Plank is a hot core move in the fitness industry and yoga is no exception, but regardless of this hot move, it appears that there are many, many accidental variations that could be jeopardizing your core benefits in more ways than one.
1. Your plank is a bit saggy. Well to be a bit blunter your plank is hanging in all the wrong places. Just because your knees and belly aren’t on the floor hardly qualifies Plank as working your core. A saggy middle and saggy head not only put your lower back at serious risk for damage (an area most are already having pain) but a saggy head only creates more pressure on our poor wrists, another area many complain about in this trendy pose. Lift your middle without hinging at the hips, when you hang you put too much stress on the lower back and psoas, imagine floating above a campfire and remember to lift your head and look straight down, rather than forward.
2. You suffer from gluteuspoofus. Yep you heard me correctly; gluteuspoofus is a serious syndrome that many suffer from which entails you (the student) to push your booty to the sky creating a tip in the pelvis (pubis bone tipping upwards and ASIS down, fancy term for front hip bones). This tilt takes the entire core load into the hip hinge no longer making it a core pose. Make sure to align your pelvis in neutral (pubis bone and hip bones parallel with the floor, and ever slightly tip the hip bones into your core). You should feel the difference.
3. Your upper body looks like the incredible hulk. Now don’t get me wrong you are using your upper body in Plank but, everything is an extension of your core and your arms should not be doing all the work. When the folds of your elbows turn inward and your chest hallows out, it leaves your upper back looking like a berm and you have just cheated yourself again from a stellar core pose! Your upper back should be broad but not hunched, scapulae stabilization at its finest.
4. Your hands are cupping on the floor to hide your reward afterwards. Ok maybe not, but I see this all the time, all the load in the wrist and then people complain that their not strong enough for Plank yet. No, you probably are, you just haven’t had the proper instruction. Take just an extra few seconds to ensure that your wrists are directly under your shoulders, turn the folds of the elbows forward (watch hyperextension) and then lean just a hair further forward to bring more weight into the line of the fingers, making sure to spread the hands wide. And yes, Plank does strengthen the forearms and wrists so be ready for a little work in that area.
5. You are acting like you have two legs. The line of our core starts at the inner arches of our feet and runs up our inner thighs and feeds directly into the pelvic floor; two separate legs for someone who can’t quite say they truly understand the core will leave them with any one of the above and maybe something even fancier than that. Draw your legs and ankles together and zip the line of the inner thighs, this will at least allow your pelvic floor and transversus abdominus a fighting chance to turn on.
So what’s the skinny on plank then?
Plank is one-third core, one-third legs and one-third arms. When one area of the body is not up to par we compensate, for many it being the core. Start from the ground up and set up your hands and arms, consider placing a mini ball or foam block between the inner thighs and squeeze, this will allow a more effective core onset until you can feel those deep inner muscles without. Remember to practice neutral and Plank is no different. Don't forget to lean slightly forward (no hunching) over the fingers and push away to broaden the back. Think about how your arms and legs plug into your core (torso), not the other way around.
Modifications as always can be on the knees, and I look at modifications as ways to be more effective in the right muscle groups, and a second being on the forearms; but make sure to place a yoga block between the forearms and turn the palms inward, now press the forearms into the floor to shift your core load.