The fitness space is riddled with humans on the hunt for the newest trick or hack to transform their bodies and lives. These types are resistant to the tried and true methods of truly changing your body from the inside out. You don’t need fancy clothes or equipment to make it happen. All you need is your body and the knowledge to know what to do with it. One of the most valuable things you can learn is how to hold a proper plank.
Plank is about more than just strength. It’s actually the perfect balance of softness and strength, because in order to last in this pose, you have to let some things go. Plank is also about balance, a bit of flexibility, and an overall sense of calmness and surrender in order to last for more than a few minutes.
Traditional plank is the most common expression, on hands and toes. In order to make the most of this pose, lift up out of your shoulders by pressing into your hands, then pull your shoulders back and your chest forward. Reach your hips forward and pull your heels back. Then look down and slightly forward, and lift your head (from the back of your neck) to align diagonally with your shoulders. Lift your navel up to engage your abs, but keep your butt relaxed. It should feel like you’re stretching the floating part of your body… literally pulling it from end to end. This will take pressure off of your shoulders as well.
Forearm plank follows the same rules of engagement as traditional plank. You have a stronger base in this version because your forearms can hold you up more easily than your hands. Continue to press up and away from your base and keep your core muscles engaged. You can extend your body even further by pushing your tailbone toward your heels and pulling your chest between your biceps.
Reverse plank is a little more challenging because it asks a lot of your core muscles to help you push up and away from your hands. It’s extremely important that you lift up out of your shoulders, out of your hips, and pull your toes forward and down. Tighten your abs, but try not to clench your butt (this might feel easier said than done, but it gets better with practice).
Side plank is one of the toughest versions of this pose. Lift up out of your foundation shoulder so that you don’t put undue pressure on your wrist. Engage your obliques (especially the ones facing the floor) to give your shoulder additional support. Press your tailbone toward your heels, and keep your feet flexed to help with your balance.
You can find more support in the forearm version of side plank, which… although a little easier… is equally as effective.
Plank, while not fancy or particularly exciting, will go a long way to teach you how to breathe and balance and strengthen your body from head to toe. It can also teach you the priceless life lesson of simultaneously holding on and letting go. There are no special requirements for this pose, and you can modify all versions by dropping your knees to the floor to give you additional support.
Try it yourself! Plank can be tough in the beginning, and the truth is that it doesn’t really get easier. You just get stronger.