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When I do planks at the gym, I can ask someone else to check my form and make sure I'm not sagging or lifting my butt up to high. But I can't always go to the gym, and then I end up doing planks at home. I don't seem to have a good feel for weather I'm doing it correctly even at the gym, and since I'm often not sore after doing planks at home I think I'm doing them wrong. Is there some way to tell if you're doing the plank correctly without having someone else watch you?

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Do you have a mirror or a camera? –  Dave Liepmann Aug 18 '13 at 3:17
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Not being sore isn't a reason to suspect you're doing the plank wrong. You could just not be doing it for long enough. Or, your body has adapted to the point where it will get stronger without experiencing soreness after each workout. –  Kate Aug 18 '13 at 5:06
    
@Kate: I still get sore if I do it at the gym. –  Dan Aug 18 '13 at 5:59

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Use a small foam block that is just the right height so that if you are barely are touching it with your stomach, your hips are neither sagging nor lifted too high.

The foam block should be very soft, so that it's not actually capable of supporting you at all.

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I was going to suggest something pointier, but foam is probably better. :-P –  Sean Duggan Dec 12 at 15:36

How to do the plank correctly

Looking from a distance, your upper body can seem to be parallel to the floor, but it is not what really makes the difference. The important thing is to engage the right muscles. Firstly, make sure you are not collapsing in the upper back. Broaden and depress your shoulders, and lift between the shoulder blades. Second, make sure you don't stick your tailbone up. In the plank position slightly tilt the pelvis: move the top of the hips sligthly up, the tailbone down. These will lengthen your spine and activate the right muscles around your shoulders and core. Make sure you can breathe smoothly and effortlessly into your belly.

How to make sure you're doing it right

The easiest is to have someone correct you, by touching the spots where you have problems, and gently adjusting you so that you get a feel for what the verbal instructions mean. If no-one is available, you can try to get the feeling in the following way:

  • Put the knees down. This is important, even if you can do it with your knees lifted. Look in a mirror so that your upper body is parallel to the floor. Push the mat away with your forearms. Then, pull with the knees forward as if you'd want to pull your mat forward (nothing needs to move, just feel the forces). This will activate your core and straighten (or even flex slightly) the spine. Only when you are familiar with this, then lift your knees, but you need to maintain the same feeling around your core and shoulders.

How to progress

Once you can do 2-3 minutes, progress to more dynamic versions (eg. lifting one hand-leg, or doing it on unstable surfaces, balls etc. so you need to stabilize more). There's no need to do hours of it. If you can do a few minutes, move on to something more challenging.

Good luck!

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