The mistake you’re (probably) making every time you do a plank – and how to fix it

Stop wasting your time.

The mistake you’re (probably) making every time you do a plank – and how to fix it
Woman doing plank
Think like a board, be a board (Picture: Getty Images)

I think we can all agree that ab workouts, no matter how simple, are the bane of our existence.

But what if we told you that you are wasting your time by performing one of the fundamental core exercises incorrectly?

Of course we’re talking about the humble (read: evil) plank, without which no real ab workout is complete. 

So, what are the real benefits of planking?

Strengthening your core is about more than getting washboard abs – it’s about being able to move better, improve your posture, and reduce back and neck pain. 

Studies have found that planks in particular can help to lower blood pressure as well as improve muscle strength, endurance and flexibility. 

‘A plank is an easy full body exercise; despite being an ab workout, the plank activates various muscles in the body and with enough consistency you’ll feel the effect all over,’ Lauren Adams, a personal trainer and coach at Fighting Fit Manchester, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Planking improves posture, balance and coordination, spinal health, upper, lower body and abdominal strength and enhances muscular endurance and functional fitness.’

The most common mistake made while planking — and how to fix it

All of these benefits, however, may be mitigated if you’re not performing the exercise correctly — and, unfortunately, mistakes are pretty common.

The most common mistake people make while performing a plank is arching their lower back.

This takes all the emphasis off your abs and places it on your lower back… ouch.

‘When arching you’re not using or working your core at all and this will put strain on your lower back,’ says Lauren. 

So how do you fix it?

It’s all about trying to stay as straight as possible and engaging your core as much as you can by drawing your belly button in and squeezing your glutes.

‘Make sure your shoulders are wide and that your palms are also wide on the floor straight out in front of you,’ says Lauren.

‘By widening the shoulders, the weight is taken off the upper body and you’re better able to engage the core muscles that need to be working.

‘On top of that, keep your hips in line with your shoulders by lifting your thighs away from the floor, drawing your belly button towards your spine and squeezing your glutes.

‘Aim for a neutral spine — a straight line from the head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.’

How to perform a plank correctly:

1. Starting on your hands and knees, place your hands directly under your shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

2. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows aligned below your shoulders and arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width. If keeping your palms flat bothers your wrists, clasp your hands together.

3. Step your feet back until your body makes a line from shoulders to heels.

4. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilise your body – your legs should be working too, but avoid locking or hyperextending your knees.

5. Neutralise your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands — your head should be in line with your back.

6. Hold the position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising your form or breath.

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