Glute and Core Specialist, Cheryl Coppa, demonstrates how to fix your Plank to become a Pelvic Floor exercise and a complete core exercise
By Cheryl Coppa
I can’t resist a blog about planks as we have a Plankful Challenge taking place right now in the Ola Ka Ola Facebook Group. A little bit of planks, and a bit of grateful challenges. It's free and you hop in anytime .
So, You Think You Can Plank?
Planks are a staple exercise in just about all genres of fitness. You will find them in Crossfit, yoga, pilates, group fitness classes, strength training, boxing, and many others. It's no wonder, as it can be a full-body exercise. Most of the time, however, planks are utilized as a core exercise. The question is, are we doing them right? When you plank do you feel it a lot in your shoulders or your low back? Is your core even engaged? If your core is engaged, are you managing the pressure properly? Or are you creating bulging in your core and pelvic floor? If so, this is not making your core stronger but in fact weaker.
Let’s go over little adjustments you can make to ensure every time you do a plank you are in the proper and safe position. Planks are great because you can mix up the position as needed based on your strength and energy level on any given day. Just because you could hold a solid position yesterday, doesn’t mean you can today or tomorrow. Always work with how you feel each day. I use planks A LOT in my training since I don't do situps or crunches to preserve the core and pelvic floor. So mastering the plank is one great alternative.
Step 1 - Setting up the Perfect Plank
Regardless of your fitness level, put yourself to the test with this position. This position will teach you or make sure you know what it feels like to engage all your core muscles, especially the lower ones that get missed most of the time in the plank and many other core exercises.
Try this, you are going to be surprised by the burn you feel. A Lot of times when one does a plank on her knees, her booty pikes up in the air. So being in this position below takes the knees out of the equation and you are forced to use more core. Use this position until mastered and then move on to the next progression. Lay on the floor, the tops of the feet on the ground, and even turn them out to the side. On your forearms. Now using your abs exhale and lift your midsection off the ground. Think of lifting from the bottom up. If you are familiar with The Core Breath, use it here. You want to think about lifting from the bottom up, meaning your pelvic floor and lower abs. (If you do this with all your movements, you will be sure to protect and strengthen your pelvic floor.) It’s the smallest lift and you can really feel your abs and lower abs working here. Just make sure to control from the bottom up. This is the feeling your planks should have.
Once the above position is mastered, a plank from an elevated surface is pictured here. You can see the many different variations based on your strength and ability. When training at home we have the option to work on different surface levels like this. This way you can progress your plank much better without overdoing it.
You might be asking, why can’t I just do it from my knees? You certainly can, if this is what you prefer and you feel your entire core working. I just find many times when the knees are bent piking the hips often come next, and if you are struggling with plank form and not feeling it in the right areas, these are better options. Always check to see if the hip flexors are relaxed (not bent).
A full plank in perfect form and feeling it in the core. Holding this position for a minute should not be easy if you engage your entire core as we practiced in Pic 1
Once the basic plank is mastered there are so many different variations you can do to keep it challenging and FUN!
Next up - THE SIDE PLANK
Yes, I know so many love to hate this. Maybe you just need a little tweak to learn to love it! I love side planks because the position we are in makes it easier to manage the pressure we are creating, and you're not going to be susceptible to bulging as you might be in a regular plank position. Your abs are not hanging down and they are easier to hold in place (in the front). A common mistake is many will sink into their shoulder which in turn will create the hips to sag. This is very uncomfortable for the shoulder and it's pulling your side abs in an awkward position which also is uncomfortable.
Let’s start with an elevated position. Keep the shoulder down and hips level. Holding the opposite arm up can also help keep you upright. Your top foot can be crossed over or staggered or stacked. The stronger you get, work from a lower surface until you feel strong enough to take it from the ground.
Once you have mastered the front plank and the side plank, pretty much have any variation of planks you will be able to do. Always use the same breathing and lifting technique as mentioned in PIC 1. This way your pelvic floor is protected and strengthened just as your core is strengthening in a safe and effective position.
*Want to see some bloopers? While I was trying to record my plank content I made a LOT of bloopers :)
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🌐 Do you have any questions about the pelvic Floor Program? Contact Cheryl for any questions firstname.lastname@example.org
About Cheryl Coppa
✔️ A certified Core Confidence Specialist (Pre & postnatal fitness, pelvic Floor, Diastasis)
✔️ A certified Personal Trainer specializing in women's fitness over 40
✔️Low-Pressure Fitness / Hypopressive certified by creator Dr. Tamara Rial
✔️Pre/Postnatal Fitness Specialist
✔️Instructor of the Pelvic Floor Health program, Ola Ka Ola