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Perfect Your Plank: The Move to Banish Back Pain

by Dr. Jordan Metzl /
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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.

RELATED: Are You Doing Push-Ups Right? Here's How to Do It Better

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.

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