Pose Breakdown: Plank

Do you have a love/hate relationship with plank? Many students find they are totally OVER it when they are in the midst of plank but feel super strong once they are done. Sometimes it can be challenging to find that sweet spot in plank where you are comfortably uncomfortable. Let’s take a look on how you can get the most out of plank and make it accessible no matter your ability.

Kumnhakasana, or plank pose, strengthens all the core muscle groups in the body. It is especially helpful for building strength in the abdomen, chest, and low back, arms wrists and shoulders. When fully engaged, it also strengthens the legs and glutes. Did you know that plank technically an arm balance?

Holding plank for an extended number of breaths up to several minutes not only builds stamina, but also is great for toning the nervous system too.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start in tabletop, on all 4’s. Knees and hips stacked, as well as shoulders and wrists allowing the body to access the muscle groups fully. Check to make sure your elbow creases are facing the opposite corners of your mat.

  • Now, push the area between your shoulder blades towards the ceiling, activate (code word for flex) your chest and pull your belly button toward your spine.

  • Then step one foot back, staying on your toes, and push the other foot back to meet it, activate all of the muscles in the legs and energetically push back through your heels. Adjust your gaze a few inches in front of your hands

  • You want your back in a flat straight table-top from the crown of your head to the tip of your tailbone, then your legs angling down to your feet.

  • As you get stronger you may choose to create an angle from the tip of your crown to your feet, but for most of us, this ends up taking its toll on the lower back after a few breaths.

If the full expression of plank isn’t in your practice, or if it’s in your practice during the first sun salutation and then after the third or fourth round you start to notice you may need a break, here are some ways to make it easier:

  • Wrist pain. The simplest way to assist the wrists in plank is to either put one or both knees down. This changes the angle and takes a load off. You can also avoid the wrists all together by placing your forearms in an “11” on the mat in front of you. Be sure those elbows are aligned directly under the shoulders. You can stick a block between your hands if your hands tend to drift towards the midline.

  • Weak Core (abdomen or back). The solution here is to place one or both knees on the ground, everything else remains the same. If you don’t have an injury, don’t cheat yourself here and try to hold plank in the full expression and then if you are unable to hold the shape in proper alignment, then put one or both knees down.

  • Shaking. This is normal, especially in holding plank for an extended amount of time. Strength builds in layers and shaking is your body’s way of letting your muscles acces more energy to stay there longer. You can always put your knees down if its too much. Over time, the length of time it takes you to get to shaking will increase as you build your strength.

  • Getting down on the floor is hard. Getting on the floor isn’t accessible for everyone, you can still gain some benefits from plank sitting in a chair. Simply sit with your feet flat on the ground, and spine up straight. Place your hands on your knees and follow the same stems for activating the muscle groups for plank. You can also do this standing by placing your hands on the wall, back of a chair, counter, stool, or even blocks to achieve various distances from the floor.

The biggest mistake that seems to happen in plank, no matter what style of plank you are doing is not using your whole body. If your whole body is engaged, you will find that you can hold it for MUCH longer and get much more benefit out of it long term.  Happy Planking!