Do you want to be sure your planks are in the right place? Consider balancing a glass of water on your lower back or rolling a ball from the nape of your neck to your heels without becoming stuck in a sunken valley (your deflated lower back). Are you just getting started? Only maintain a plank for as long as you can stay in this posture and perform it correctly. It's fine if it takes 10 seconds. Gradually increase your time to a minute or more. Anything's pointless to do it if you're not going to do it safely.

Try This Simple Plank Exercise

Press: With your back in a neutral position and your wrists positioned squarely under your shoulders, press your hands and knees to the floor. Look approximately a foot ahead of you. The back of your neck should be parallel to the ceiling and your nose should point toward the floor.

Extend: Extend your right leg back with your toes flexed, then link it with your left leg. Your hands and toes should now be fully supporting your body weight.

Tighten: Activate your abs to tighten your entire core, as if preparing for a strike to the gut—or trying to draw your navel up toward the ceiling. To engage your super-deep ab muscles, lift the pelvic floor (as if trying to stop the flow of urine).

Hold: Remember to breathe as you hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds.

Rest: Bring your knees to the floor, then sit back on your heels, toes touching and knees apart. Lower your torso to the tops of your thighs, with your forehead resting lightly on the ground. Your arms should be stretched out in front of you, straight but comfortable (this is also known as child's posture in yoga).

Repeat: Repeat the previous steps for a total of three planks. Try holding a plank for more than a minute as your strength improves and it becomes easier.

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