Sweat Often Workout Tips

How to Do a Perfect Plank

By Robin Barrie Kaiden

By Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN, NLC

With years of experience as a fitness professional, I’ve learned the most from my mistakes (and injuries), and I cannot stress this enough: Proper form is imperative to meet goals and prevent injury while working out! You can read more about my story and approach, here. 

Now, I hope you can learn from me, as I bring you video tutorials over the next few weeks teaching you how to execute proper form for the common exercises, like push-ups and squats. You can use your new skills to work out on your own at home or at the gym, or walk into a group workout class with body knowledge that will put you so far ahead.

A plank is a great exercise for working on core strength, posture, and balance.

The main muscles used are in your abdomen: the rectus and transverse abdominal muscles, and your erector spinae.

While you are in this isometric hold, your obliques, hip flexors, serratus anterior, quadriceps, glutes, back (traps and rhomboids), shoulders (deltoids), and chest muscles are also working as stabilizers.

RELATED: 3 Effective Pilates Exercise for Core Strength

So as you can see, it is a great full-body exercise. Here is my recommended set-up.

How to Do a Perfect Plank

  1. Lower yourself down to the floor or a mat in a prone position.
  2. Make sure your feet are together.
  3. Keep your elbows right under your shoulders.
  4. Engage the glutes, and come up onto your toes.
  5. Lift your hips up.
  6. Think about actively driving your elbows toward your toes and keeping your body in one long, straight line.

If you feel too weak and cannot keep your form correct while performing a plank on the floor (i.e. your mid-section is drooping towards the floor), you can modify this exercise. I don’t suggest dropping to your knees, because doing so removes the work from the bottom half of your body, and you will only be using upper body strength. By keeping the torso long and placing it on an incline, you can still focus on core strength, but the exercise becomes easier. You can use a wall, (ballet) bar, workout bench, park bench, or a barbell to perform a modified plank.

RELATED: Are Your Workouts Too Intense?

Remember:  It’s better for your body to plank with proper form for a shorter time than to hold an improper plank for too long and risk injury. Many workouts or exercise classes use plank variations. Planks can be on your hands or on your side. They can get fancy (and more challenging) by asking you pulse, lift hands and feet, or use props like a ball. I only recommend doing those more advanced version of a plank if:

  1. You can perform a basic plank properly.
  2. You feel comfortable enough and safe during these exercises. A challenge (and a shaking abdomen) is okay, but too much discomfort or pain is not.

Happy planking!

More Perfect Form with Robin Barrie Kaiden:

How to Do a Push-Up
Why Form Matters

(Image: Robin Barrie Kaiden)

  • Interested in joining our wellness community and becoming a Nutritious Life Master Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach? Enter your info, get free access now to a sample class!

    I would like to receive text messages, and agree to the Terms of Service & Privacy Policy. Reply STOP to cancel, HELP for help. Msg & data rates may apply. Msg frequency varies.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

you might also like