Elbow Plank Pose: 7 Common Mistakes

People with wrist problems may find basic plank to be very uncomfortable or even painful.  An excellent alternative is “elbow plank pose.”  An elbow plank pose begins on your hands and knees.  You will then lower your elbows to the ground, straighten your legs behind you, curl your toes under, and push your body up off the ground.    Keep your elbows directly under your shoulders, with your upper body weight resting on your forearms.  Your forearms should be extended directly in front of you, along the floor.  Keep your feet straight, maintain neutral spine alignment, and hold.  Simple, right? Hardly!  In the real world, you may need to make some adjustments in order to achieve proper alignment and gain maximum benefits from this pose. Here are 7 mistakes that people commonly make when they attempt an elbow plank pose.

Butt in the air

People are often tempted to stick their butts in the air during elbow plank pose because it enables them to hold the pose for a longer time than if they performed the pose correctly.  The problem is that, when you stick your butt in the air, it puts excessive pressure onto your shoulders and you aren’t required to hold your core rightly.  This mistake often results in neck and shoulder pain.  Keep your butt down, so that it’s aligned with your heels and shoulders.


Arched back

When you arch your back, you are relying on your vertebrae and spinal ligaments rather than the core muscles for support. This misstep typically leads to lower back pain. Correct it by slightly tilting your pelvis, which will flatten your back. Squeezing your glutes is also helpful. Imagine keeping your body in one straight line from your shoulders to your feet.


Hips too low to the ground

If your hips sink towards the ground, you are relying on the lower back to support your body weight rather than properly engaging the abdominal muscles.  It is much easier to rely on your spinal cord instead of properly engaging your core muscles. You can correct this common mistake by lengthening your tailbone towards the back of the room and pressing the front of your thighs up towards the ceiling.  Be sure to keep your shoulders directly in line with your elbows.

Poor Neck Alignment

In elbow plank pose, the neck must be held in neutral alignment.  The head should be neither dropped forward, nor should it be lifted up.  Think about your head and neck being an extension of the straight line that’s created by the rest of your body.  When the neck isn’t straight and the head is dropped forward or lifted up, pain in the upper back or neck will likely occur. incorrect_plank_neck

Rounding the Upper Back

A rounded upper back is a sign that your shoulders are hunched up.  People sometimes make this mistake to compensate for weak core muscles.  It allows people with weak core muscles to hold the pose for an extended period, at the expense of their upper back, neck, and shoulders. In order to correct this error, move your shoulders down, away from your ears.  Contract your traps (upper back muscles) and lats (mid-back muscles) to prevent the shoulders and upper back from rounding.


Poor Elbow and Shoulder Alignment

In elbow plank pose, the elbows and shoulders need to be in one straight line.  Tilting the shoulders in front of or behind the elbows overloads the shoulders, which often leads to shoulder pain.


Clasping Hands Together

Clasping your hands together lessens the effectiveness of elbow plank pose.  When your hands are clasped together, your abdominal muscles don’t have to work as hard.  Always keep your hands apart, extended in a straight line from the elbows, with your palms on the ground.



Perfect Elbow Plank Pose


The picture below is a perfect elbow plank pose.  Notice that her elbows are directly under her shoulders.  Her entire body in a straight line.  Her back is completely flat, neither arched nor rounded. When done correctly, planks are one of the most effective exercises for your core muscles. Quality is always more important than quantity!  If you are just starting to incorporate plank poses into your fitness routine, focus on mastering the pose, even if you can only hold it for a few seconds.  10 seconds in a perfect pose is better than 10 minutes in a sloppy pose.


If you’ve never done an elbow plank pose, your first goal should be mastering the pose.  It’s very helpful to do this pose next to a mirror so you can see where you need to make adjustments.  When you’re confident that you’ve mastered the pose, try holding the pose for 10 seconds.  Gradually increase your time holding the pose until you can maintain excellent form for two minutes.  Elbow plank poses are safe to perform daily, but you can realize their benefits in as little as three times per week.


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