“When you have the strong foundation of a good plank pose, then everything else you do in a fitness class is going to be more effective—the key is to get it right,” says Bria Tavakoli, a NYC-based yoga teacher and retreat leader.
Instead, keep your hips in line with your shoulders, lift your thighs away from the floor, and draw your navel toward your spine. If it is too difficult to keep your hips up in high plank, place your hands on a bench or a wall. Or keep your hands on the floor, but shorten the duration of your hold. If your hips sag in forearm plank, lower your knees to the floor.
Does your plank feel wobbly? Many people set their hands too wide or too far away from their bodies. “This can lead to additional strain in the shoulders, wrists, and neck—especially in a side plank variation,” says Aguiar.
When setting up your side plank, align your shoulder directly over the top of your wrist. Create a “T” shape with your body. Actively press your bottom hand into the floor, and lift your hips toward the sky—this will ensure you are using your arm muscles to support your body and will lessen tension in the shoulders and wrists, says Aguilar.
For the perfect plank position, align your hands directly underneath your shoulders, keeping your hands shoulder-width distance apart. If your shoulders are tight, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, adds Tavakoli.
Is your neck jutting forward? People frequently make this mistake because they’re already in the text-neck posture throughout the day, says Tavakoli. This low plank no-no is detrimental to the cervical spine, since the compromised position of the neck increases tension in the upper spine, back of the throat, and base of the skull. Letting your neck jut forward during planks can also lead to headaches and neck pain, says Aguiar.
To avoid this misalignment, think of your head as an extension of your spine. “Draw the chin slightly back, keep eyes down, and keep the back of the neck long and in line with the rest of the spine,” says Aguiar.
Are your hands angled in toward the center of your body in high plank? If so, it can cause your chest to collapse, making it difficult to stabilize your shoulders. It’s also fairly common for your thumbs and index fingers to peel away from the floor—which can cause the wrists to become achy, says Tavakoli.
Instead, place your hands parallel to one another or slightly turn the fingers out. This will help you broaden your collarbones and stabilize your shoulders to prevent injuries, says Tavakoli.