Walk the Plank


There are many stories I can tell that support the existence of a little known theory: If you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. The City made me find my inner strength, which I continue to cultivate on a daily basis. This can happen while I’m racing to catch the crosstown bus, running down the stairs at the sound of a subway car approaching, heavy lifting due to moving from apartment to apartment, or walking home carrying (way more than I thought I could handle) Trader Joe’s grocery bags. Since this is my daily life, I can say I am walking the plank all day er’day and therefore it if important for me to know how to do the plank exercise correctly.


The Plank Pose

We’ve all heard about the plank and how it’s the way our body is supposed to be aligned all the time. While in it, we’re in an isometric hold that we strive to commit to muscle memory so we can then get to feel standing plank energy while performing mundane tasks, not to mention ALL EXERCISES. FYI, it is called an isometric hold since we are contracting our core muscles without causing any joint movement. Here, we support our body weight on our forearms, hands, and toes.

The standing plank energy carries us throughout the day and ultimately leads to better posture.Click To Tweet

The plank has appeared in all types of classes, from “new fitness crazes” like Zumba, barre, and TRX, to strength training, bootcamp classes, weightlifting, even back in my jazz dance and ballet classes. More importantly, as a fitness class progresses, teachers remind us to remember the plank and have that same “plank like” energy while doing other types of movements. In barre, for example, we do many variations of planks and when we transition to the thigh strengthening series, the teacher reminds us of the plank exercises and that we should pull our abdominal muscles in the same way. So, it’s incredibly important to know how to do a plank correctly. It not only affects ALL exercises, but how we walk, stand, and run after that freakin’ crosstown bus.  Read on for some tips on the infamous plank.

The standing plank is hard. Although there are many variations that make a plank even more challenging, holding a plank is challenging in and of itself. It reminds us of the power of isometric holds. It’s amazing how not moving can require so much effort, strength, correct alignment, and therefore many things to remember.

The Plank Cliff Notes:

  • Forearm plank set-up: Elbows under shoulders, arms parallel & shoulder width apart, palms flat
  • In a forearm plank, weight should be on the forearms while keeping the hands light. This is accomplished by forearms pressing away the floor.
  • In a straight-arm plank, weight should be on the hands which are actively pressing down and pushing away the floor.
  • Shoulders should be pressed down away from the ears at all times.
  • Important to know that the cervical spine should be in a straight line. This means the neck should be elongated. If doing a forearm plank, gaze should be slightly in front of hands. If doing a straight-arm plank, gaze should be down, but chin slightly lifted.
  • Helpful to think that energy is emanating from the top of the head and out of the heels.
  • The whole body should be in a straight line from head to heels.
  • There should be the sensation that the inner thighs are rolling inwards and towards one another to engage the thighs.
  • Engage the abdominals by pulling in. Create an abdominal lock: breathing without moving the abdominals.
  • The seat should be engaged which makes it neither hiked up nor sagging down. Helpful to think that it should be in a straight line behind the shoulders.
  • There are many variations on the plank: jumping jacks, leg raises, hip raises, side plank, side plank crunches. The most important lesson is to keep the core engaged AT ALL TIMES! Strength is held at the core.

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