Learn to How to Plank the Right Way

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Introduction

Pilates Plank
Pilates Plank Pose / Front Support. photo: Lara Kolesar, courtesy of Peak Pilates

Introduction

Plank, or front support in Pilates, is a well-known exercise. It is one of the most popular exercises for developing core strength and stability.

 

While the Plank really targets the abdominals and shoulder stability, you will find that it is an excellent way to get a full body challenge. In order to do Plank properly there must be integration of all the core stabilization muscles. The arms, glutes, and legs are active as well.

The Plank can look like the up part of a regular push up. But, in most cases, a regular push up entails much more strain in the upper body -- especially in the shoulders and neck -- than plank in Pilates or yoga.

You may want to begin with a modified version of Plank and work up to the full version, especially if you are weak in the upper body or have neck strain issues. Please see the plank prep exercise.

You will know you're doing plank well when you have good form, feel your center working, and have good shoulder stabilization yet are not incredibly rigid.

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Full Pilates Plank Pose

Plank Pose / Front Support. See Modification Next Page. photo: Lara Kolesar, courtesy of Peak Pilates

Step 1: Preparation

Begin on your knees.

Place your hands on the floor in front of you, fingers pointing straight ahead. Your arms are straight and elbows are not locked. Keep the chest open and the upper back flat and wide. Hold your abdominals strong.  

Lean forward to shift your weight towards your hands. Align your shoulders directly over your wrists. If bearing weight on your hands causes wrist pain, use a wedge or pad to lift the heel of the hand enough to relieve pressure on the joint.


Step 2: The Extension

From the starting position on the knees, keep your abdominals lifted. Step one foot back and then the other to land on straight legs. Keep them held together and send energy through your heels.

Your toes are curled under so that some weight is on the balls of your feet.

Without tucking your tail under, activate your legs and heels bringing them together, emphasizing the center line. Similarly, activate but do not clench your gluteals (butt muscles) -- think of pulling your sit bones together.

Breathe deeply, allowing a regular inhale and exhale to propel you to the finish line.

Hold your position for five to ten breaths.

Take a break and repeat up to five times.

Reminders

  • Your body is in a straight line from the ears, through the shoulders and hips, and to the heels. Do not arch or sag.
     
  • Keep the abdominals lifted throughout this exercise. You want to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor as well.
     
  • Put some space between the base of your skull and your neck.
     
  • If you start to shake, release the pose, breathe, and start again.

    Ready for another challenge? Try plank on the ball.

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Pilates Plank Preparation

Plank Preparation
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Plank pose is well-known for its challenge to the core and stabilizing muscles. One of the great benefits of developing these muscles is that they support rest of the body. Plank will benefit you most, and keep stress out of your neck and back, if you build up to doing the full version by securing the stabilizer muscles first.

In this prep exercise for plank, you will get a good sense of how to engage your core and stabilize your shoulders to support the pose.

  1. Begin on your knees and walk your hands out on the floor, allowing your legs to stretch out behind you. Place your forearms, parallel to each other, on the floor. Or if you prefer angle your forearms inward to create more of a triangle. Many people find that making a fist with the hands is helpful. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.
  2. Lift your belly up away from the floor as you extend your spine so that it's very long. It is important that you keep pressure out of you lower back by pulling up the lower abs.
  3. Anchor your hip bones to the floor, and allow your tailbone to move down toward the floor as well. This move will create more length in spine and protect your lower back. If this is easy, gradually step one foot back and then the other balancing on your feet.
  4. Keep your shoulder blades and collarbone broad, and make sure that your shoulders are away from your ears.
  5. Your neck is a long extension of your spine, so keep your head in one line directly in line with your spine. your 
  6. Breathe fully as you hold the pose for  10 breaths or 30 seconds. Build up to 2 minutes with steady practice.

If your weight is starting to drop into your shoulders and arms, release, rest, and try again.

All you need is an exercise mat.

Edited by Alycea Ungaro

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