How to Properly Practice Plank Pose – Let’s Settle This Once and For All

Leah Sugerman
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Ahhhhhh, Plank Pose. It’s one of those poses that you either love or hate – there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground on this one.
 
But whether you love to hate it or hate to love it, there is no denying the fact that Plank Pose has some amazing benefits.
 
Not only does it build strength and stamina, Plank also prepares your body (and your mind) for a whole world of other fun postures in the yoga practice – like arm balances and inversions.
 
It’s one of the most common yoga poses out there. But, unfortunately, it’s also one of the most commonly misaligned poses too. Practicing Plank without proper form can lead to issues within the low back, shoulders, and more, so it’s important to practice with clarity, precision, and correct form.
 
 

Here’s How to Practice Plank Pose Correctly

Whether you’re practicing at the gym or the yoga studio, the alignment for Plank is the same. So, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty details to find all the optimal alignment tricks to find more strength, stability, and ease within Plank Pose.
 

1. Integrate Your Shoulders

First and foremost, whenever you are weight-bearing on the arms, you want to integrate your shoulder joints to find optimal alignment of your humerus (your upper arm bone) within your glenoid fossa (the shoulder socket).
 
Because the shoulder is super mobile, it isn’t exactly meant for weight-bearing. So in order to optimize the joint for holding the weight of your body, it’s best to prepare the surrounding musculature to create stability.
 
Leah-Arms-Plank
 
Let’s try it:

  • Start in a position in which you’re not bearing weight on the arms (i.e. just seated on your mat)
  • Stretch your arms forward in front of you in line with your shoulders
  • Flex your wrists and spread your fingers
  • Press your palms forward until your upper back rounds
  • Maintain this and energetically plug your upper arm bones back in toward your shoulder sockets
  • Without moving, energetically squeeze your arms into the midline of your body
  • Maintain this and, ever so slightly, broaden your chest as if your collarbones are smiling
  • Maintain all of these seemingly opposing actions for five deep breaths to feel the simultaneous activation of the major muscles supporting your shoulder joint

 

2. Find Weight-Bearing in Your Arms and Activation in Your Core

Obviously, Plank is a weight-bearing position. And since we (as humans) are not used to holding weight in our arms, it’s a good idea to start slow and build your way up to holding the full weight of your body while maintaining shoulder integration.
 

 
 
Also, the core is wildly important in arm weight-bearing positions. It helps distribute the load of your body’s mass so that your shoulders don’t have to take the brunt of the work that they simply aren’t designed to hold. Activating the core will prove to be a lifesaver in stabilizing and maintaining Plank Pose.
 
leah-plank-all-fours
 
Let’s try it:

  • Come to all fours in Tabletop
  • Align your shoulders directly over your wrists
  • Align your hips directly over your knees
  • Move through all of the cues above to integrate your shoulders
  • Draw your frontal hip points (the bony protrusions at the front of your pelvis) toward each other as if you’re tightening a drawstring around your hips
  • Cinch in around your waistline as if you’re tightening a corset around your torso
  • Hug your navel in toward your spine and up toward your rib cage
  • Hold for at least five deep breaths feeling the activation of your arms and your core

 
Need more help activating your core? Practice These 5 Yoga Poses To Build Serious Core Strength
 

3. Put Everything Into Place in Full Plank Pose

Now that you’re accustomed to the principles needed in the shoulders and the core to help stabilize and support your body weight, you can work toward finding full Plank.
 
Leah-Plank-pose2
 
Let’s try it:

  • Start in Tabletop
  • Follow the steps above to integrate your shoulders and your core
  • Actively press your palms into the floor and lift your knees off the mat
  • Walk your feet back until you make a straight line from the top of your head down to your heels
  • Energize your legs by kicking them toward the back of your mat and energetically drawing them toward each other in the midline
  • Reach your tailbone toward your heels
  • Hold for as long as you can maintain this optimal alignment and steady breath

 
Key Alignment Tips:

  • Spread your fingers wide and evenly space between them
  • Gaze straight down and lengthen your neck
  • Align your hips with your shoulders (or just slightly below them)
  • Keep your core active to avoid “sagging” and arching in the lower back

 


 

Rock Your Plank Pose Alignment

Plank Pose is certainly no easy feat. But, when you utilize all the various parts of your body, you can distribute the load more evenly across major muscle groups to ease the strain on any one specific area . . . and this can drastically change the effort needed to maintain Plank.
 
By properly aligning your muscles and bones, you will likely find a world of difference in the way you practice Plank and I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll start to love this killer strengthening pose.
 
So, rock your alignment and, in no time, you’ll be rocking (and loving!) Plank Pose.
 
Lacking the strength to practice full Plank? Build up your strength with the Yoga Strong Challenge

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Leah Sugerman

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless traditions of the practice and teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings both internationally and online.

leahsugerman.com

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