3 mistakes you are making in your plank

There aren’t many gym bunnies out there that aren’t partial to a little abdominal finisher at the end of a session. One of the most popular ab exercises in the gym is the plank.

Planks are done in classes, in personal training sessions, on the gym mats and there was even a brief planking craze where people were taking pictures of themselves planking in random places. Despite their popularity I rarely see them done properly and worryingly when done badly they can cause damage.

The plank is an important exercise to get right as it forms a strong basis to perform all other prone (face down) exercises safely and effectively e.g. Press ups or jacknives.

Planking Mistake Number 1: The Hip Drop

The hip drop can be recognised by the height of the hip joints dropping below the height of the shoulders. This happens when the abdominal muscles become too tired to hold the hips up and the hips drop until they are caught by the hip flexor muscles. As hip flexor muscles are commonly tight in individuals that spend most of the day seated it is not generally wise to overload them in training. In some cases hypertonic (tight and overactive) hip flexors can contribute to lower back pain.

Planking Mistake 2: The Booty Boost

This can be recognised by the height of the hips going higher than the height of the shoulders (your ass sticking high up in the air). Apart from this not looking pretty you’re cheating yourself out of a good abs workout. As the intensity increases on the abs during the plank many individuals ‘subconsciously’ cheat by boosting their booty and shifting the load onto their shoulders. This does mean you can probably last a little longer but I’m afraid you’re getting a shoulder workout and not honing and toning that six pack.

Planking Mistake 3: Saggy Saddle

The saggy saddle can be recognised by a ‘u’ shaped curve appearing in the lower back between the lower rib and the pelvis. This gives a saddle shaped appearance to the lower back. This is a sign of weakness in the core muscles, the lumbar vertebrae are not being supported and collapse into each other in hyperextension. This can result in pain and discomfort, you may sense a jarring type feeling. If overloaded this can damage lower back structures. In this case you should regress to more basic core stability exercises to rebuild core strength and stability.

If you recognise any of the hove occurring during your planking exercises attempt to correct your position and if that proves difficult it’s time to take a break and recover.

How to plank properly

The key to safe, effective planking and building a strong efficient core is learning how to pelvic tilt properly. Having the ability to adjust your pelvic and lumbar position in isolation takes coaching and practice but gives you a fantastic foundation to progress on to advanced core training. If it’s worth doing its worth doing well.


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