Published on November 22, 2022

basic plank position

One Great Exercise: Planks

The plank works almost all the body’s muscles, from your back to belly, and can help improve posture as it strengthens various areas.

You’ll work your back, neck, chest, shoulders and abdominal muscles when doing planks, and you can use just the weight of your own body — no equipment is needed. Planks can be done by anyone no matter your fitness level.

Other benefits:

  • Improves the strength of the skeletal system, as well as focus and concentration
  • Helps you breathe properly, and studies show it helps with back pain
  • Improves flexibility, abdominal strength and mood

How to Do a Plank

For the basic plank, arrange yourself like you are going to do a pushup.

  1. Rise to the top of this position, and hold it for 30 seconds to start. Over time, you’ll want to hold it for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Keep your elbows directly under shoulders.
  3. Line your wrists up with your elbows; push your body up.

correct form for basic plank

Tips for Beginners or Aging People

You can do the basic plank position but hold the weight of your legs on your knees. Remember the keys to the position, which include:

  • Wrists remain under shoulders
  • Knees slightly beyond hips
  • Your back should be flat, with your feet on floor

correct form for kneeling plank

People with weak wrists can try the forearm plank. Follow the exercise guidelines, but position yourself on forearms instead of your hands.

People who have trouble getting onto or off the floor can do a wall plank. Here’s how:

  • Stand facing the wall with your forearms against the wall.
  • Keep your feet several inches away from the wall.
  • Keep your back flat and hips down.
  • Stabilize with your core muscles and hold it for a duration that feels comfortable.

Tips for More Advanced Variations

There are many variations of a plank. You can start with the standard position, and then add:

  • Alternating leg raises, lifting your foot up, while keeping one foot and both hands down.

correct form for leg lift plank

  • Bring your knee up, tucking it into your chest; this really helps engage abdominal muscles.
  • Continue the plank while trying to tap your right shoulder, and then your left one.

correct form for shoulder tap planks

  • Hold the position and rock your body left to right, or toward your head and then toward your feet.

All variations will improve overall body strength, with a keen focus on the abdomen’s muscles.

By Karri Stearns, Group Exercise Coordinator and an aquatics/land/Pilates personal trainer at Avera McKennan Fitness Center


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