Friday, December 13, 2013

FORM FRIDAYS – Perfect Your Plank

Perfect Your Plank With These 5 Tips!

Lauren Neal with Leslie Clarke

The plank is a popular exercise which helps to strengthen your core. We want you to perfect the basics! Once you’ve mastered them, there are an endless number of ways to make this seemingly simple exercise more challenging. Our Personal Training Director, Leslie, weighs in on these tips!

1.)    Shoulders Down & Back

Keeping your shoulders down and back can help you set up your plank properly. “Sometimes we’ll see rounding of the shoulders”, says Leslie, “this could indicate that more of their weight is being placed on the upper body area rather than evenly distributed between the upper and lower body “she adds. Think about pushing your elbows towards your toes to help anchor your shoulder blades down.

2.)    Keep A Neutral Spine

Keeping a nice neutral spine is essential for the plank. In the first picture, Leslie demonstrates someone who lets hyperextension get the best of her. The purpose of a plank is to develop anterior core strength by fighting hyperextension of the lumbar spine, and this doesn’t work if the spine starts to dip. To ensure you are keeping a neutral spine, think about bringing the bottom of your ribs down towards your pelvis and squeezing through your glutes. An easy form fix is using a dowel as a straight line to connect the back of your head, between the shoulder blades, and your lower back. If the dowel doesn't touch these 3 spots you know you need to fix your form!

3.)    No Downward Dogs

Let’s keep those downward dogs in yoga class! While there are benefits to a downward dog, the focus is different in the plank. In the second picture, Leslie demonstrates what a ‘plank-downward dog’ mix looks like. Keeping your butt down and that spine in neutral will help to target your core a lot more than if your butt is in the air.

4.)    Your Head Is Important Too

When keeping a neutral spine, don’t forget about your head! Don’t drop your head down. When you drop the head, you can place unneeded pressure between the cervical discs in the neck and this can also lead to protracted shoulder blades stressing the muscles of the rotator cuff.  Think about looking down at the ground keeping a straight line, as much as possible, from the top of your head, all the way down to your tailbone. Note: In the last picture Leslie’s neck could be lowered slightly to promote a more neutral neck position.

5.)    Don’t Hold That Breath

Sometimes when the body is under stress, we end up holding our breath. When you’re in the plank, think about taking nice steady breaths. Use your inhale to lengthen the body and use your exhale to activate the muscles involved. This will help you receive maximal results from your total body contraction!

Keep in mind, it is better to preform a proper plank for a short bouts rather than holding improper form! Start off holding a 10-15 sec plank and repeat this multiple times. Once you have perfect form, increase the time from there!

Now get your plank on! If you have any questions, feel free to ask one of our trainers at The Pulse! 


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