A Perfect Plank in 4 Steps

Before: using shoulders to hold a plank
Before: Using shoulders to hold a plank. Note downward head.
After: Shoulders are level, and core is doing the work
After: Shoulders are level, and core is doing the work. Note neutral spine.

There are good planks, and there are great planks. Finding out which is which is the difference between really using your core muscles and just hanging out.

The before and after photos above illustrate this point. On the left, my client has engaged her upper back and shoulders to raise herself off the floor. There is very little core work here. On the right, she keeps the upper back level, transferring the work of elevating and holding the body to the midsection instead of the shoulders.

How to execute your perfect plank in 4 steps:

  1. Start on hands and knees, palms just ahead of shoulders
  2. Round shoulders up to ceiling, then relax to what feels like neutral, or flat across the shoulder blades (not rounded up). Check a mirror or have someone check for you.
  3. Maintain this strict shoulder position. Do not allow any part of your torso from shoulder to hip to change.
  4. Extend first one leg and then the other straight back so you’re on your toes and palms, in your perfect plank.