Planks are God’s gift to people with low back pain, which is the third most expensive medical condition in the United States. More than $57 billion a year is spent on low back pain, behind only diabetes and heart conditions.
The key to planks is they strengthen the core muscles — the muscles in the front, the six-pack that everyone wants — and the back at the same time.
If you don’t do them right, planks can actually hurt. Here’s how to do planks better:
- Stay firm. The idea of a plank is like a plank of wood. You don’t want to be a wilting flower.
- Don’t sag. You should feel some lift in your butt as you contract your core muscles.
- But don’t pike, either! Keep your hips in line with your shoulders.
- Relax your shoulders. People tend to be too tense in the shoulders and scrunch up. Be sure your shoulder blades are wide on your back.
- Keep your hands and forearms aligned with your shoulders.
- Relax your hands. Don’t grip your fingers.
- Put your forearms on the ground for a somewhat easier plank. Do a full push-up position to increase difficulty.
I recommend 3 minutes of planks a day to give yourself a better life: One minute center, one minute on each side. But you can start with 30 seconds, and you can try it with bent knees like an assisted push-up if you need a modification.
MORE FITNESS TIPS
- 10 core exercises that are better for your back (and body) than crunches
- 5 exercises that will strengthen your back and reduce pain
- 8 exercises trainers never do (and what to do instead)
- 5 exercises you can perform anywhere, anytime
- A 10-minute cardio workout you can do at home