The plank is a staple when it comes to core stability training. Variations of the plank are often found in "beginner" to "advanced" programs. What if you can't do them without pain afterwards? Examine your form. Here are three common areas that may need to be modified to make your plank strong, effective and pain-free.
1. Wrists - When doing a tall plank (hand plank), warm up the wrists before putting pressure on them. Try this yoga wrist warm-up. If it bothers your wrists too much to have your palms down, make fists or use two weights.
2. Shoulders - Ensure the shoulders are over the wrists and not rolling forward or scrunching toward ears no matter what type of plank you are performing. Perform a warm-up for the shoulders by moving them gently through your full range of motion. For a tall plank (hand plank), spread fingers wide and press the floor away, activating the upper body and slightly spreading shoulder blades apart.
3. Low back - If your abdominals aren't strong enough right now, it's possible that your low back will take on too much load and droop. Activate deep abdominals by slightly tilting your pelvis (tuck your tail) and gently drawing your belly inward. If that still isn't helping, modify your plank by reducing the intensity. Do this by dropping to your knees or elevating your hands on a wall, cabinet, or bench. All of the same concepts apply even if in modified position. No shame in modifying! Start where you are and build from there.
Work your way towards holding a full plank for 30-60 seconds. Once that becomes easy, try variations such as an elbow plank, side plank, or a dynamic plank in which arms or legs are moving away from the body.