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.
So as you can see, it is a great full-body exercise. Here is my recommended set-up.
How to Do a Perfect Plank
- Lower yourself down to the floor or a mat in a prone position.
- Make sure your feet are together.
- Keep your elbows right under your shoulders.
- Engage the glutes, and come up onto your toes.
- Lift your hips up.
- 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.
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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:
- You can perform a basic plank properly.
- 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.
More Perfect Form with Robin Barrie Kaiden:
Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN, CSSD, Nutritious Life Certified, is renowned for helping people of all ages embrace a healthier lifestyle through nutrition and fitness counseling. As a licensed registered dietitian and personal trainer, her smart and sensible approach to pediatrics, weight loss, sports nutrition, allergies, cardiovascular health, pre/post natal, and other areas of clinical and lifestyle nutrition has resonated with hundreds of people across the United States. In addition to her private Manhattan and Westport, CT-based practice for adults, children, and families, she maintains a national presence as a blogger, columnist, guest speaker, and consultant. A recognized expert on healthy eating, Robin is a trusted resource for print, television, and online media. She appears regularly in various news, lifestyle, and entertainment stories for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Parenting, Golf Fitness, Vogue, People.com, Forbes.com, and other media outlets. Robin received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Nutrition and Exercise Science from Cornell and Columbia Universities. For more information, visit www.robinbarrie.com.