Updated November 19, 2020The plank exercise may seem simple, but it challenges you by working your whole body, especially your core. The longer you can hold the plank position, the stronger you get. The plank is also a great way to build your stamina.In our article, we share how to properly do a standard plank and other plank variations. We also point out common mistakes people make when planking and how you can avoid them.How to Do a Standard PlankThe standard plank, also known as the forearm plank, works your whole body and strengthens abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis.Begin by resting on your hands and knees.The knees should be parallel to the hips and hands parallel to the shoulders.One at a time, extend your legs behind you until you’re resting on your toes, then lower your upper body until you’re resting on your forearms.The body should form a straight line, with the shoulders and hips aligned.Tighten your core muscles and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.Rest for 1 minute, then repeat up to 3 times.Plank MistakesWhen you hold the plank position, there are three common mistakes—looking straight ahead or up, arching your back, or lowering your hips. If these mistakes aren’t corrected, you could experience lower back pain. Plus, you aren’t properly engaging your core and working your abdominal muscles to their full potential.Looking Straight Ahead or UpOne of the biggest mistakes you can make when in the plank position is looking straight ahead or up. This action can strain your neck and misalign the spine. Instead, keep your head in line with your shoulders and your hips in the plank position, but look down instead of up to align the spine.Arching Your BackIf you’re focusing on holding your weight through your arms and not flexing your core, your arms tire quickly. As a result, you may unconsciously arch your back, which places more pressure on your spine. You could pull back muscles or throw out your back.Instead, widen your shoulders and palms and engage your abdominal muscles. You won’t feel as much weight in your upper body and you’ll be less likely to arch your spine.Lowering Your HipsThe longer you hold the plank position, the quicker your arms muscles fatigue and your hips start to dip down. You’ll lose that tightening in your core and put more strain on your lower back. Keep your hips raised by tucking your hamstrings in and flexing your glutes.Other Plank VariationsOther plank variations can increase the intensity of a plank workout, or engage other muscles, including your shoulders.High PlankThe high plank looks similar to the push-up starting position. Like the standard plank, the high plank also engages the whole body but challenges your biceps more since you’re resting on your hands instead of your forearms.Begin resting on your hands and knees.One at a time, extend each leg out behind you until both legs are straight.Your body should be at an incline.Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.Bent-Knee PlankThe bent-knee plank is best for beginners because the position puts less strain on the lower back and allows you to focus on form.Start by resting on your hands and knees.Shift yourself forward using your hands, but keep your knees on the ground until your torso forms a straight line from your shoulders to the back of your knees.Flex your abs and hold for 30 to 60 seconds.Wall PlankThe wall plank is slightly more intense than the classic plank. Instead of placing weight on your hands and feet, you’re holding most of your weight through your arms.Start on your hands and knees.While bracing your hands on the floor, move your feet until they’re flat against the wall.Walk your feet upwards until your heels are level with your head.Engage your core muscles and hold for 30 seconds.Side PlankThe side plank works your oblique muscles and engages your shoulders and arms.Lie on your right side with your right forearm bracing your body and face outward.Flex your abs and extend your legs to the side until they’re straight—your left foot should rest on top of your right foot.Raise your left arm directly above your head and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.Side Plank with RotationThe side plank rotation incorporates arm movements to work deltoids, glutes, and lower back muscles.Place yourself in the classic side plank position—hold your body on your right forearm with legs extended to the side.Raise your left arm above you, then bring that same arm down, so it curls under your torso.Repeat 10 times on each side.Make sure to keep your core engaged as you perform this exercise.Single-Leg PlankThe single-leg plank is slightly more intense than the basic plank. Reducing your point from four to three points places more strain on your abdominal muscles.Place yourself in the plank pose—elevate your body on your forearms and feet.Engage your core muscles and lift your right leg as far as you can without compromising your back.Keep the raised leg as straight as possible.Hips should be parallel to the floor.Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.FAQsHow long should a beginner hold a plank?A beginner should try to hold a plank no longer than 20 seconds. Holding the plank position can be challenging, and starting out, you want to push yourself, but not too much. As you build your core strength, slowly extend this time. The ultimate goal is to hold a plank up to 60 seconds.Is it okay to do planks every day?We recommend plank exercises every other day. This gives your body a chance to recover and strengthen your abs fully. Incorporating plank exercises into your daily workout can tone muscles, improve posture, and reduce the risk of future back injuries.Does planking burn belly fat?Planking is one of the best ways to burn belly fat and strengthen abdominal muscles. As you hold the plank position, muscles throughout your body are engaged, especially your abs, because your torso is supporting your body weight. Planking can burn between 2 to 5 calories, depending on your weight.Is it okay to plank before bed?Planking is an intense exercise that works your whole body. It may not be a good idea to do this exercise right before bed because it raises your body temperature and heart rate, stimulating your nervous system. You’ll feel more alert instead of relaxed.Are planks better than sit-ups?Sit-ups only target the upper abdominal muscles, but planks engage your whole body, particularly your torso. Sit-ups are also harder on your back, curving your spine to push off the floor and increasing the risk of low back pain. A plank balances body weight, so there’s less strain on your back.ConclusionPlank exercises are an excellent way to tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles towards a solid core. If you’re experiencing a stiff lower back after a long day, regular stretches such as these can help.You can easily incorporate planking into exercise routines. Remember to keep your spine aligned—if parts of your body sag, you lose the plank position and potentially injure yourself. If you feel yourself getting tired, don’t push yourself beyond what your body can handle.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.