Plank is a total body strengthening exercise that requires no additional equipment. It involves holding the "top of a pushup" position while you contract your core, shoulders, chest, arms and legs. When done properly, the plank can be a key exercise is getting and staying in shape. However, it can also lead to injuries when done improperly.
Plank pose can be tough on your wrists. If not done properly, you may misalign the body or not contract enough other muscles and put too much pressure on your wrists. This can be especially dangerous if you have previous wrist injuries or carpal tunnel. To help take pressure off your wrists, make sure you don't sag into your shoulders, chest or arms and that you place the entire hand onto the ground, not just the fingers and palm. When you are in plank, keep the shoulders, elbows and wrists in one line.
The shoulders can often become tired and injured in a plank exercise. It is easy to bring extra pressure into your shoulders in a plank pose by dropping your chest too low and letting the front of your shoulders overextend. Poor alignment can also cause trouble when your shoulders are too far forward past your wrists or too far behind them. In plank pose, lift out of your shoulders a bit by pushing into your hands and flattening out the space between your shoulder blades. Make sure your shoulders stay aligned directly over your wrists.
The neck muscles can be come tight in many exercises, and plank pose is no exception. In plank, you may drop your head and pull down the back of the neck, or overextend by looking up and pinch the back or the neck. Sometimes your shoulders may creep up close to your ears and cause tension through the sides of the neck. To prevent this, make sure your shoulder blades are sliding down your back to keep the sides of the neck long. Also, make sure you keep your head and neck in line with your spine by reaching the crown of your head straight, rather than up or down.
Plank is a total body exercise, but the main muscle and stabilizer is the core. When you forget to use your core, you end up putting pressure on the other muscles and you can cause injury to the lower back. When the core is not engaged, the belly drops and the lower back dips. This unsupported stance can cause tension to the muscles and vertebrae in the lower back. To correct this, engage the muscles of your core by slightly lengthening your tailbone toward your heels and drawing your navel to your spine.
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