How should I do the plank exercise?

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Wendy Batts
Fitness
People often feel when performing a plank that the longer you hold the exercise at the top, the better it is. This is not entirely true. When performing a plank, your form is the most important factor, and then the amount of time you stay in the top position should come next. Start off by holding each rep for 1-3 seconds for 15 reps and then begin to work your way up to a longer period of time (with fewer reps).  

Here is the proper positon to maintain: Begin by lying on your stomach with your feet shoulder-width apart and forearms placed on the ground. Make sure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your head is in a neutral position. Next, draw in your abs toward your spine and contract your glutes (making sure that your feet and heels do not touch each other). From this position, lift your entire body off of the floor until your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Hold the top position for a few seconds making sure you are keeping your glutes and abs contracted. Perform this exercise for the desired number of sets and repetitions.
 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The plank is great for strengthening and toning. In this video, Dr. Oz demonstrates how to do the perfect plank and why it’s his favorite all around core exercise.
Basic Plank Pointers

Keep feet hip-width apart. Make it easier: Spread legs slightly wider.

Place wrists directly beneath shoulders with elbows soft, fingers pointed forward.

Be sure shoulders are pressed down and relaxed—no shrugging!

Form a straight line with back from head to heels. Remind yourself: Flat's where it's at!

Head aligns with spine, and neck is long. Focus a few inches in front of hands to adjust your position naturally.

The plank exercise is also called the Prone iso-abs exercise and is designed to enhance core strength and spinal stabilization. To perform this exercise follow these steps:  

1. Lie prone (face down) on the floor with feet together and forearms on the ground.

2. Lift entire body off of the ground until it forms a straight line from head to toe, with only the toes and forearms on the ground.

3. Hold for desired length of time, keeping the chin tucked and back flat.

4. Return to the starting position, and repeat as instructed.

For the plank exercise:
  • Start by lying on your stomach with your feet together and your forearms on the ground.
  • Keep your elbows directly under your shoulders, draw-in your belly button and contract your glutes.
  • Lift your body up off the floor until your head, back and hips are in a straight line.
  • Hold this position for 15-30 seconds if you’re just starting out or longer if you’re more advanced.

 

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Here's how to do the plank exercise:
1. Lie down on your stomach and brace the core muscles.

2. Raise your body up on your toes and elbows.

3. Lower your buttocks down until level with your shoulders. Squeeze your navel toward your spine. This is the key to this exercise and really works the core. Make sure your buttocks are not sticking up.

4. Hold for 30 seconds and increase the hold to two minutes as you improve. Alternatively, you can hold for ten seconds and repeat ten times.

Note that the plank can be modified from toes to knees. If you find it difficult to do the plank while resting on your toes (as you may if your upper body strength is not enough to hold you up), you can still work your core by balancing on your knees instead of your toes. When your core and upper body strength increase, you can return to doing the plank while resting on your toes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.