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Is there a checklist of things I should look for when trying to see if someone's doing a perfect plank?

They always say back straight. I assume that means head to glutes because, unless your legs are on something, they're gonna have to be bent.

Anything else?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There's a couple things, and one of them you'll have to rely on whomever you are coaching (even if it's yourself):

  • Glutes and abs should be engaged, with no sag in the middle (i.e. the back is straight)
  • Legs should be board straight. There can be a slight bend at the hip.
  • Avoid excessive angling of the legs at the hip joint. This engages the legs more than the abs.
  • As soon as you feel the plank in the back, it is no longer working the abs. It is best to stop at this point.

If the person performing the plank can only get a few seconds in before they feel it in the back, it's better to let them rest and do multiple sets than to arbitrarily force time on them. This article on correcting anterior pelvic tilt has some good information in it's justification of using bench planks rather than floor planks.

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