Yoga Asanas

How to do plank pose - Step by step guide

Posted on 2018-11-06

Plank pose with variations

  • Step by step guide
  • Most common plank variations
  • Modifications
  • Tutorial
  • Wrist warm-up class
  • Free plank yoga class

Plank pose also known as Adho Mukha Dandasana or Santolasana, Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana or Kumbhakasana is one of our all-time favorite yoga poses, and is a fundamental pose in many classes, whether you´re practicing Hatha yoga or Vinyasa. It might look like an easy thing to do, make your body look like a plank? But this pose takes time and needs the practice. Plank pose is an arm balance pose that is strengthening the whole vertebral column, core, and wrists.

Before we get down on the floor…

Start by doing it as a standing yoga pose, Tadasana. Tuck your tailbone slightly in, engage your core, your legs and roll your shoulders back. Now, straighten your arms as you make a 90-degree angle and imagine you are pushing on an imaginary wall to spread your shoulders away from each other. This is just the way it should look like once we get down on the floor, remember that!

How to do plank pose - step by step guide!

Steps for a perfect plank
If you are new to the practice, welcome! Let’s take break down the posture so we will slowly step by step create a ideal plank.

  1. Roll out your mat
  2. Knees to the floor, placing your hands directly under the shoulders and your knees underneath your hips parallel to the floor, just like when you do cat and cow.
  3. Toes on the ground and flex your feet
  4. Tuck your tailbone slightly in, engage your abs and strengthen your legs, one at the time
  5. Keep pressing your hands down, index knuckle on the floor and shoulder blades spreading away from each other to keep your plank straight.
  6. Focus your gaze on one spot
  7. Keep your neck long and draw your shoulders back away from your ears
  8. Breathe
  9. Hold it for three breaths!

Plank Tutorial with Lizette Pompa

You can also start in child’s pose and press your body in a flow to straight arms if you want more of a dynamic plank. You can also begin your plank in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog) as you inhale, lean your body towards your hands till your body is straight and arms are directly under the shoulders, That’s it!

How long should I hold my plank?
This is a good question with many answers depending on the purpose of your plank. Do you want to work on holding your poses for a longer amount of time, or do you want to work on creating a Vinyasa flow through your practice? The most important thing is not how long you can hold your plank, it’s how correctly you can do it. How many muscles you're able to engage, and how it feels in your body when everything is connected. This is not a competition, this is your practice.
Modify your plank pose with plank variations!
There are many different ways to do a plank pose. You can do it with straight arms of with bent, you can do it with your knees on the ground if you are a beginner, as a side plank for more challenge or work dynamically in a flow.

Low Plank: (chaturanga dandasana)

  • Your shoulders should be at bent at no more than a 90-degree angle, at about the same height as your elbows. Your shoulder blades should be moving towards each other as you lower down into the pose. Avoid dumping your weight into your shoulders - instead, push away from the floor.
  • Your legs should be fully engaged. Press down into the balls of your feet.
  • Lift your chest upward and forward.
  • Rotate your arms externally and keep your elbows close to your upper body as you lower down.

Read more about chaturanga in this blog post:

low plank pose called chaturanga dandasana

Side Plank:
Start in your plank pose. From here, Put your weight on your left leg and left arm. Breath and find your balance. Are you there yet? Continue as you lift your right arm towards the ceiling. Your left foot should be placed resting on your right in a straight line, or over your right leg and foot, whatever feels more comfortable. Hold the pose for five breaths and go back to your original plank and get ready for your right side!

Dolphin plank pose: Forearm plan
You already know how to do your plank with straighten arms, so let’s make it a little bit more challenging by lowering your body and place your forearms on the ground, palms facing down. Here we work even more with our core strength and therefore it’s even more important that you focus on your breath.

Try this short yoga class with Daniel Scott with plank pose as the theme

Which muscles should I activate?
A plank pose should almost activate your entire body especially your core and serratus anterior. To be able to do a plank properly, you need to work on engaging your core muscles to keep the belly lifting up and your serratus anterior to spread your shoulders away from each other. Otherwise, your plank will look more like an upward or downward facing dog. We love those poses as well but let's make it look like a plank. If you feel a nice burn in your shoulders and your heart rate are rising, then you are doing it right!

Benefits of plank pose
Plank pose is one of the fundamental poses in many sequences as in our Sun salutation. This is just the perfect pose where you can connect your mindset with your body. If you got the strength to do a proper plank, then side plank and other challenging poses will be easier for you, for example, arm balances. In all arm balances, you need the necessary core strength.

See it as your laying a foundation for your yoga practice. It’s also a great pose to strengthen your core and will help against back pain as your abdominal muscles increases. As you push your body away from the ground, you’re also working with your wrists and forearms.

Wrist pain:
To get wrist pain when doing physical yoga as vinyasa or ashtanga yoga is quite common.  Wrist care like warming up and strengthening is critical to stay pain-free.

Variations to do with wrist pain

  • Side forearm plank (vasisthasana)
  • Dolphin plank pose
  • Regular plank with knees down

plank variation

Try this warm-up class with Lauren Matters

Need more help and tips?

In pretty much all of our Vinyasa yoga classes at Yogateket and in our studio, our yoga teachers will guide and remind you how to think and move your body to be able to do a perfect plank. Once you get the hang of it, this will be like yoga therapy for mind and body!

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