How to Do Plank Pose

Plank Pose
Ben Goldstein

Type of Pose: Arm balance

Benefits: Strengthens the arms, back, and core. Prepares you for more advanced arm balances.

Are you surprised that we're calling plank an arm balance? It may be a little bit of a stretch since your feet are still on the floor, but since your arms are bearing most of your weight it does make sense. As in most arm balances, arm strength is something of a factor here but it's really all about core strength.

All those deep abdominal muscles are what give you the control to do balancing postures. And doing plank (correctly) is a great way to build them. Next stop, crow pose!

To get the most out of plank, you need to use your abs to support your body's midsection, keeping that straight line of energy from the crown of your head to your heels. Increasing your hold time in plank is another good way to build strength. When you're practicing on your own, challenge yourself to see how long you can stay in plank before your pose starts to lose integrity. Then work to slowly increase that hold time. In class, you can skip a few chaturangas in order to hold plank though the length of the class's vinyasa. I started doing this when I had a sore shoulder and I soon saw improvement in my strength in plank.

Instructions:

1. From downward facing dog, bring your hips forward until your shoulders are over your wrists and your whole body is in one straight line from the top of your head to your heels.

This is very similar to the position you would take if you were about to do a push-up. 

2. Make sure your hips are neither drooping toward the floor nor hiked up toward the ceiling.

3. Spread your fingers and press the firmly down into your fingertips and palms.

4. Don't lock your elbows. A little microbend is the way to go because it's safer for your joints and strengthens all the little support muscles around them.

5. Press back through your heels.

6. Move your shoulders away from your ears.

7. Keep your neck in line with your spine (neither cracked up nor dropping down) and your gaze at the floor.

Beginners' Tips:

1. Move back and forth between down dog and plank without moving your hands or feet. The distance between your hands and feet should be the same in both poses. If you find that yo have to move them, it probably means your downward dog is a little too short. 

2. Pay close attention to the position of your hips. Do not stick your butt in the air or let it sag towards the floor.  If you can't tell, exaggerate in both directions so you can feel what its like in the middle. A glance in the mirror occasionally also can help.

Advanced Tips:

1. Hold the pose for up to 10 deeps breaths, which takes about a minute.

2. For an extra challenge, try lifting one foot off the floor at a time for a three-legged plank.

3. Check out these plank variations.

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