Before I was a yoga teacher, for many years I was a personal trainer. As such, I’ve seen many versions of high plank yoga pose. Some make me laugh, and others make me cringe and cry. Honestly, I could spend hours talking about planks, alignment, modifications, variations, progressions etc. But today I want to share a short tutorial along with tips and tricks to make the pose actually work the core, to be safe and effective!
Plank is a core yoga pose, so we’re aiming to work all the muscles of the trunk. It’s one of my favorites because you get a lot of bang for your buck! Forget 2-in-1 this pose is a 10-in-1. So let’s dive into plank pose, from tutorial to alignment and few common mistakes!
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How to do high plank yoga pose?
Begin on the hands and knees. Have the hands 6″ forward of the shoulders, draw the navel to the spine. Push the floor away with the hands, feeling the muscles in the chest contract. Keeping this engagement, tuck the toes and extend the legs.
In high plank yoga pose their should be a straight-ish line from the head, through the hips to the heels. In the pose notice the followng:
- Where do you feel activation of the muscles?
- Is there more work in the front body or back?
- Are you feeling any tightness or tension?
- Which area of your body begins to shake first?
- How long can you hold plank?
- Are your hips parallel throughout?
Common mistakes & fixes
All the above things we notice are feedback to how we’re feeling in the pose. Sometimes we may ‘feel’ we’re in the right alignment but looking in the mirror we can see that actually we’re not. If you begin to feel tension in the wrist, lower back, feel scrunched, etc then let’s discuss the common errors beginners make in high plank yoga pose. And more importantly, how to fix them!
By far the most common thing I hear in plank pose is “ouch my wrists!”. Most commonly this is because the wrist has too much compression. Quite often plank gets ‘set-up’ as wrist under shoulders, knees under hips, then lengthen. But doing this, means the shoulders are coming forward of the wrists (shown top below).
If we let the hands travel forward 4-6″ we allow more room for the length of the torso and legs, and then the wrists CAN stack under the shoulders. It’s also ok to have the hands in front of the shoulders. This is actually more challenging for the core and shoulders!
Wrist pain in plank, could also be caused to wrist injuries or issues you you are dealing with. In this case you could also support with props like a blanket, or wedge block. As a final option you could try plank on the forearms instead.
Another common error is the high butt. There is no straight line from head, hips to heel. The two common reasons are either lack of core strength and to make things easy the butt lifts, or the position is too cramped and the body has nowhere to lengthen due to the wrist compression.
Below you’ll see that in a short downward facing dog, the transition to plank leave the butt lifted. Again, there is no space for the torso to sink without compromising the ankles or wrists. Lengthen your dog, and you lengthen your plank.
Most people have a short dog and short plank. So step it long, and lengthen it out! If the reason the butt is lifted is due to lack of core strength that’s a different issue that needs a modification of knees to the floor and working on holding that with good alignment.
On the flip-side of lifted butts is the dropping sagging butt. This is all about lack of core strength. Hanging on the shoulders and dropping the hips sends ALL that weight into the lower back. Not good!
The fix for this is to lift and lengthen. If you find that the long alignment (head, hips, heels) is too challenging, stay as long as you can with the legs extended. Then once the hips begin to sag, drop to the knees.
There are many ways to progress the knee plank but this is the basic way. Keep the core engaged and just modify to high plank yoga pose with the knees down.
Most people have the belief that more is better. If you can hold a plank for 1 minute, then 2 is better. And 5 is better, etc. Well yes, but no. Holding a plank longer than 2 minutes is not only boring as hell, but it’s got no real benefits to working your core in a functional way.
Instead of holding longer and longer, challenge yourself with variations, and progressions. Again, I could talk for hours on this, but progressions could include things like:
- One leg lifted
- Alternating shoulder tap
- “walking” the feet
- Rotating to side planks and back
- Balancing with one arm extended
- Coming down to forearms
- “walking” the hands
- Using a cable pull for resistance
- Adding renegade row
- Mountain climbers
- Fast movement
- “Saw” back and forth
- Slow movement
Seriously, this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plank alignment, mistakes, progressions etc. My hope is that you found something useful in this beginners guide so you can start planking like a pro!
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- Do you suffer with a high or droopy butt plank?
- How long can you hold a plank with good alignment?
- What’s the most challenging part of plank pose for you?