Plank pose, or Kumbbhakasana in Sanskrit, is a core strengthening posture usually used as a transition between other poses or as part of the sun salutations flow in Vinyasa-style yoga along with poses like the Chaturanga Dandasana and Downward-Facing Dog.
Also called plank position, plank exercise, or high plank, the pose involves balancing the hands and toes with the body straight and parallel to the ground. It is a core strengthening pose that works the shoulders, arms, back, and legs muscles.
|Sanskrit Name and Pronunciation:||Kumbhakasana (koom-bhah-KAH-sah-nah)|
|Pose Type:||Core Strengthening|
How to Do the Plank Pose
- Start in a push-up position on the floor or on a yoga mat with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart.
- “Pull” in your core muscles to engage them and keep your body in as straight a line as possible — no sagging or pushing up your butt. Also, keep your arms straight (but not locked) and your shoulder blades pulled back and down.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, taking deep breaths and focusing on maintaining proper form with engaged abdominal muscles. If you are new to the pose, start by holding it for shorter periods — like 10 or 15 seconds — and gradually increase the duration as you get stronger.
- Lower yourself to the ground slowly and carefully.
|Shoulders:||Deltoids, Rotator Cuffs|
|Arms:||Triceps, Biceps, Forearms|
|Back:||Latissimus Sorsi, Trapezius, and Rhomboids|
|Core:||Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, and Transverse Abdominis|
|Legs:||Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Calf Muscles|
Practicing the plank pose offers quite a few researched-backed benefits for mental and physical health:
Improves Core Strength
The plank pose works the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, which helps to improve overall core strength and stability.
Strengthens Upper Body
The plank pose works the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and back, which helps to improve overall upper body strength and endurance.
The plank pose helps to improve posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine and shoulders.
Increases Balance and Stability
Planks require balance and stability, which helps to improve overall balance and coordination — even if you’re a beginner. One study found that even doing one set of core exercises improved overall balance for 24 hours after working out.
The pose also helps reduce stress and tension by promoting relaxation and focus.
Drawbacks and Risks
Like any physical activity, the plank pose carries some risks, especially if it is not performed properly.
Other potential risks include:
- Strains or Sprains: Placing too much strain on the muscles, tendons, or ligaments can lead to strains or sprains, particularly if the pose is held for too long or if proper form is not maintained.
- Muscle Imbalances: Performing the plank pose without proper form or overreliance on certain muscles can lead to muscle imbalances, which can cause problems with posture and movement.
- Wrist Pain: The plank pose places a lot of weight on the wrists, which can cause pain or discomfort if the wrists are not properly aligned or if the pose is held for too long. Overall, it’s best to avoid doing the plank if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or a wrist injury — at least until you’re better.
- Sagging: One common mistake is allowing the hips to sag towards the ground, which strains the lower back and reduces the effectiveness of the pose.
- Arching: On the flip side, another mistake is arching the back, or sticking your butt up, makes planking easier, but doesn’t engage the core.
- Poking the Chin Out. Another common mistake is poking the chin out, which can strain the neck and cause poor alignment in the upper body.
- Flaring Elbows: Pointing elbows out to the sides can put unnecessary strain on the shoulders and wrists and cause poor alignment in the upper body.
There are several ways to modify the plank pose to make it more accessible or challenging, depending on your fitness level and goals. Here are a few options:
To make the plank pose more accessible, try performing the pose on your forearms instead of your hands. This can be less strenuous on the wrists and shoulders and help reduce the risk of injury.
You can try widening your legs to shoulder-width or wider to make the pose more challenging. This will increase the demand on your core and leg muscles, making the pose more challenging.
To modify the plank pose, you can try performing a side plank by shifting your weight onto one arm and stacking your feet on top of each other. This can be a challenging variation of the plank pose that works the body’s obliques and other side muscles.
Plank with Leg Lift
To add an extra challenge to the plank pose, you can try lifting one leg off the ground while holding the pose. This will increase the demand on your core and leg muscles, and it can also help to improve balance and stability.