How To Do a Plank: An Ultimate Guide

There are a few instances in this world that make you realize the time passing by from your favorite 3-minute-long song to a half an hour trip from your house to a delicious dinner.

However, holding a plank position is the one activity that lets you think how slow the time passes. How to do a plank1 can be easily explained via words. It is rightly quoted that what requires effort is to execute it.

A plank is a strength-building exercise for those who are not aware of the benefits of this exercise. It works efficiently for the entire body, especially for the core muscles. It involves all your body parts.

The initial pose looks similar to that of a push-up. A push-up utilizes your weight as resistance and perform upward and downward movement to work on your core muscles, essentially the upper body.

However, a classic plank does not involve much movement but holds a still position for a few seconds or takes longer if the body allows it. While the plank exercise is beneficial2, it is important to know how to do a plank. A few peculiarities about the exercise needs to be carefully noted.

Slight mismanagement of the posture, form, placement of elbows, palms, feet, or the curving or bulging of the back requires attention. Several plank variations involve different body forms and positions.

A plank is considered to be an isometric move, which means that you build and strengthen your muscles without moving them. Indeed, this sounds breezy, but it requires a thorough understanding to remain in the pose of a straight line.

Further, there is a discussion about the plank variations and how to carry them out to achieve a strong core. Let’s find the different ways of how to do a plank!

How to do a Plank: The Traditional Way

Image by Orion Production on Shutterstock

Step 1

The first step is to select an area where you have enough space and good ventilation. Since physical well-being is important, you must exercise in a room where you are comfortable and have sufficient space in every direction.

Step 2

Another step is to use appropriate cushioned exercise mat while holding a plank. A proper plank has a lot to do with the form, which is only achievable when you have proper support and cushioning.

Step 3

Third step is to face down and have your forearms and toes set firmly on the floor. Your elbows should be right below your shoulder blades. Do not let your head stay in a stern position but relax and make sure it looks down at the floor. Keep your feet hip-width apart.

Step 4

Step 4 is to engage your abdominal muscles and make your naval draw inwards towards your spine. At this stage, your torso must be rigid, and your body must be forming a straight line with no bending or curving at all.

Your shoulder should not be moving towards your ears. This position is referred to as the Neutral position.

Step 5

Last step is to stay in the proper plank position for at least 10 seconds. As you keep getting comfortable with the position, you can hold it for 30 seconds and then notch it up to 45 seconds, too, or even a full minute! Alternatively, this variation of planking is also referred to as a front plank or hover exercise.

Plank can be a difficult exercise to perform initially, and it may seem challenging to plank correctly. To build up enough strength, you can start with the table-top plank position.

How to Do a Plank: Table-top Plank Variation (Building up Your Strength)

To perform a lighter plank version, you can follow the table-top version, which is easier. To do so, follow the steps given below:

Step 1

Get on a table-top position with your hands and knees on the ground.

Step 2

Make an attempt to pull your abs inwards. This will help you to keep your spine neutral.

Step 3

Tuck your toes under and pull your knees off the ground slightly and slowly to take it up a notch. Alternatively, you can also have your leg stacked with some weight.

This method of planking will help you in building core strength as it minimizes the pressure falling over your feet.

How to Do a Plank: The Incline Plank

Another plank position that can help you build core strength with relative ease is the incline plank.

Step 1

Your palms can be rested on a bench or any elevated surface. Just be sure that your elbows are directly aligned under your shoulders.

Step 2

Distance your feet as far as much it takes for your back to be in a straight line.

Step 3

Tuck the tailbone while simultaneously you pull your abs inwards. At this moment, press firmly onto your palms. The above two methods help you build core strength while keeping your core engaged minimally.

After you get a hang of this exercise, you can try more challenging versions of planks. It will help you to build your strength and enhance your core stability.

How to Do a Plank: The Challenging Way

The following versions to perform a plank engage your core, improve stability, and help your overall body from providing better posture to avoiding unwanted internal injuries.

1. Side Plank on Your Forearm

Begin by placing your right forearm on the ground while the rest of your body is straight and makes a precise ninety-degree angle with the right forearm.

Place your shoulder directly above your elbow. Further, lift your body through your hips as high as possible but remember not to stress it. This method is also referred to as a Forearm plank.

2. Plank March

The starting position remains the same as the basic plank position. First comes the right arm. You have to replace the right elbow with the right palm.

The next step is to replace the elbows with palms (not at once but swiftly). Follow the same steps for your left arm as well. Then, get back to the starting position of elbows while being touched to the ground.

3. Plank Row

Begin the plank row with a high plank position but have your right hand hold a resistance band with good elasticity. Keep your core tight, with your body in the proper straight form.

Pull the resistance band inwards with your left elbow (or right) till your chest becomes closer to your side. Get back to the initial position and repeat. Instead of the resistance band, you can also use dumbbells.

Benefits of Plank

When a full plank position is carried out correctly, the exercise creates healthy tension in the entire core by utilizing the whole body.

This, in turn, is excellent for building and strengthening core muscles and for maintaining a good back posture. This heavy exercise is easy to perform. Just your exercise mat and a good quantity of motivation is enough.

Since planks stabilize your core, they help you run better and a lot faster. Not only that, but it also helps balance your overall body.

The structure makes you more efficient in every activity that you carry out. The exercise engages your body, and thus, it helps you burn substantial calories.

Beginners are advised to start with a minimum of 10 seconds of remaining in the position. Once comfortable with the basics, do not hesitate to perform a forearm plank or side plank.

Common Mistakes to Avoid while Doing a Plank 

  1. When your abs reach their extent of fatigue, this is when your hips will begin to sag. The moment you reach this limit, know that you are now supposed to discontinue the exercise.
  2. A perfect plank requires you to keep your body, including your head in a straight line. Please do not attempt to move your neck in any other direction as this can cause additional stress due to strain on your neck and spine.
  3. Do not arch your back. Arching your back while holding a high plank position will essentially take away the engagement of abs and transfer it on your arms.
  4. Other than the points mentioned above, it is important not to let too much stress come up on any side of your body. For instance, when plank is done incorrectly, the forearm plank position causes your left side through your left forearm to carry on more stress.
  5. Improper planks may cause painful cramps or muscle pain, mostly radiating from shoulder pain to something serious as a spine injury.

Every core workout includes planks because they provide positive results. The improvement can also be observed in your shoulders and legs, which means you get better at running too.

If you know the right way of doing a plank, you are already embarking on the world of fitness. Depending on how long you hold the pose for, planks work great daily or on alternate basis.

Be consistent, and you shall see and feel the results in you and your body. Now that you know the answer of how to do a plank, there are various ways to do a plank. Build those core muscles but do not forget to check out “Leg Curl ‘

  1. Ingold, Tim. “Walking the plank: meditations on a process of skill.” Defining technological literacy: Towards an epistemological framework. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2006. 65-80. ↩︎
  2. Park, Sihwa, Young‐Chul Kim, and Yong‐Seok Jee. “Plank exercise improves respiratory capacity through positive changes in body composition, abdominis function, and autonomic nerves’ activities.” European Journal of Sport Science (2024). ↩︎

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Jahnavi Dass

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