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Ab Exercises for Women

5-Minute Trainer: The Dos and Don’ts of Planks

The plank is one of the best exercises for your core. Here's how to get the most out of this ab move.

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Planks are arguably one of the hardest movements around, since they involve not only your abs but also your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, chest and upper back. All these muscles need to work in harmony in order to execute a perfect plank, so here are some dos and don’ts that will help make your planks practically perfect in every way.

Dos and Don’ts of Planks

DON’T let your hips sag like an old cart pony. This position completely takes your abs out of the equation, forcing your arms and toes to support your weight until they give out and you flop down unceremoniously. It also puts your lower back at risk, as it is swaying more than is natural. Your ideal body position is head, hips and heels in line, back straight, head neutral.

DON’T let your butt lift into the air. Again, your abs are doing nothing to support your weight in this position, and the yoga mavens will make fun of you for performing a sorry rendition of down dog.

DO press through the heels of your hands and spread your shoulder blades apart. Allowing your shoulders to hunch and move inward toward one another puts strain on your shoulder girdle and neck, and makes it very difficult to maintain proper form.

DON’T leg your head hang. This pulls your spine out of alignment and overstretches the muscles in the back of your neck and shoulders. Look in front of your hands a few inches to lift it into a neutral, stable position.

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DO press your heels toward the wall behind you and squeeze your glutes. This tightens up your posterior chain and helps support your hips and lower back to take some of the pressure off your abs.

DO focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose for a count of two and exhale through your mouth for a count of four. This will help oxygenate your muscles while also serving as a distraction to help the time pass more quickly.

DON’T hold your plank too long. If you’re not capable of maintaining proper form for the entire duration of time, you’re going to strain your muscles. If you’re newer to exercising, shoot for 20 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest. As you progress, move to 30 seconds of work/rest, then 45 then 60 and eventually 2 minutes if you’re a baller!

DO try different plank variations as you get stronger to train your core in different ways: side planks, forearm planks, knee-in planks and even walking planks.

Related: Pumped-Up Planks