Weak muscles are a common cause of back pain. While many people perform exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the back, some research has found that targeting the muscles of the abdomen may be equally effective in the treatment and prevention of lower back pain. The plank is an exercise specifically used to strengthen the muscles of both the lower back and the abdominal core. This exercise is a great choice not only for individuals who have weak core muscles, but also for those who may have suffered from an injury to this part of the body.
Proper Elbow Position
Positioning your elbows properly is essential for good results when it comes to performing a plank. Ideally, in this exercise, both elbows should be placed on the ground, with the forearms also resting firmly on the floor. Make sure the elbows are directly under the shoulders to minimize pain and injury during the plank. Individuals who do experience minor amounts of pain in their elbows may want to consider placing a towel or yoga mat on the ground under their arms to provide additional padding.
Proper Foot Position
Just as with the elbows, maintaining the proper foot position is important for maximal results. For this exercise, the ankle should be bent to a 90-degree angle, with the toes planted firmly on the floor. The heels and ankles should be positioned in such a manner that allows them to be directly over the toes. It is important to note that while using padding under the elbows may increase comfort associated with the exercise, using padding under the feet can make the plank much more challenging. This is a good option for individuals who have mastered the basic plank, and are looking for something more difficult.
Back and Abdominal Position
The “plank” got its name due to the fact that the body is held in a “plank” position during its performance. To maximize the appearance of this exercise, therefore, the body must be held in as straight a position as possible. Ideally, exercisers should use their core muscles to hold their body in a perfect line from their head to their toes. The stomach should not sag to the floor, and likewise, the shoulders should not round over. These signals suggest poor form, and can lead to possible injury.
Add Time Gradually
Many people brag about how long they can hold their “plank.” It is not uncommon to hear of men and women who can hold the plank for as long as ten or even twenty minutes at a time, without taking a break. While this may be possible with plenty of practice, it usually doesn’t occur immediately. Individuals who are considering adding the plank to their workout should start with minimal amounts of time, such as a minute or two, and gradually increase the amount of time they spend performing the exercise as they get stronger. Trying to do too much too quickly can cause boredom and even possible injury.