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Season 1 - Episode 5

Plank Tutorial

15 min - Tutorial
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Helya breaks down the proper alignment of the joints and provides variations of plank pose to help prepare us for this season.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Aug 08, 2017
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Hey everybody, welcome back. This tutorial is all about planks. All the variations, all the different forms, and the proper alignment of all of your joints. So we're going to start with your neck. Your neck has to stay neutral at all times.

That means no matter where your body is going, your neck does not sag forward, does not go backwards, stays right in the center where you keep it strong and engaged. From there we're going to move down to our shoulders. I'm going to show you three different views of what I'm doing. But essentially I'm pulling my shoulders down, so from the front it looks like this, right? And what's really being engaged are your lats.

So I want you to take your hands and put them under your armpits. Like superstar? Yeah, exactly. So here, right, these are your lats. We're going to pull down on those lats.

This is really, really important. This is probably like the number one factor of making you successful at planking. So I want you to try this with me. Hands out, pull down. Hands out, pull down.

Like you're pushing down on something. Push down. Okay, now let's look at it from the side. From here, arms out, pull, but it's not just shoulders. It's actually down here.

You're pulling down. If you don't, if you forgot what that feels like, rub under your armpits for a second. Reach out, pull down. Reach out, pull down. It's really important.

Try it with me. One more. Pull down. Okay. Now we're going to turn around from the back so you see it one more time.

My arms are doing the same thing in front, but you're just noticing the back. So I want you to pull down again. If you don't feel your lats, touch them. Arms out, pull down. Pull down.

One more. Good. Back to facing you. Okay, so now you get the concept of pulling down from the forward side and the back. Keep that in mind because we're going to come back to it.

Let's come down to our shoulder and wrist alignment. I want you to put your hands right in front of you when you're on your knees and focus on keeping your hands planted, keeping that suction in your palm on the ground. Bring your fingers into the floor and now I want you to twist the elbows back and forth. Now that doesn't mean your hands are moving back and forth. Your hands are planted and your elbows are just moving up and back.

Do you remember that lat exercise we did earlier? Pulling down. That's the same concept. So your elbow armpits are facing away from your body. That means this is that way.

Okay, dig your fingers into the ground, rotate your elbow armpits out. Do you feel your lats engaging? And if you don't, try to engage them a little bit. Remember, lats right here, armpits. Fingers flat.

Do not move your hands. That's flat. What you're moving is your elbows. It's really key because it keeps your shoulders in line and it helps you go up and over your wrists. A lot of times people have trouble with wrist pain, which is what comes up when you're on your wrists a lot.

But basically we have to build those muscles up, especially if you're on the computer a lot or if you use a mouse a lot, texting. Your wrists are not used to being in this position, but it's okay. They'll like it after a while, right? Because we're making them stronger. Okay, so now we're going to rotate to the side so that we can focus on where our shoulders are actually going to be in alignment with our wrists.

So let's go here. We're going to start again. Hands are flat, elbows are rotated out, and your lats are engaged. So pull your shoulders down, elbows out. You're almost creating like an opposite motion reaction, almost pulling down with your shoulders and pulling away with your elbows.

Once you have that, I want you to step one step back. And now you have core engagement, quad engagement, and you should feel your calves. But notice how I didn't move my body forward or backwards. All that changed was the leg went back and I stayed right where I was. So that's really key.

Stay right where you are, keep the engagement, one step back, and if you're ready for it, two steps back. If not, bring your knees to the ground. Again, my body is flat, everything is engaged, and my head and my shoulder alignment with my wrist is the same. So a lot of times we have what I call down dog plank here, right? This is not a plank, this is down dog to some degree.

But the biggest thing that makes a difference is that lat engagement, the elbows out. Once you have that locked in, everything else kind of falls into place. So instead of letting your hips sack, it's not a plank. Instead of letting your butt go up, not a plank. You bring it forward, put your knees down, know where your level is too.

You don't have to do it all at once. So start here and just focus on your elbow and wrist alignment, getting your shoulders pulled back, your neck straight. That's a lot to think about already. So why don't we just start here? A lot of the movements that we do start there and then add to it.

So already I'm feeling my wrists, but I've been on them a lot. So that's okay, they'll get used to it. You're not dying. Your wrists are really strong. They'll get stronger as you go forward.

That's the one thing I hear the most complaints about, my wrists hurt. It's okay, you'll get stronger. So once we're here, let's talk about a couple of variations. For example, mountain climbers, frogger, side plank even, everything comes with alignment first of your shoulders and your wrist. In the side plank, it's elbow and wrist as well too.

We'll get there. But let's talk about things like mountain climber, frogger, and eventually the burpee, right? Because that's also a progression of the plank. When you're here, stepping back into a plank. When you bring your knees up, what's this?

This is a mountain climber. Again, nothing else moved. You're completely on top of your wrists. Your elbows are out, your lats are engaged. Once you get the hang of it, you go straight and you go faster.

This again is not a mountain climber. So pull yourself up first, backtrack if you need to, and focus on that. Frogger, hands go on the ground. Again, see they all start the same. Hands go on the ground, you go back into your plank.

You either walk or step forward or jump and jump back into your plank. Again, full engagement of everything. It's not just your wrist. It's your core. It's your glutes, your quads, and your calves.

Everything is engaged. And then eventually when you're ready for sprawl, which is a burpee without the push-up, or the burpee itself, there's different movements, but they all start the same. All right, so the sprawl, which is the burpee without the push-up, starts the same as any other plank. You put your hands on the ground, you engage everything from basically your core up, and then you step back or jump back, jump up, and jump high. That's a sprawl.

Let's try a couple together. Hands on the floor. Jump back, jump forward, jump up. One more. Jump back, jump forward, and up.

There's really three different moves in that. It's the squat, the plank, and the frogger, which is all that we've learned in the past. The burpee is also along those variations. What are we missing? Just the push-up.

So here, the top of a push-up, also known as a plank, is something that comes up a lot. In different teaching forms, people don't refer to planks as planks. They refer to them as top of a push-up. So go to the top of a push-up, aka plank, do your push-up, jump back up, and your burpee is complete. So if you put it together, obviously it looks more fluid, but there's really just that many moves in a burpee.

Let's try one together. Hands down, jump back, push up, frogger up, and jump. Broken down burpee. I believe there's a workout for level three for that one as well. So come back to that.

Before you go, there are side planks that we do in our levels as well, in our videos. So what I want to do is go through the alignment really quickly. Okay, so let's go to the ground. Okay, so now that we are in the beginning of our plank position, I'm going to start from the shoulders and go all the way down to your feet. And I'm going to give you three different versions of planks when we get down there.

Here, what I want you to focus on is having your elbow right underneath your shoulder and hands flat. This gives you a little bit of stability. And also, when your hip comes up, you have to check this alignment again, because sometimes this happens. We don't want that. You want to pull yourself up.

Guess what? Lats are engaged again, because the lat is what is pulling that elbow towards your body, okay? So keeping the alignment between your shoulder and your elbow. So this is good, 90 degrees, right? Now we're going to go to our hips.

I want you to take your hand and put it straight down in front of you and squeeze your glutes so that your hips are completely aligned against your hand. So your hand is perpendicular to your mat, which means your hips are perpendicular to your mat. So stack your hips, stack your knees, and then bend the bottom knee up and engage your foot. You want to have the foot flexed. Now that you're here, this top leg is going to help you.

It doesn't come up. It's going to stay on the ground while you take this point off the mat. You're here. That's a side plank. From here, you can reach up, which almost helps you go up.

Check that alignment again, or you can reach out, which is kind of what we do in a couple of the videos. But from here, this is your bottom, the bottom of the plank. You want to push this hip straight up to really engage this whole area. So that is the base level of a plank. For the most part, we're going to stay there.

But if you want more, there's two different variations. You can stagger, so you can bring your feet in front, the bottom leg in front of you. You've got to flex both legs so that when you lift your hip up, everything stays engaged and strong. So let's try it. If you want to, put your feet in front of you and one behind you and stagger them.

Alignment strong, hand flat. You can use your fists too, whatever feels more comfortable to you, and push your hip up. It's a little harder, but it's definitely more engaging from head to toe. Now let's try two of those. Hip up and down.

Hip up and down. We're creating space between our elbow and our body when you do that. The last variation is with your feet stacked. This is the hardest level and usually where people struggle the most, but it's okay. You can always work yourself up to it.

Again, what's really important is making sure your hips are stacked on top of each other and everything is engaged. My shoulder is on fire right now by just being in this position. You don't really have to do much to get this stuff to work, but the rest of your body helps your shoulder by taking the weight off because every muscle is engaged. So if you lift your hand up to help you go up, you're going to lift your hip up again and drop it down. Let's try three together.

Three, two, one. So as you go through your practice, figure out what works best for you. There's always time for improvement and there's no rush. So I hope that tutorial was helpful. See you soon.


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