Good form leads to more effective exercise!
Most people know what a plank or pushup position is. However, that doesn’t mean their form or alignment couldn’t use some improvement. Bad form in these exercises, regardless of what variations or modifications you are doing, is usually the cause of neck, shoulder and back pain in these positions. Doing this position incorrectly leads to overworking the neck and top of the shoulder muscles and strains the low back. Doing these positions correctly, or with good form, builds more core and ab strength; reduces neck and back pain; builds upper back and scapula stability; and reduces hip stress and strain. In addition to all of those benefits, these tips help you get the most out of each rep (or second) and, in the long run, make these difficult positions and exercises so much easier!
Remember these key tips:
- Push your abs up into your spine. This applies to the low abs below the belly button, the mid abs between the belly button and the rib cage, and the upper abs between the low and mid ribs.
- Keep your head in line with your spine. Most people let their heads drop to the floor or look up past their hands. Keep the base of your skull pressed up to the ceiling and your ears reaching away from your hip bones.
- Spread your upper back wide, sending the shoulder blades off the spine. This helps prevent the collapse in the upper back we often see and builds more strength in the scapula and upper back area. Be especially careful of the bottom of the shoulder blades staying wide off the spine as if they are reaching into the arms. Pushing down through the elbows or arms through the floor or step can help with that feeling. Side note: If you like to round in your upper back or have some widows stoop going on, you might need to think about flattening the upper spine slightly towards the floor, but be sure to keep the width in the shoulder blades so you flatten the spine but do not collapse in the scapula.
- Keep the legs long by pressing the back of the heels away from the torso, especially when doing these with straight legs. Imagine sending the quads through the calves and out the heels but keep the shins moving up through the hamstrings toward the sit bones. Keep this energy going the whole time you hold the position, like two moving sidewalks in an airport moving constantly and steadily in opposite directions.
- Relax the outer hips by keeping the low abs and pelvic floor engaged. It can help to think of sending the side of the hip bones out through the pinky toes away from the body.
Watch our video for more in depth tips and visual cues to help you improve your planks and push-ups!
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Addie Kelzer is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She believes that by making fitness and good food practical, her clients will hold the power to positively change their health and the health of those closest to them.