Tips and techniques from PT Kris Etheridge.

90-second plank - WHF

A well-performed plank exercise (not to be mistaken for ‘planking’; who was the genius who thought that was a good idea?) is about the best thing one can do to improve the appearance of abs.

The difficulty is striking the perfect position, which doesn’t cause your body to sag or stay overly lifted off the ground. PT and founder of business KE Fitness Kris Etheridge gives the following recipe for the ideal plank position.

What to do

“Start on the elbows and knees with shoulders over your elbows and shoulders pulled down,” he says. “Brace your core and lift up onto your toes. Breath shallowly into your chest, keep the core tight and don’t let the lower back sag or lift as we want to keep a nice neutral spine throughout.”

What NOT to do

Not only will you get some sideways glances at the gym, but a cheat plank position is simply counterproductive. “The most common mistake people make is not activating their core muscles correctly and letting their lower back sag,” Etheridge says.

“The second most common mistake people make is raising their hips too high. This is often due to trying to hold the plank for too long or not knowing the correct technique.”

Good news is, if you perform this exercise regularly, you can expect rapid improvement. Etheridge says beginners generally progress by at least 15 seconds a week before reaching the one-minute mark.

Injury warning: If you have existing spinal or shoulder injuries, avoid attempting a plank position before seeking medical advice. “With that being said, it is one of the safest core strengthening exercises,” Etheridge says.

Benefits: Being able to hold a plank position is a prerequisite for more difficult movements. “The plank is the first core exercise you must master before moving onto more challenging exercises, as being able to activate and brace your core is imperative,” Etheridge says.

“After you can plank for two minutes, it’s time to attempt more advanced variations. That said, I’ve seen clients plank for seven minutes during a fitness test.”

According to Etheridge, having a strong core makes you less susceptible to injury due to the strong foundation linking your upper and lower body.

NEXT: Exercises that target your core>>

Author: Amelia Barnes