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TOPIC: planks -- doing them wrong?

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April 21, 2011 2:45 AM
I need to work on my abs.

I started doing crunches but a) I'm not sure I understand them and b) they seem to stress my back to much (and I"m prone to lower back problems so I'm wary of that).

Planks seem to be the current hot ab exercise. So I'm doing them. But I think I'm not doing them right or something.

1. They seem too easy
2. I don't feel any effect in my ab area
3. All the descriptions say "tighten your abs" but I can't figure out how to do that in that position. And if I do, I can't breathe.
4. The descriptions also typically say, "rotate your pelvis". Huh? How do I do that?
5. Although I don't feel anything in my abs while doing them, I definitely DO feel strain in my lower back.

Clearly I must be doing something wrong (particularly because of #5 above).

BTW, I'm just doing 5 reps of 30 seconds with 1 minute rest in between right now. That's probably why they seem too easy to be effective but I want to make sure I have the form right before increasing the effort.

Anybody have any pointers for me?
April 21, 2011 3:07 AM
You're right, it's very important to have good form on planks. Can you get someone to show you, or look at what you're currently doing?

I'd guess you're not low enough, it's very easy for your bum to rise up too high. I often have a pair of gym pants with a drawstring tie, and I try to ensure that the dangling end always stays in contact with the ground.

Rotate the pelvis? Not sure about that one - is that with a side plank? I have done "roll forward and back" while in a plank position, keeping toes and forearms on the ground.

If you're doing all this right and they're STILL too easy, try stretching out alternate arms. And legs. And even oppoiste arm and leg.
April 21, 2011 3:17 AM
I agree, sounds like your bum is sticking out and your back is straining.

I do planks as part of JM's 6 week 6 pack and you REALLY feel the burn on your abs!

Keep your bum tucked in and low to the ground so you are straight and keep your hands firmly planted under your body, keep your neck relaxed.

I am no trainer but I hope this helps!
April 21, 2011 3:22 AM
I find videos to be the most helpful, rather than description. So, here ya go, this should give you a solid starting point.
April 21, 2011 3:31 AM
I always start planks by laying face down on the floor with my elbows at bust level and my forearms flat on the floor, toes on the floor (so your feet are basically perpendicular to your legs). From there, I push my body up off the floor as one straight line so now my weight is on my forearms and toes. You want your body to be one straight line--your butt should NOT be sticking up AT ALL. If you do it correctly, you probably won't be able to hold this position for more than a few seconds at first, although you'll get much better over time!.
April 21, 2011 3:39 AM
here's a good video for the rotation..
April 21, 2011 4:26 AM
with planks its very important that you keep your body as straight as possible. The biggest mistake is keeping your bum up in the air, it has to be low to the ground, making your body a straight line. Keeping your body bent will make the planks much much easier and not give you the same results.
April 21, 2011 6:34 AM
I'm pretty sure I don't have my butt too high. Would sagging (with my butt too low) caused the lower back strain?
Edited by Texaganian On April 21, 2011 6:44 AM
April 21, 2011 6:41 AM
Remember your back is the other side of your abs. You have to keep your lower back strong for your abs. Try laying flat on your back and lifting your legs up to 90 degrees and slowly doen. Just keep your back pressed flat on the floor. Good luck!
April 21, 2011 6:45 AM
Are you doing the planks on your hands or on your elbows? I had a really weak lower back when I first started and it did hurt a bit but definitely if my butt was sagging down too low it put more pressure on it. That is most likely your problem! If you can, use a mirror or anything you can see your reflection in to see your alignment to make sure it's straight. Generally the proper position is going to be the one that's most difficult to hold ;) Also make sure your arms/elbows are under your shoulders and not sliding forward, that also changes the dynamics and therefore the difficulty. Hope that helps :)
April 21, 2011 6:57 AM
I agree, you may be sinking your butt too low/pushing your pelvis too low. Contracting your abs will help, also try shifting your arms back a bit as you may not have proper balance.
I hear you with the breathing thing but just remember, these are two separate body parts. Concentrate on contracting your abs, then breath easily. Practice this while just sitting or standing and you'll get the idea.

P.S. With crunches, make sure you're not pulling your neck up. Concentrate on using your ab muscles to lift your shoulders and head, not your back. For me, it helps to place my hands so that my palms are behind my ears, concentrate on not pulling up the head and make sure I keep my eyes on the ceiling so I'm not tilting my neck.
Edited by MinnieInMaine On April 21, 2011 6:58 AM
April 21, 2011 7:13 AM
I think it can depend where you are strong as well. I have strong core but my arms are weeeaaaakk. I always give out in the arms long before the abs.
April 21, 2011 2:25 PM
I was doing planks as part of tonight's Body Combat class. The instructor said "If you feel it in your back, you're too low. If you're not feeling it at all, you're too high"

Sounds like you might be too low!
April 21, 2011 3:27 PM
Thank you! I'll try raising my butt a little and see if it moves the effort from my lower back to my abs.

And thanks to everybody else who offered assistance also!
April 21, 2011 3:35 PM
My trainer says that when you are doing crunches you need less than 3 inches of movements to target the right ab muscles without straining your back. The easiest way for me to make sure I am in the right position without straining my back is to sit on the exercise ball and roll forward so that my feet are against the wall and the small of my back is on the ball than crunch up just a few inches and back down. You will KNOW you are doing them right because it hurts!!! haha He also says to keep your eyes on the corner up toward the roof.

Planks are hard for me. I hurt my back a few weeks ago because I was using my back instead of my abs to hold myself and I didnt' realize it. I had to practice engaging my abs while standing so I could get the feel for it when I was in the plank position. He always tells us that if your back hurts you are probably raising your hips too much. You might get more benefit from doing plank from your elbows instead of your hands.

If you are not feeling challenged and are doing all those things; you probably need to hold the plank longer. In our class we hold the plank for 45 seconds rest for 10-15 and do it again.

Good luck
April 23, 2011 11:16 AM
I know this should be simple but I'm still struggling with doing planks correctly. Here's the best pic I could snap (I know it's dark, muddy & terrible but it's the best I could do by myself):

Image not displayed

Now that looks right to me. But when I do them, a) they seem way too easy, b) I feel strain in my lower back, none in my abs.

Am I a hopeless doofus or is there any chance of me getting this right?
October 18, 2012 8:25 AM
If you're feeling it in your lower back (like I do), I think it's a matter of changing your hip position. If you do pelvic tilts, this will help you understand how you can rotate your pelvis to get a flatter back. Essentially, you need to think about bringing your front hipbones upwards while sort of 'curling' your butt under, reducing the curve in your lower back. Here's a video sort of showing this:
Hope this is helpful!
October 18, 2012 8:29 AM

I'm pretty sure I don't have my butt too high. Would sagging (with my butt too low) caused the lower back strain?

Yes. Your body should be in a straight line. Sagging hips would cause lower back strain. Straight line will cause you to basically tense up your whole body to keep it the form and you will feel it in your abs, arms, legs, shoulders. . . . pretty much every where.

I LOVE planks!
October 18, 2012 8:34 AM
Your photo looks ok as far as it shows your posture. Alignment looks right.

Try this - focus on your hips and tilt your hips toward your belly button - this will engage your lower abdominal section. suck your stomach in toward your spine.

Feel it now?

Variation - bring one knee to the triceps of the same side and repeat on the other side.
October 18, 2012 8:34 AM
This might be a weird place to add this comment, but until pretty recently, I could almost never feel any effect in my abs.
I'd hear 'engage your core' and I'd try, but it didn't feel like anything was happening.

Now that I *can* feel something happening, I think it's because that whole area was just a mass of flab and so it took a LONG time working it before I could actually use those muscles or feel any effect after using them.

Does that make sens to anyone?
October 18, 2012 8:39 AM
Another way to think about engaging your abs is to draw your belly button to your spine. That will help rotate your pelvis forward also. You could practice the feel in a standing position by tucking your bum under and at the same time drawing your belly button in to your spine. Hope that helps!!
October 18, 2012 9:27 AM

I know this should be simple but I'm still struggling with doing planks correctly. Here's the best pic I could snap (I know it's dark, muddy & terrible but it's the best I could do by myself):

Image not displayed

Now that looks right to me. But when I do them, a) they seem way too easy, b) I feel strain in my lower back, none in my abs.

Am I a hopeless doofus or is there any chance of me getting this right?

Your form looks fine to me. What happens when you hold it for 2 minutes?
October 18, 2012 2:31 PM


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