Plank Pose: Fighting Gravity to Build Your Core
Plank pose is known as many things in yoga. It can be called Kumbhakasana, Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, or Phalakasana. No matter what you called it, everyone will agree that it’s a challenge!
It’s always a good idea to make your first Plank of the day Plank Prep. Plank requires arm and abdominal strength. You must stabilize your shoulders and engage to support your spine. Plus, to stay in position you are fighting against gravity (as opposed to some ab exercises that where we work with gravity).
- Begin on your hands and knees as if we were doing Cat pose.
- Either walk your hands forward a little or walk your knees back, and shift your weight so that your shoulders are aligned over your wrists. Your hips should be lower than your rib cage.
- Imagine a line of energy from your knees through the top of your head. The energy travels up your neutral spine.
- Draw your belly button to your spine to support your lumbar spine (low back). Make sure you have a neutral curve in your lumbar and that you are not rounding your spine between your shoulder blades.
- Keep the abdominals connected to your bottom ribs engaged. It can be easy to let those muscles relax, and it ends up pulling on your low back.
- You may either curl your toes under or have them be flat.
Transitioning to Plank
There is a point in time where Plank Prep may not feel challenging enough, but Plank still feels too difficult. Here are some suggestions:
- Place a block or Pilates ball between your inner thighs. The adductor (inner thigh) work translates to ab work for 75% of all people. Chances are that if you give you adductors something to do, it will also be easier for your abs to work.
- Extend one leg. By keeping your toes curled under, you can simply straighten one leg to increase the challenge. When you straighten one leg, your pelvis should not move at all. This is a great way to check your form and make sure that your abs are completely stabilizing your spine before you fully depend on them for support. I like to lift one leg, lower, lift the other, then lift them both, and lower them both.
- Follow the directions for Plank Prep.
- Curl your toes under. Lift one leg. Your pelvis should stay completely stable. If it does stay stable, you may lift the other leg. If it does not stay stable when you lift one leg, try to find the stabilizers that are not working and engage them. Do not lift both legs until you are sure your pelvis and spine will be correctly supported.
Here is a video for my visual learners.
What other poses or exercises make you work your arm and core? Let me know in the comments below.
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