Front Plank This well-known functional core exercise engages muscles that support the spine and hips as well as the scapula (shoulder blades). Athletes who perform Front Plank consistently and with precision, lower their risk for back and shoulder injuries while increasing power production and the ability to win battles with contact from opposing players.
Note: I often see coaches, personal trainers, fitness instructors, and some strength coaches cue athletes to position hips and chest too low, which results in an overly extended spine and neglects muscles that support shoulder stabilization. Also, Front Plank is misused by requiring ridiculously long sets—upwards of 2 minutes or more. Inappropriate durations lack crossover to sports performance and can result in back pain and injury.
- Forearms on the floor about shoulder-width apart, elbows at a 90-degree angle and directly below the shoulders, extend your legs straight back about hip-width apart, toes on the floor.
- Lift your body so the weight is on the forearms and toes. Your body should be in a straight line from head to heels.
- Press forearms into the floor, resulting in a slightly rounded upper back and protracted shoulder blades. (Envision shoulder blades wrapping around the ribcage (Photo above). I cue “no chicken wings” to remind athletes to not let shoulder blades jut out.
- Brace the abs as if expecting a punch to the gut. Do not let your hips sag, which would disengage the abs and put strain on the low back. (Some people suggest that the back should be completely straight, but if it takes slightly lifting your hips to properly engage your core, that’s okay. It’s better to lift the hips slightly than to drop the hips too low.)
- Multiple sets of Front Plank for short durations prove to be most effective to build a stable, strong core. Aim for 3 to 5 sets, holding for 10 to 30 seconds each. To properly brace the core much longer than 30 seconds is nearly impossible and when attempted contributes to poor body alignment. Poor body alignment while performing Front Plank does nothing to resist over-extension of the spine—the main purpose of Front Plank.
- For athletes who cannot maintain form for at least 10 seconds at a time, Front Plank from the knees is an appropriate regression (below).