How to Do the Plank Pose

Three Methods:Doing a Standard PlankExploring Plank VariationsAvoiding Common Planking Errors

The plank pose is an arm-balancing yoga position which is also known as Kumbhakasana. Planking tones the abdominal muscles, works the arms, and strengthens the spine. You don't need any equipment to practice the plank pose—just your body and a flat, clean surface.

Method 1
Doing a Standard Plank

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    Set up your planking space. You can do the plank pose almost anywhere, as long as you have a place to rest your toes and hands/elbows. If you are planking on the ground, make sure that the area is clean and flat. Consider the texture of your planking space: hard, rough surfaces may be less gentle on your hands/elbows, but you may find it harder to keep your balance on a surface that is too soft. Try planking on a rug or a yoga mat so that your elbows have something firm but forgiving to rest upon.
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    Dress for planks. Wear loose or stretchable clothing like shorts, sweats, or yoga pants. Your top should be slightly fitted as well. A baggy top may get in the way of you assuming the proper position. If you plan to do the plank pose at the gym or another public space, be sure to dress with flexibility in mind before you leave the house.
    • You can do this pose with or without shoes. However, avoid wearing only socks so that your feet do not slide around.
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    Start on all fours to open up your spine. Line up your shoulders directly over your hands and your hips directly over your knees. Inhale deeply. As you breathe in, elongate your spine by lifting your head and tailbone. Exhale, slowly. Round your spine by lifting your belly, dropping your head and rear, and rolling your shoulders forward.[1]
    • Repeat these movements back and forth a few times to lengthen your spine and open yourself to the stretch. If you are incorporating planks into a yoga routine, this is a traditional way to enter the pose.
    • Alternately, lay prone (stretched out flat on your belly) on the floor. If you do not want to start on all fours, you can start prone and push yourself up into the plank position.
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    Move your body into the plank pose. Keep your legs extended, your shoulders broad, and your head forward. Hold yourself squarely off the floor with your toes and palms. If you started on all fours, slowly tuck your toes and step back with your feet. Bring your body and your head into one straight line. If you started prone, slowly raise yourself into a basic push-up position.[2]
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    Find a balance. Keep your thighs lifted. Your body should not curve, but rather should form a straight and balanced line. Be careful not to let to let your hips sink. Align your body so that your shoulders are directly above your wrists, and hold it there.[3]
    • Contract your abs to draw your pelvic muscles toward your spine. Keep your head in line with your spine. Keep your shoulders broad for balance.
    • Press the front of your thighs (quadriceps) up toward the ceiling. Stretch your legs out as far as they will comfortably go.
    • Focus on your palms as they root you to the floor. Keep your hands pressed flat.
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    Hold the pose. Take deep, measured breaths. If you are incorporating the pose into a yoga flow, hold it for five smooth breaths and then transition into the next position. If you are using planks to build strength and stamina, hold the pose for as long as you can. Focus on perfecting your form and getting the most out of your planks.
    • If you are a beginner, try holding the plank for 15 seconds. Build up to holding the plank for 30-60 seconds.[4]
    • If you are not a beginner, hold the plank for 60 seconds and then take a short break. Try to do 3 or 4 rounds.
    • As you improve, gradually increase the amount of time. One minute; two minutes; three minutes; as long as you can hold it. Alternate your planks with variations if you want a balanced workout, or hold the pose for as long as you like.
    • If you don't want to involve a stopwatch in your practice, count breaths instead. Count each breath as you draw it in and let it out. Try to hold for 5 - 15 breaths.[5]
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    End the pose when you are done. Transition to another yoga position, return to your hands and knees, or lay down again to rest, prone. If you are no longer able to hold the proper form (e.g. hips begin to sag) go ahead and end the pose.[6] The plank is not effective if you are not in the correct position. You also do not want to injure yourself by having bad form.

Method 2
Exploring Plank Variations

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    Plank with your elbows on the floor. Try this version of the plank if you are not yet strong enough to do a full plank. Keep your legs in the push-up position, shift your weight to your forearms. One by one, bend your elbows and rest them on the floor in front of you. Hold the pose just like you would if you were planking on your hands.
    • This modification is suitable if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. It puts less pressure on your wrists.[7]
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    Plank on your knees. This is a much easier version of the plank, so if you're just getting started or you find the standard plank too challenging, this is a good modification. Doing a plank with your knees bent is also beneficial for those with shoulder pain,[8] and can also put less stress on your lower back.
    • Keep your spine neutral by looking at a spot slightly ahead of you on the mat.[9] Keep your abs tight and your body in a straight line.
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    Try the side plank. This version will really work your obliques — the side muscles of your core. It also improves balance, stability, and will engage your upper body more than a standard plank.[10] Lie on your side with your legs extended, your feet stacked. Prop your body up on your elbow or, for a greater challenge, on your hand with your arm extended and holding your body weight. Keep your body in a straight line, your core engaged.
    • Keep your head in line with your spine by looking straight ahead. Your hip should not be tilted towards the floor/mat in this position. If you feel your hip sinking, adjust your form.[11]
    • If you are having difficulty holding this position, unstack your feet and cross the upper leg in front of your body.[12]
    • To make the position more challenging, raise the upper leg or arm in the air and hold.[13]
    • If you are having difficulty holding this position, unstack your feet and cross the upper leg in front of your body.[14]
    • Try alternating side planks with standard planks or elbow planks. For instance: one minute of elbow planks, one minute of left-side planks, one minute of elbow planks, one minute of right-side planks, and one more minute of elbow planks.
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    Try single-leg planks. Single-leg planks are more challenging and cause your body to work harder — instead of supporting your body in four places (both feet and hands or elbows in a standard plank), you will support your body in only three places (one foot and both arms), reducing your stability. Begin in a standard plank position, then raise one leg toward the ceiling. [15] Don't allow your body or hips to turn — you should remain parallel to the floor. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch to the other leg.

Method 3
Avoiding Common Planking Errors

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    Avoid collapsing your lower back. When you let your rear dip, you compromise the stability of your lower back, and can end up really hurting yourself. To correct this, you need to engage your core, pulling your bellybutton toward your spine.[16] Keeping you head down will also help you keep your back in alignment.
    • Consider asking a friend to lay a broomstick or yardstick on your back. Having an objective reference may help you keep your pose straight. The top of the stick should touch your head, and the bottom of the stick should rest between your buttocks. The stick should rest between your shoulder blades.[17]
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    Do not push your rear toward the sky. This is the opposite problem of collapsing your lower back — you are lifting your butt too high, which does not engage your core. Again, the solution is keeping your core tight. Pull your bellybutton in toward your spine, keeping your back in a flat, straight line.[18]
    • If your plank looks like the downward dog yoga pose, you need to drop your butt until your back is straight.[19]
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    Keep your neck straight, and do not let your head drop. The positioning of your head and neck may seem like a minor detail while you're struggling to keep your core engaged, but you risk injury and strain to your neck if you let your head droop. Instead of allowing it to hang, focus on a spot on the matt or floor that is between your hands but about a foot out in front of you.[20][21]
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    Remember to breathe. You may find yourself holding your breath as you struggle to hold the plank position. But forgetting to breathe while exercising can cause dizziness and nausea.[22] Be intentional about your breathing as you hold the pose.
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    Focus on form, not time. Your form and focus are more important than the length of your planking session. When you can no longer hold your form, it’s time to stop.[23] If you are compromising your form, you are no longer receiving the full benefit of the exercise, and you may end up injuring yourself.


  • If this is your first time, the planks may be easier if you have cushioning under your elbows.
  • You should not feel any back pain while you are doing the plank pose.
  • If you have a recent or chronic injury to your back, arms or shoulders, you should not do the plank pose.

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Categories: Yoga