What Is A Plank and Why Is It So Popular?
A plank is an effective and yet simple bodyweight exercise that can be done without any fancy gym equipment and in the comfort of your home.
The plank exercise is renowned for developing core-strength along with strengthening the superficial core muscles and deep abdominal muscles.(1) These muscles play a primary role in keeping the trunk or our core stable during any type of movement.(7) Core stability is very important in preventing injuries to the lower-body; especially in sports people and a plank does just that.(3, 4, 5)
Plank requires holding your body stiff yet in a light way, which leads to development of core strength, i.e. muscles which join the upper body with the lower body along with connecting arms, shoulders and glutes also.(6)
6 Common Plank Mistakes
Holding a plank in a good form and posture is very important, as a bad form during a plank causes a lot of harm to the body, such as causing lower back and shoulder pain.(3) Some of the common plank mistakes that many people do and should be avoided are:
Mistake #1: Sagging Lower Back(2)
Many people tend to dip their butt when holding the plank and this is a huge planking mistake, as this will put strain on your lower back.
To fix this plank mistake, one must always concentrate on the core and engage by sucking in the belly button towards the spine. Doing this will correct your saggy back, and maintain the torso and spine in a flat position, which is great when doing a plank, not to mention safe too.
Mistake #2: Protruding the Butt Upwards
Many people while doing the plank make the mistake of raising their butts as in Downward Dog position.
One way to fix this plank mistake is to perform it in front of the mirror and correct your butt posture. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your core so that your spine and back are in an even level.
Mistake #3: Letting Your Neck & Head Hang
While it is important to keep your spine, core and hips in proper alignment, many people ignore their neck and head position and let both hang loosely, which will lead to extreme strain on the neck.
For fixing this plank mistake, make sure that your eyes are focused on the floor just a foot above the hands, expand your shoulders and keep your palms flat on the ground; all this will help in achieving a good plank position and will also place your neck in a neutral position.
Mistake #4: Shifting the Body Weight Too Forwards or Backwards
This is yet another common plank mistake, which beginners especially tend to make when planking is keeping their weight very forwards or backwards. This shifting of weight in either direction is a way of compensating for a weak core. When you throw your upper body out of its natural alignment, then it does not engage your core and all the benefits of the plank are gone to waste. Some people also squeeze their shoulders excessively causing pain in that area. This common plank mistake will also cause back and neck pain.(3)
To fix this mistake, when you get into the plank position, assess where your elbows or hands are placed in relative to the shoulders. The correct way is to keep your shoulders directly above your hands. If you find holding the plank difficult without shifting the weight, then it is highly advisable to modify the plank by placing your hands on an incline and then holding the plank.
Mistake #5: Not Breathing or Holding Your Breath
Not only in plank, but in other types of workout it is commonly observed that one tends to hold their breath when exercising, which is a big NO-NO. This workout mistake leads to deprivation of oxygen resulting in nausea, dizziness and weakness.
To fix this mistake, always remind yourself to breathe slowly and evenly throughout any workout including holding a plank.
Mistake #6: Focusing on Duration of the Plank
It is far more important that the technique and posture of the plank are correct rather than holding the plank in the wrong position for longer durations.
While doing a plank, if you feel that your form starts to suffer and you feel that you cannot maintain the posture and your hips and back are sagging or head and shoulders are drooping, then it is time to end the plank. It is far more important that you do the plank in the correct manner/technique/position, even if it’s for 10 seconds, instead of doing it for 10 minutes in the wrong form.(2)