If plank pose feels heavy AF. If you feel like your upper body just couldn’t be strong enough to hold a plank longer than 1 second. If you’re not sure if you’re lowering to the ground from plank pose correctly…then THIS IS THE BLOG POST FOR YOU! I guarantee that if you follow these steps, your plank will not only feel stronger, but it’s going to also feel EASIER.
STEP ONE: NOTICE WHERE YOUR HIPS ARE
If your hips are below your shoulders (like if it feels like you’re doing any resemblance of a backbend at all – no matter how slight), your core will most likely not be firing up to its optimal amount. Why does that matter? Because all that weight is going to then get dumped into your arms and you’re gonna be like holy hell this is HEAVY AF. If you can get your hips in line with your shoulders it sets you up for better weight distribution across your ENTIRE body, so it doesn’t feel like everything is in your arms.
BUT make sure that you’re also not lifting your hips too high here. So if you feel like your body resembles a downdog at all, your hips are too high. You want a straight line from your head to your heels. Not a mountain (hips are too high) or a crevace (hips are too low). Use a mirror if you need to. Here’s a quick video to show you exactly what I mean:
STEP TWO: MAKE SURE YOUR CORE IS ENGAGED
Once you’ve set up your hip placement in a more optimal way for core engagement, the next step is to actually make sure your core is engaged. I say this all the time to my students in standing poses – just because your knee is bent, doesn’t mean you’re engaging all your muscles the way they should. So just because you’re in a plank, doesn’t mean your core is actually engaging in the way that it should. A very simple, and VERY effective trick to make sure you’re engaging your core correctly in plank is as follows:
- Cough (just go with me on this…)
- Hold that end feeling of the cough in your stomach – that is called bracing if you want the fancy term for it
- There’s your core firing up. Now hold that in your plank, OR give lowering to the ground a try keeping that feeling in your stomach
Why do you want this core activation? This particular way of engaging your core muscles is going to keep your spine from being bending or moving. SO it keeps you in that flat line that we talked about in step 1. No mountain. No crevice. No heavy feeling in your arms.
The reason I know this is so effective? The most common mistake I see in planks/chaturangas/lowering to the ground is a non-engaged core. I’ve had a room full of 30 people making this mistake, told them this neat core hack, and I would say at least 99% of the room lowered themselves in a solid straight line afterwards. THIS. SHIT. WORKS. Give it a try even if it seems silly.
STEP THREE: BREAK IT DOWN INTO SMALLER, MORE MANAGEABLE INCREMENTS AND MOVEMENTS
If your goal is to get stronger at holding a plank pose, don’t just try for a 2 minute plank pose right away. You wouldn’t start lifting 100+ pounds right away, right? So make things more manageable for yourself.
If holding a 2 min plank is your goal, then start by holding a 10 second plank, taking a 10 second rest, and then repeating that until you’ve done a total of 2 minute holds (with the rests between). Build on that by doing 20 second holds, 20 second rests, and still doing it for 2 minutes total. Eventually you’ll get to 1 minute holds with maybe 30 second rests and then eventually that 2 minute hold will seem like nothing.
If lowering to the ground in a solid straight line is your goal, then bring your knees down first and try that. If that’s challenging and you’re still unable to lower in that straight solid line, then put your hands a table or chair and work on pushups that way for a while. As that gets easier, start bringing your hands to surfaces that are closer to the floor (think dresser, to table, to chair seat, to ottoman, to hands on floor with knees down, to full plank position, for example) and work on pushups that way.
The lower to the floor you are, the heavier your body is going to feel. The higher up your hands are from the floor, the lighter your body is going to feel. So it allows you to build your strength up so that eventually the heaviest (aka hands on floor knees off floor) feels like nothing once you’ve built that strength! Here’s a visual if that’s more helpful for you:
I guarantee if you work on all 3 of those things and you do it consistently and do it as I’ve laid out above, you will get stronger and plank will start to feel easier.
Let me know how this goes for you and if you have any questions along the way or about this blog. Feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Now go and kick plank’s ass!
Till next time,
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more yoga tips to help you build a stronger, more flexible and dependable body, join my mailing list where I send out weekly tips like this. You can sign up here. Please also feel free to share this with anyone who you think might benefit from these tips!