Want to work your abs and core correctly. Discover how long should I hold a plank for? Should I breathe when I plank? Finally discover what type of planks you should do with Back Pain and the common mistakes to avoid with the plank exercise.
We have covered how to sit up correctly but the plank is a great move that I recommend more than sit ups. Adding these into your routine can not only improve your abdominal appearance but can also improve your deeper core muscles to protect your spine.
The most important thing to remember is that it is not about doing a plank but doing it correctly. You need really good muscle control and need to be aware of your position when doing a plank properly. Once in the right position you will have to focus on not moving the trunk or core one inch (Except to keep breathing).
How to Do a Plank Correctly
You’ll be able to do a plank safely and correctly each time if you follow these simple steps. The key is to find a middle position with your lower back and then hold this position and not let the stomach drop towards the ground. A plank done correctly not only trains the abdominals but also the shoulders, legs and arms also.
Getting Into Position
1. There are two types of planks. Ones done with your palms on the ground are called high planks and ones with the elbows are low planks. For both start with the point of contact (elbows or hands) directly under the shoulders. Try keep your neck in a line with your body and not hunched down.
2. Doing a plank focuses mainly on the abs but your legs will also need to contract slightly. Again you have options with the plank here. I recommend to start with your knees on the ground and get good with this before moving to your feet. When on your feet stay on the balls of your feet not pushing the heels back .
3. This of course is the most crucial element. Arch your back and then try round your lower back. Even if doing a full plank from your feet do this from your knees. Get the middle position, known as a neutral spine. Once you have the middle. Lift the belly button up towards your spine but do not change your back position. The BackAware Belt is a great tool here as it shows you your back position so you will know you have not moved your back position.
4. Don’t forget to breathe. The diaphragm is part of the core so to improve core stability long term it is important to be able to breathe. If you cannot breathe during a full plank move back to on your knees.
Common Mistakes with the Plank
5. The key thing to remember is to keep the stomach away from the ground. Too often people arch at their backs and this means the core and abdominals will not be working but actually be tightening the hip flexors at the front.
How long do I hold the plank?
This is a common mistake I see a lot. Only hold the plank for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. Go back down and reset. Move the back and get back into the correct position with a 5 second break and then repeat 6 times. With the BackAware Belt if you see that your form is failing then stop for longer. Shorter holds with very short breaks trains the core muscles in the way they are supposed to be used and so will provide not only better results aesthetically but will develop a healthier back.
Alternatives to the Plank for people with Back Pain
If that move is too hard then try the Bird-Dog or Superman. This exercise is shown in this video. Start in all 4s with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and knees directly underneath your hips. Again this starts by arching and rounding your back and then finding the middle position. Again, you lift your stomach without changing your back position. Lift your right arm and left leg and hold for 5 seconds and then change. Make sure not to lift the leg too high.