plink, plank, plunk

Ahhh, the dreaded push up position….or Plank, as we lovingly refer to it in Pilates.

pilates plank studio be pilates

the Plank

It comes in all different styles: knees up, knees down, elbows bent to the side or back, one arm, wide stance, side plank, and on and on and on…

My trainer last week had me doing some combo-plank-push-up moves, and I’m still feeling them three days later! (but it’s a good feeling, you know?)

No matter when you do it, or how you do it, there are some key things you need to keep in mind when doing the plank. Here are the general guidelines to remember for starting out:

The Basic Plank:

Start standing with you feet together, arms up to the ceiling by your ears. Keeping your weight in the center of your feet and your tailbone aimed to the floor, roll down one vertebrae at a time. Your abdominals pull in and up, and your butt does NOT stick out behind you as you roll down. Try to keep your butt directly over your heels.

Walk out until your shoulders are over your wrists, fingers spread wide like a starfish. Shoulders reach out of your ears, tailbone slightly tucked and your heels over your toes. Hold!

Feel your abdominals pulling in towards your spine. Imagine a hand pressing on your lower back and press your abdominals up into that hand…push it away. Hold!

Try holding this pose 3x, and each time, try holding it longer than the last. If you want an even bigger challenge, turn the eyes of your elbows towards each other and hug your upper arm bones towards each-other. ( but who said anything about a challenge – we’re just reading a blog here, aren’t we? )

You can always start on your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders then work your way up to supporting yourself with your hands.

And now, a few variations:

Pilates push-up:

pilates push up

Lots of people say they can’t do a push-up – not true!  If you are in the proper form you can do a push-up…no one said that its only a push-up if you go all the way to the floor!  You are going to do YOUR push-up…maybe you bend your elbows an inch or maybe you get your elbows bent 90 degrees…either way its your practice and its better to do it with proper form and go an inch, than sinking into your shoulders, low back and wrist and go to the floor.

FIrst, get yourself into the proper plank position from above.…(cliffs notes version – shoulders over wrist, heals over toes, abdominals pulled in and up!)  INHALE Hug your arms towards your sides and slowly bend your elbows back, making sure your arms are hugging your sides. EXHALE Pull your abdominals in and press up!  Do this 1-3 times, lift your hips up, and walk your hands back to your feet.  Pull your abdominals in and roll yourself up one vertebrae at a time until you’ve come to a standing position.  Then roll back down one vertebrae at a time, walk back out to plank, and do another 1-3 pushups.  Only go as far as you can maintain this proper alignment.

Side Plank:

side plank studio be pilates

From Plank Pose, shift your weight onto your right arm as you roll onto the outside of your right foot. Keeping both feet flexed, stack your left foot on top of your right and your legs straight. Make sure you continue to pull your abdominals in towards your spine. Bring the left arm up to the ceiling and gaze upwards to your left fingertips. Hold. INHALE EXHALE Roll back to the center, and either rest in the plank pose, or immediately shift your weight onto your left arm and proceed on the left side.

As above, try holding this pose 3x, and each time, try holding it longer than the last.

Another variation of the side plank is to keep your arm to your side, and alternate lifting each leg as high as you can.

pilates plank studio be pilates

Or, you can fully commit, and lift the arm and the leg at the same time….ah…the burn.

Rockin’ the Plank:   (cute name huh?  well wait ’til you do it….you’ll be thinking it’s not so cute)

Set yourself up in plank (see above)

Lift your right foot up – use you inner thigh and hamstring to lift the leg so it stays active. Keep your hips in line with your body – just because your leg is up doesn’t mean your seat is up!
Rock back and forth on your left foot. Your body will go forward then backward. Do this 2x then switch legs. Do it 2 more times then put both feet down and rock back and forth 2x on both feet.
Your goal is find opposition in your movement. You are a rubberband being stretched in opposite directions.

Plank to Pike: (this one’s a killer, but oh, so effective)

pilates plank studio be pilates

You need a stability ball for this one.  Make sure the ball is sized to your body – you should be able to sit on the ball with 90 degree angles at your hips and knees.  Start in a plank position with you hands directly under your shoulders and your shins on the ball.

Don’t allow your low back to arch.  Keep your feet, pelvis and shoulders in one long line, and remember to pull your abdominals in and up.

On an exhale, pull your abs deeply to your spine and use your abs to fold your body in half.  You will be pulling the ball forward towards your hands as your pelvis reaches up into the air.  Your toes will move onto the top of the ball, and your back will become perpendicular to the floor, as if you were in a hand stand.

Allow your head to fall between your arms, keeping your neck long and in line with your spine.

Lower yourself back into a plank position and don’t allow your pelvis to sag below your shoulders. Repeat as many times as possible, as long as you’re able to keep the proper form, working up to 8 reps.

So….a few ideas for your next work-out.  And in no time, you’ll be on to this move:

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yeah, you got me, but you know you could do it if you really wanted to. 🙂

pilates plank
Suite 215 | 4211 Fairfax Corner East Ave., Fairfax, VA 22030 | Phone: 703-222-0122
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