Four hours and 26 minutes. That’s the longest recorded plank to date. Mao Weidong of Beijing, China was able to hold an abdominal plank position for a little bit longer than it takes the average person (*cough* me *cough*) to run a full marathon. Verified by the Guinness World Records, I don’t question the time clock. I do, however, question Weidong’s form.
Ever pull a muscle at the end of a workout? When you become tired, your muscles aren’t as quick to engage. This leads to poor form, which can easily lead to injury – minor or major. Of course, injury is the worst case scenario. Most of the time improper form results in insufficient gains, because you’re not getting the most out of the exercise.
When it comes to planking, the muscles doing most of the work are in your core. However, what even fit people fail to realize is the “core” encompasses more than the belly muscles. To get your core firing on all engines, you’ll need to rally your hip flexors, erector spinae, glutes and quads. (more details here, if you missed it). Contrary to popular planking, this kind of muscle engagement cannot be achieved with your forearms shaped like a triangle and hands clasped together. There’s a science to it. And by science, I mean a method that has been proven most effective.
THE WRONG WAY
What’s wrong with this picture?
- Arms are slightly in front of shoulders, which misaligns the rotator cuffs and deltoids.
- Elbows are flared out to the side, offering a wider center of gravity. This, in turn, takes the pressure off your core to stabilize.
- Hips are raised just above the midline, relieving the back (erector spinae) of its call to duty.
THE RIGHT WAY
Why this feels oh-so-right:
- Arms are positioned directly under the shoulders, keeping the muscles aligned properly (no strain).
- Elbows are shoulder-width apart with palms up (the palm position is key!), which de-stabilizes your center of gravity and forces your core muscles to do the work they’re supposed to be doing.
- Hips are tucked and glutes and quads are contracted to support the lower back as it helps bring the belly up toward your spine.
You may know dozens of different ways to plank – from threading the needle to lifting one leg off the ground. All of these variations offer slightly more targeted training, whether it be in your hamstrings, obliques or shoulders. But for the basic forearm plank, there’s no better way than the right way!
Grab a mat and try tweaking your old habits to match the example above, and then tell me how it felt. Share your thoughts in the comments below. Better yet, take a pic of you doing the “right” plank and post it to Twitter or Instagram with hashtags #perfectplank #raisehealth and then tag @lottsomiles – I’d love to see your hard work in action!