Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Perfect Plank in 10 Simple Steps

Plank pose is an amazing core exercise that prepares your body for advanced exercises, however many people cannot get past the barriers of wrist and/or low back pain. Below we are going to go over the steps for building a proper Plank. *If you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome please perform the Dolphin variation of Plank at the end of this post.

10 Steps to a Better Plank

1. Start in a quadruped position on the floor, shoulders directly above wrists

2. Middle fingers should face forward, fingers should be separated slightly with an L shape between the thumb and index finger

3. Step one foot back at a time to come into Plank, your body should be at a diagonal incline

4. Pull your shoulder blades apart and down in the direction of your hips

5. Keep your collarbone wide and gently pull chest forward

6. Press all points of your hand and all knuckles into floor (especially thumb and index finger knuckles)

7. Now rotate the inner part of your elbows to face forward- further drawing the shoulders down the back (keep the thumb and index finger knuckles pressing into the floor)

8. Pull your belly button up and in towards your spine
(this is crucial for protecting your lower back)

9. Reach your tailbone back towards your heels

10. Pull your heels back and the top of your head forward
like you are pulling two ends of a string in opposite directions.

There you have it- the perfect plank! You should hold this position for 5-10 breaths at a time gradually increasing strength.

If you still experience back discomfort revisit steps 8, 9 and 10 above, hold for fewer breaths and gradually increase as your core gets stronger.

If you still experience wrist discomfort try the following in succession until there is no discomfort. Once you find the modification that works for you practice it for awhile before challenging yourself with the more difficult variations.

1. Forearm stretch: Kneel, extend arm out palm up, opposite hand grabs fingers, pull straight fingers (no curl) towards the floor. Switch sides. Try Plank again emphasizing steps 6 and 7 above, if you still experience pain try step 2 below.

2. Roll up a mat until it is an inch or two high and place under the heel of the hand decreasing the angle of the wrist. If this does not solve the problem, stay off the wrist and perform Plank on the forearms (also known as Dolphin)

3. Dolphin: Come down onto forearms, elbows shoulder width apart, hands in gentle fists, shoulders blades apart and down the back, chest forward, belly button in, tail back, heels back, crown of the head forward.

Don't give up, Plank is a challenging exercise that has numerous benefits. In time it will become easier, so be patient and enjoy the ride!