Planks come in many variations which build upon each other to improve core strength and lumbar stability. Forearm plank acts to open up areas of the body that tighten up as a result of sitting. This exercise fires the muscles of the deep core, including the transverse abdominus, which acts like a built in girdle that balances stability of the pelvis with the thorax. This muscular relationship is critical to low back health and a lack of balance in this region can lead to chronic LBP (lower back pain).
If you have chronic LBP then planking for a few breaths and beginning a recovery exercise (such as cat cow, vacuum or superman) is a safe way to build core strength. If low back pain is worsening, then its time to see a physical therapist. If the pain is stable and manageable and if your doctor has told you that exercise will benefit your situation, your goal should be to build core strength safely using the method above.
Recent studies determine that forearm plank should be held for shorter bouts with breaks maximize work in the primary muscles. Try 4 bouts of 20 seconds with a 10 second rest between and then build up the number of bouts (as opposed to holding one prolonged plank). The transverse abdominus is not meant to contract for prolonged periods. When we spend more than 20-30 seconds we no longer reap the best benefits of the exercise and we put our low back at risk!
Set yourself up for success in forearm plank:
- Align your elbows under your shoulders at shoulder width. If wrist mobility allows, have your hands at shoulder width as well, and spread your fingers out wide. Otherwise prayer clasp your hands.
- Keep your knees on the ground and hips at shoulder height to start. Align you knees and feet hip width in this *awkward* position BEFORE you lift your knees.
- Keeping the neck neutral, push your forearms into the ground, lift your knees up and engage your thighs, glutes and abdominal wall. Push into your heels. Relax the shrugging muscles.
- The base of your skull should line up with the base of the tailbone and heels.
- Keep a natural curve in the the lumbar spine. If you are having trouble keeping your hips in line (they are sagging or they want to jut upwards) start forearm plank on your knees until proper alignment is possible. It will happen with practice!
NOTE: If you find yourself lifting your hips up (into what looks more like a pike) to avoid tension in the low back in forearm plank, try placing your knees down in order to keep the integrity of the position. Piking can add stress on the shoulders and neck, when the goal of plank put the stress on the core musculature. It is perfectly ok to go down to your knees in plank in order to build a better plank!
Good luck and keep on planking!!!
🙂 Coach M
A technically rich forearm plank care of Coach Jentry!
Gumsaba Fitness Class schedule Wednesday 1/20/16
5:30AM Sunrise Danville Womens only class – Coach Karen – Ladder Drill Humpday
6AM Sunup Moraga Womens only Class – Coach Briana – Total Body Tabata Circuit
8:15AM SunshineMoraga Womens only Class – Coach Briana – Total Body Tabata Circuit
9AM Sunshine Walnut Creek Womens only class – Coach Jentry – Ladder Drill Humpday
9:30 AM Rose Court Private Camp – Coach Michelle – Kick and HIIT Humpday
11:00AM Cytosport TRX Interval Training – Coach Michelle (private class)
12:00PM Cytosport In Trinity Training – Coach Michelle (private class)
2PM Cytosport Hatha Yoga – Coach Michelle D. (private class)