Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 18, 2010

How-To: Proper Plank Technique

By Mark Sisson
108 Comments

This is the last in a series of posts (Pushups, Pullups/Chinups, Squats) covering proper technique for the 4 Essential Movements of Primal Blueprint Fitness. Check back tomorrow when I’ll be covering the first of many ancillary movement patterns that will be featured in Workouts of the Week (WOW).

I don’t like situps, crunches, or most of their derivatives, as “core workouts.” Yeah, doing a ton of crunches day in and day out will get you perpetually sore abdominals, but that’s an improper usage of our torso. The core does not exist to contract or bend over and over again; it’s there to resist force. We need strong cores in order to maintain a stable torso while putting in work, whether it’s lifting heavy things, carrying a heavy load, or transferring power from our hips while throwing a punch or a ball. Having that stable, strong core with the capacity to resist the influence of outside forces is far more important than having the capacity to perform a million situps.

The plank is a far more useful core exercise. The key to success with it is right there in the name: you’re forming an immovable, stiff plank with your entire body. From toes to head, you must be firm, not flaccid.

How to Do the Basic Plank

  1. Get in the pushup position, only put your forearms on the ground instead of your hands. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders. Toes on the ground.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abdominals.
  3. Keep a neutral neck and spine.
  4. Create a straight, strong line from head to toes – a plank, if you will.
  5. Hold that position.

Things to Remember

  1. Don’t let your hips sag down to the ground. Sagging hips makes the exercise initially easier, but it’s not a plank and it defeats the purpose of the exercise.
  2. Look down at the ground. This is a good prompt for maintaining a neutral neck position.
  3. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.
  4. Level 4 of Primal Blueprint Fitness Lift Heavy Things also incorporates the Side Plank.

Even if you never progress (or choose to progress) to the other plank variations, the basic plank, performed properly, will be sufficient for developing good core stability.

Watch this video on proper form and technique for the first 4 of 9 total plank  movements in the PBF Lift Heavy Things bodyweight progression.

Find out where you should begin in the squat progression by taking the self-assessment test found in Primal Blueprint Fitness and then get started today!

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108 Comments on "How-To: Proper Plank Technique"

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Aaron Blaisdell
6 years 1 month ago

This is the one essential movement I have not previously incorporated into my movement routines. That is about to change…

IBRobynb
IBRobynb
6 years 1 month ago

I do the plank using a stability ball. You really have to focus on your position to keep from falling.

Andrea
6 years 1 month ago

I shake a lot when I do the plank. Is that just because I’m not strong enough and that will go away as I progress?

Matt
Matt
6 years 1 month ago

Yes, I think so. I start out rock solid, but I always get shaky as I approach the threshold of how long I can hold a plank.

Neil
Neil
6 years 1 month ago

The shake should go away with new strength. Back in the day, I used to shake a bit doing very slow pushups and pullups, but not anymore. The ‘functional’ nature of the PBF movements will also reduce shake with time because they work all the little tiny stabilizer muscles that isolation workouts miss.

Darrin
6 years 1 month ago

Planks are definitely the best of the core exercises for the reasons you mentioned. Another excellent one is the L-sit, where you hold both legs out in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. And if you are doing the “big lifts” such as deadlifts, overhead presses, and pull ups, you are getting an excellent core workout as well!

Neil
Neil
6 years 1 month ago

Agreed! I find that a good set of Snatches will destroy my core pretty good. In the good way.

Guy_From_Amelie
6 years 1 month ago

You know how some women in Africa carry big water jugs on their heads? That seems like a great core workout. I’m thinking of carrying my laundry hamper on my head on the way to the laundromat. (just joking, but only barely)

MamaGrok
6 years 1 month ago

I do. After seeing that everyone in Guatemala carries stuff on the head or back (saw some 5’4″ guys carrying bundles bigger than they were on their backs w/ no problem), I carry stuff on my head whenever I can. Usually in the house, but not always – like carrying 2gal of water from the “comfort station” to our campsite last weekend.

I’m sure it was an amusing site, but seriously, it’s the easiest way!

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[…] Original post by Mark Sisson […]

dragonmamma
dragonmamma
6 years 1 month ago

I have a suggestion for future videos. I guess you don’t want to come across as a show-off, but I think you should take your shirt off while demonstrating. I was particularly noticing in this video that people might have a better idea of correct positioning if your shirt wasn’t covering things up.

Sara
6 years 1 month ago

Are you the first to mention the clothes, dragonmamma? I think these videos are awesome, but I can’t help thinking that Mark looks a bit like an old man in the loose shirt and baggy shorts. I’d like to see him in bike shorts and a tighter shirt—not so I can leer, but so we can really see how well the PB works, and the proper form.

Ditching the shades would be nice, too. Just saying’. Love the videos and the instruction!

MamaGrok
6 years 1 month ago

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were a leer-er. 😉

dotsyjmaher
dotsyjmaher
2 years 7 months ago

I am perfectly willing to admit I like to leer at Mark…..it motivates me…well, it ALSO, motivates me…..who cares WHY….just take the shirt off……..please….

Tom
Tom
6 years 1 month ago

I second that.

There’s no escaping it Mark, to show off good posture you have to strip down to your tighty whities! 😉

But seriously, this is great material. Thanks!

Kelda
6 years 1 month ago

Do you know I was thinking just the same thing with the Push up video, and the pull up, and the squats … 😉 … LGN after all 🙂

Duncan
Duncan
6 years 1 month ago

Maybe Marc can break out that yellow Speedo he was sportin’ back in the eighties . . .

CARR
CARR
3 years 1 month ago

So I’m actually a guy and I was thinking the same thing because I was thinking it would be easier to get an idea of the correct position by actually seeing the muscles work and tighten.

Kevin
6 years 1 month ago

I have just started doing planks in the last two weeks – my trainer at the gym is manical about leaving them until the end of my workout. I know they must be doing something good because they hurt like hell. So good, though.

gilliebean
6 years 1 month ago

I’m loving this series of posts, Mark!! Very awesome stuff. Thank you for the progressions. Makes it easier to know how to move forward with proper form. Your generosity with information and knowledge continues to astound me. 🙂

Primal Toad
6 years 1 month ago

This is one of two essential movements that I was not doing before this week. I did all 5 on Monday and the WOW today.

I can’t wait to see what this does to my body!!

Jeff
Jeff
6 years 1 month ago

Hey, of all things I thought about you today.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/18878/saturday-night-live-phillip

Oliver
Oliver
6 years 1 month ago

Is there any evidence out there proving this is better than sit-ups/crunches and is a “core workout”?

Looks really interesting, but I will need more convincing before I incorporate into routine.

Kelda
6 years 1 month ago

Go and try holding the plank with proper form for 90 seconds and then come back as say it isn’t a good core workout!

I’ve been doing this one for about 5 years and believe me it’s a good core workout 🙂 , and for progressions try wearing ankle weights and raising one leg slightly whilst holding good form …

Aaron Curl
6 years 1 month ago

There is evidence that sit-ups and crunches put the spine in a horrible position and stretch and twist it like it wasn’t meant to be. Just think about it….it’s common since really. Humans do all sorts of things with the body that just wasn’t meant to be. For example….eat the wrong foods…..do improper exercises to look “good”…..catch my drift? I will say if you want your abs to be big and bulky you have to do weighted crunches and leg lifts etc. Then your back will really hurt…but you’ll have big abs….lol.

jon
jon
2 years 11 months ago

Heh heh…

I don’t think I want big abs…

🙂

Chris Chip
Chris Chip
3 years 9 months ago
There is plenty of evidence proving that repetetively end-ranging your lumbar spine into flexion as you do with sit-ups increases spinal degeneration and can provoke back pain. Also, weakness or inactivation of your gluteal muscles has been linked to back pain, as it causes hamstring overactivatition and tension. This will decrease the ability of your hip joint to flex, thereby making your spine do more of the work when you bend. When you train the abs in a sit-up position, you’re training them to work in isolation. They are designed to work with the gluteals to tip the pelvis up… Read more »
Oliver
Oliver
6 years 1 month ago

Not denying it will hurt during a workout…but thats not what i asked for.

There must be something substantial going into depth about this exercise since its essentially saying (or mark is at least) “no” to the popular sit-ups and crunches.

AverageJoe
6 years 1 month ago

Sit ups and crunches place incredible loads on your spine. Check out the work of Stuart McGill – well renowned professor of spine biomechanics – well researched findings that basically support everything that Mark has posted,

Oliver
Oliver
6 years 1 month ago

Thanks, I will check him out.

dragonmamma
dragonmamma
6 years 1 month ago
“Having that stable, strong core with the capacity to resist the influence of outside forces is far more important than having the capacity to perform a million situps.” I believe that’s the crucial sentence. I started doing planks about 5 years ago because of continuous back pain which was only made worse with sit-ups and crunches. Now my back can handle pretty much anything I throw at it, literally. Somersaults, backbends, medicine ball slams as well as crunches and sit-ups; I don’t think it would be possible for me to do any of those without pain if I didn’t have… Read more »
Tony Ingram
6 years 1 month ago
Hey Mark, Having a strong core is obviously a good thing, but the fitness industry has overstated its importance. Here is a very good article discussing this: http://www.cpdo.net/myth_of_core_stability.doc by Professor Eyal Lederman. I believe any fitness enthusiast or health professional should read it. Also, the plank is a good ‘stability’ exercise, but not strengthening the core muscles in ranges outside neutral may prove detrimental, especially since most activities involve breaking the neutral position. Although the jury is out, research is leaning towards the fact that muscles only strengthen in the range you train them in, which has been an argument… Read more »
Ginny
Ginny
2 years 2 months ago

Bummer that no one else replied to this. I would be interested to hear some responses.
So if core stability/strength doesn’t help chronic lower back pain, then what does?

I would be curious though, a plank isn’t just about “core,” it engages so much more than the core. Maybe that is part of the key to relieving the pain, it is engaging the *entire* body rather than the (poor) attempt at isolation exercises like crunches.

Very curious indeed.

Jo
Jo
6 years 1 month ago
HI Mark I have been following Primal for well over a year now, I am very strict with it and all I allow myself is dark chocolate and that is literally 4-5 sq a week sometimes not even that. Ok so heres my problem, weight! I am not losing my weight. I hurt my back so I only walk now and swim and everyday pilates for an hour and core work. So no weight training as I can’t. So tell me why cant I lose weight? It seems a bit weird to me. I sleep 8-9 hours a night. I… Read more »
jd
jd
6 years 1 month ago

you’re probably eating too much. Even if you eat primal, if you’re calories in is greater than calories out, you’re gonna maintain/gain fat. Figure out your deficit and cut calories accordingly.

Bryan - Workouts Without Weights
I would like to share some thoughts I had spontaneously as I read through this conversation. I have not polished this comment and so it may appear a bit direct. Considering the idea of exercising your “core”; The term “core” itself means (from dictionary.com [quote] core 1 ? ?/k?r, ko?r/ Show Spelled [kawr, kohr] Show IPA noun, verb, cored, cor·ing. –noun 1… 2.the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything. [/quote] In the physical therapy field we often say that “distal mobility is dependent on proximal stability”. What this basically means is that the lifting of heavy things with… Read more »
Kevin@InvestItWisely
6 years 1 month ago

I find that the plank really kicks my ass, especially when you go for a full 90 seconds or even longer. My core always feels nicely worked out after that. I also find that the plank exercise is less boring and time consuming than trying to do 100 situps or something like that…

debbie_downer
debbie_downer
6 years 1 month ago

Can we have more recipies please?

Watching all this exercise has made me hungry and I need some snacks.

frank
frank
6 years 1 month ago

I really like all the new @primal@ exercises that you are showing the MDA community! great work! BTW : Slaying the boar exercise is tooo sickkkkk

Jason Mathew
Jason Mathew
6 years 1 month ago

You are spot on when you say that the core’s job is to resist force! I am a physical therapist and that statement just put a smile on my face.

Tony Ingram
6 years 1 month ago

I’m a physical therapist and this put a frown on my face. Please see my post above.

Jason Mathew
Jason Mathew
6 years 1 month ago

I agree. I was just saying that I like the statement that the core’s job is to resist force in daily activities because most people think that you just need to do crunches and situps to work the “core.” That’s why you should incorporate many different functional exercises. Have you read any Shirley Sahrmann or Gray Cook? They have a lot of good info in their books. Gray Cook’s functional movement screen is superb.

Tony Ingram
6 years 1 month ago
I totally get what you mean, crunches and sit ups and the whole idea of simply working the ‘core’ is silly, and even dangerous! I (personally) just think that working core muscles in one way, like the plank, is still an oversimplification. Under heavy loads, the core stabilizes, but functionally, its capable of a variety of movement. Saying the core is ‘meant’ to stabilize and remain rigid is ignoring the fact that it is capable of so much movement! Of course, Primal Fitness wonderfully encompasses this variety of movement in its other exercises. I haven’t heard of Gray Cook but… Read more »
raygazzman
raygazzman
6 years 1 month ago

I had some exposure to the plank pose at the beginning of this year when I was becoming Grok. It is a great excercise but excercise a little caution and make sure to do it on a mat or some other surface with cushion.
I (over) did it on a thin rug on top of concrete and ended up fraying some elbow tendons.

Grok on

ed h
ed h
6 years 1 month ago

I tried this today, and wow, can I feel it. Well goodbye sit ups. It sure didn’t look like it would be that beneficial, but judging by how I feel, I was wrong. I certainly don’t feel this after doing 75 sit ups. Thanks for this great core builder.

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[…] How-To: Proper Plank Technique […]

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[…] you’ve already mastered the standard plank, here’s a few more plank variations from Conditioning […]

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[…] Worse: Eggs or Men’s Figure Skating? 9 No-Bulls*** Strength & Muscle Building Tips How To: Plank Technique Ask Coach about this WOD… he killed it in Aromas last year August 24th, 2010 | Category: […]

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[…] THE PROPER PLANK TECHNIQUE […]

Suzanne
Suzanne
5 years 9 months ago

Hi Mark,
I’m just starting the primal blueprint and am very excited about its potential. Thank you for this great site. I notice that in your series for the plank that you use straight arms. I find that this takes my focus off my core because my arms tire quickly. In this post however, I see you use the elbows on the ground position. Do you have any advice on which version I’m better starting off with? (I can hold over a minute in full plank on my elbows). Cheers, Suzanne

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[…] to reach that number by way of various exercises. I might do a combination of pullups, pushups, planks, box jumps, glute ham raises, and/or lunges to hit four hundred reps. If I go for six hundred reps, […]

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[…] you’ve already mastered the standard plank, here’s a few more plank variations from Conditioning […]

Chris- Swiss Ball
5 years 6 months ago

Another more advanced plank position to try is to do it on a Swiss ball

Sherry
5 years 1 month ago

Great post! Anyone looking to keep up their plank motivation should join a group I started on Twitter called #PlankADay. See this link for more info: http://www.fudiet.com/plank-a-day-revolution/ Also check out PlankADay on FB, I will be crossposting this link!

@DrSherryPagoto

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[…] Check out this link for a Proper Plank How-To […]

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[…] variations of the plank but there are already people who explained it pretty good so I will give you the links and you could educate yourself further.  If you are a beginner you could try holding in a plank […]

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[…] ????? ?????? ?  ???????????, ?????? ?? ?? ?????????? ???? ????, ?????? ?? ??????? ??????.  ??? ??? ?????????, ???? ?? […]

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[…] “elbows down” planks makes you belly-cheat, go with “hands down” planks. Fully extend your elbows and place your hands on the floor, as if you were in the top position of […]

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[…] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-proper-plank-technique/#axzz1iWTwr0Su Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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[…] Squats 2.Deadlifts 3.Push press 4. Pull ups 5. Push ups 6. Chin ups 7. Cleans 8. Planks 9. […]

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[…] 7.???????? […]

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[…] Squats 2.Deadlifts 3.Push press 4. Pull ups 5. Push ups 6. Chin ups 7. Cleans 8. Planks 9. […]

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[…] ever be this good, but I’m trying. (If you’re interested in doing planks, read this link and this link for instructions on proper […]

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[…] 1. Plank […]

Brolic Prim
Brolic Prim
4 years 3 months ago

can i perform the plank progression by itself

teena gomes
teena gomes
4 years 3 months ago

Good exercise but can i lose my belly fat and how much time it takes and more important thing i am thyroid patient

Mark
4 years 2 months ago

Some useful tips here, the plank is often overlooked when it’s actually a really good exercise.

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[…] if you only have 5 minutes, you just need the floor to perform a plank (see proper plank technique).  Hold the plank as long as you can.  If you have a wall, you can also perform a wall sit (see […]

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[…] more details and videos on these movements, check out their pages on MDA: squat, pullup, pushup, plank. Twice a week, warmup, get your body and joints warm with some light “cardio,” and engage in a […]

Tony
Tony
4 years 12 hours ago

Whenever I do the plank I cannot feel my abs burning. However, my calf muscle and forearms hurt.

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3 years 10 months ago

[…] Plank – 1 minute […]

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[…] Daily Apple and his primal diet buzzwords, he does put together a really good tutorial on how to start integrating planking into your workouts. Make sure you watch the video at the […]

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[…] 2 minute plank […]

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