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Asana Analysis: Plank

This is a strong pose that is typically a part of any vinyasa or power-style yoga class. It is a great pose for improving strength, stability and endurance of the torso, arms and legs. However, all too often this pose is quickly bypassed on the way to cobra or up-dog. Learning to make the most of your plank will help to keep your shoulders healthy and your core strong.

Points of Body Awareness:

*Align the ankles, the knees, the hips, shoulders and the ears to form a diagonal line.

*Make sure the hips are not sagging or lifted up above that diagonal line.

*Maintain neutral spine alignment. (Slight inner curve in the lower back, slight outer curve between the shoulder blades, slight inner curve in the neck)

*The middle finger points strait ahead, the fingers are spread and the thumbs stretch inward toward each other.

*Press into the bridge of the hands and keep the thumb-side of the hand grounded, including the ball of the index finger.

*Create space between the shoulder blades while keeping the collarbones lengthened.

*Keep the gaze on the floor slightly ahead and release any unnecessary tension in the neck, shoulders or jaw.

Muscles Strengthened in Plank:

pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps, serratus anterior, transverse abdominus, rectus abominus, iliopsoas, rectus femoris, quadriceps, posterior neck muscles

To Modify:

Try holding plank pose from the knees, a chair, tabletop or wall.

If the wrists are not able to fully bear weight but the core is otherwise strong, a plank on the forearms is a good alternative.

To Increase the Challenge:

Lift one leg while maintaining alignment of the pelvis, spine and shoulders. There is increased recruitment of the oblique muscles of the torso but there should not be any other change in the posture. This can be held statically for a few rounds of breath or do some dynamic stabilization by lifting on exhalation/lower on inhalation.

PT Note:

This is great posture for assessment of scapula stabilization. Do the scapula wing or tip? Is there excess recruitment of the upper trapezius? This is also a good place to asses static core strength/coordination including respiratory mechanics. Can the patient maintain neutral curves of the thoracic and lumbar spine simultaneously? Are they able to use their diaphragm while maintaining this pose or are they primarily chest breathing? A good quasi-objective progression is from:

1)plank on the wall to

2)on a tabletop to

3)on the seat of a chair to

4)kneeling with arms on the ground to

5)traditional plank posture and maybe to

6)plank with one leg lifted.

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