The Plank can be looked on with horror and dislike!
I understand this as a teacher because I have seen it performed badly more often than not and that will cause the wrong kind of result. It actually has a very specific set-up to make sure is is successful in working your abdominals rather than straining your back or shoulders.
For a beginner it is probably better to start on your knees and build up to the full plank (If you have any knee problems please place a flat cushion or towel under your kneecaps to protect them). If you have weak wrists it is better to do the plank on your elbows.
The Plank Set Up
Firstly try and perform your plank in front of a mirror. It is very difficult to feel your position and it can often be completely wrong!
Kneel on your mat (carpet, rug, towel) and place your hands under your shoulders with straight arms about 3 feet away from your knees. If you are a beginner you can stay like this but lengthened so that your body is in a diagonal line from the knees up to the crown of your head.
Lifting up onto the toes, take your body into a diagonal line from your heels up to your head, with straight arms and legs. Hold for 10 seconds. Then bring your knees back down again. Build up on this in increments of time to hold for 2 minutes if you can! Pretty difficult for most people.
When holding the Plank you want to keep the diagonal line so that your abdominals squease in to your middle. Do not drop in the middle and let your back droop, as the spine takes the weight of your body and your abdominals pop out.
Keep your head in line with the shoulders. If you drop your head down it forces the shoulder muscles to do the job of holding the bodys' weight and can be horrible for the neck.
Lift your chest up and slide your shoulders down your back. This will keep the upper body aligned and the abdominal muscles doing the work.
If your back begins to get painful just lift your hips up one inch to release the pain. Never drop down into the lower back.
When you get better at the Plank try it on your elbows. It is a little harder and again make sure the alignment is kept with back, shoulders and head.
If you want to come out of the Plank during your allocated time, it is quite nice to come up into the Downward Dog position ( up into an upside down V)for a few moments and then come back down into the plank again. This can only be done when you are performing the plank with straight arms.
1. strengthens your abdominals like nothing else.
2. Invigorates the whole body and warms you up.
3.Protects your back by working all the abdominals and the muscles in the mid-back.
4. Works the arms, chest, gluts and thighs
It is tough and intense and this can cause you to become rigid in the wrong places. So work at your own pace, stopping when you need to, rather than perform it incorrectly.
It can be hard on the wrists (take it on to the elbows).
The shoulders can take the job of holding you (please keep the shoulder blades down the back and the upper shoulder muscles switched off).
The lower back gets painful (here a slight lift up of the hips or even coming up into the Downward Dog will release the tension).
If you do this exercise correctly you will feel an ache in your abdominal muscles the next day. Your upper body will become strong as will the thighs and gluts. You can smile and congratulate yourself for having carried out an act of kindness to your body!
Probably best preformed one - three times a week but build up to that and make sure that you have warmed up first with some stretching. It is best done later in the day too when you have moved around and the body is not cold.
Always check with your GP before starting any form of exercise.