Planking is a simple but effective bodyweight exercise you can do anytime, anywhere. According to Greatist.com, Holding the body (light as a feather) stiff as a board develops strength primarily in the core—the muscles that connect the upper and lower body—as well as the shoulders, arms, and glutes.

A good plank is all about your form and the alignment of your body. Your body should be in a perfectly straight line, with ears, shoulders, hips, and knees perfectly aligned. Women’s Health suggests that you establish a good base on your elbows directly under your shoulders. Start on your hands and knees and place your forearms carefully, then tuck one toe back and then the other, taking care not to shift your upper body. Press those forearms into the ground, engaging your pecs to maintain the elbows’ right angle so your chest doesn’t collapse forward.

Take a look at Greatist.com’s 5 most common planking mistakes:

The Mistake: Collapsing the lower back.
The Fix: Instead of compromising the lower back by dipping the bum, engage the core by imagining your belly button pulling in toward the spine. This will help keep the torso flat, and in turn, the spine safe. If you want to get super technical, have a friend gently place a broomstick or yardstick on your back—the top of the stick should contact the head, and the bottom of the stick should rest between the buttocks. The stick should also make contact right between the shoulder blades for proper alignment.

The Mistake: Reaching the butt to the sky.
The Fix: Planks aren’t supposed to look like a downward dog. To really get the core working the way it should in the plank position, keep your back flat enough so your abs feel engaged from top (right below the sternum) to bottom (directly below the belt). Just don’t dip the tush too far toward the ground.

The Mistake: Letting the Head Drop
The Fix: While the focus may be on keeping the hips, butt, and back in the proper position, form isn’t only about the core and the lower body in this move. It’s important to think of the head and neck as an extension of your back. Keep your eyes on the floor, letting them rest about a foot in front of the hands, which will help keep the neck in a neutral position.

The Mistake: Forgetting to breathe.
The Fix: It’s human nature to hold your breath when in a strenuous position for a period. But denying yourself oxygen can bring on dizziness or nausea, which are unpleasant at best and dangerous at worst.

The Mistake: Focusing too much on the stopwatch.
The Fix: Quality trumps the quantity of seconds ticking away when it comes to the plank. When your form begins to suffer, it’s time to call it quits. If the back begins to bow or the shoulders start to sink in, take a break.

 

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