After over 20 years coaching clients on how to move properly I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to start any fitness regime with enhancing our stability.

Strength is importance, but stability training should come first. Why? Stability allows you to create the most force in the safest manner possible. By slowing down to focus on stability, you’ll learn how to control your body.

It is essential to create stability in our shoulders and our hips but I always prioritize the core first. And one of the best ways to do that is a Bird Dog and also a plank pose.

The plank pose is where you hold a push-up position while resting on your forearms. This simple move is the ideal exercise for strengthening crucial core muscles. As you go about your day, almost every move you make revolves around your core — from picking up items on the floor to twisting to see if the coast is clear when driving.

Why is it important to have a strong core?

Your core is made up of several muscle groups and covers your abdominals, back, hips, pelvis, and buttocks. A weak core can cause all kinds of problems. It can lead to poor posture, and inevitably to neck and shoulder pain. Sore knees and hips often can be traced to a weak core.

But the biggest risk in strength training with poor core stability is low back pain. Back muscles and your core help to stabilize your body before any movement. If your core is weak, the other surrounding muscles have to compensate. Over time, these muscles can suffer strain, which leads to lingering pain.

Why the Plank Is still a Gold Standard

The plank pose activates all the core muscles at once, and doesn’t require extra movements that can cause stress or injury. And because it has many modifications, it can be done by almost anyone, regardless of current fitness levels.

How long should you hold a plank?

The world record for holding a plank is more than four hours, but thankfully, you don’t need to devote that much time. Most experts suggest anywhere from 10 up to 60 seconds is plenty.

As you progress, you can extend your plank for up to one or even two minutes, but don’t go beyond that. If you are finding that 60 seconds in a plank is too easy then start to add complexity to the plank. You could add weight to it by placing a weight plate on your back, or even lifting an arm or a leg, or even harder, both at the same time!

weighted plank
Weighted Plank

How often should you do planks?

You can perform a plank every day, on alternate days, or simply as part of your regular workouts.

How to do a plank correctly

Here’s how to do a plank correctly:

  • Lie facedown with your forearms on the floor, with your legs extended and your feet together. You can use a mat or towel to make this more comfortable.
  • Push into your forearms as you raise your body so it forms a straight line from your head and neck to your feet. (Do not let your hips rise or sag.)
  • Keep your gaze down and hold this position as you engage your abdominal muscles. Take steady, even breaths.
  • Try to maintain the position for up to 60 seconds and then lower your body and rest. This completes one set. Work toward completing two to three sets.

When you first start to do planks, you may not be able to hold the correct position for very long. Keep practicing and you’ll find it becomes easier to do.

If resting on your forearms is uncomfortable, do the plank from a push-up position, with your arms fully extended. If you have back pain or other back issues, either do the plank on your knees or stand straight and lean against a counter so your body is at a 45° angle.

If you need more of a challenge, try alternating leg lifts during the pose: raise one leg for a second or two, and then repeat with the other leg. Or even harder, try a contralateral plank where you lift one arm and the opposite leg and try to maintain stability like that!

Contralateral Plank

There is no end to the variations but start with the basic and only when you have perfected it for up to 60 seconds should you start to add weight or movement to it.


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