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Flip through any issue of Men’s Health and you’ll probably find some version of the plank. This exercise may appear boring and easy – after all, you look like you’re simply holding a push-up position but with your weight supported on your forearms instead of your hands. “The plank is easy only if you’re doing it incorrectly or don’t know how to make it more challenging,” says Mike Wunsch, one of the creators of Men’s Health 24-Hour Abs! . What’s more, he adds, the plank is key because it teaches you to make your core stiff. “That’s a skill you need for almost every exercise.”
So how do you perfect it? Start by assuming a plank position, and then have a friend place a broomstick along your back (as shown below). It should touch your head, upper back and butt. This indicates that your spine is in proper alignment. If the stick doesn’t make contact on all three points, simply adjust your posture until it does. That’s the position you need to hold.
TEST YOUR PLANK POSTURE
1. Make yourself as long as you can (stretch out!) and brace your core as if you’re about to be punched in the gut. This stiffens your torso, which helps prevent movement of your spine. You need to hold this contraction for the duration of the exercise.
2. Squeeze your glutes tightly. Then hold them that way for the entire exercise. This helps create an inflexible bridge between your torso and legs, which keeps your hips from sagging.
3. Press your elbows into the floor, push your upper back towards the ceiling. And pull your shoulders towards your feet. This “locks” your shoulder blades and helps make your entire torso even stiffer.