The plank is a simple and effective bodyweight exercise that strengthens the core, shoulders, arms and glutes. It’s a static exercise, meaning the body stays in one position the entire time it is being performed. With countless benefits, the plank requires good form to prevent injury in the lower back, wrists and shoulders.

How to do a standard plank
Start with your hands directly under your shoulders in push-up position, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With your feet hip-distance apart, push your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to help stabilize your body. Keep your neck, head and spine in a neutral position by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot in front of your hands. Breathe deeply.

You can hold the position for as long as you want; however if you’re familiarizing yourself with the move try starting with 20-second intervals. 

When attempting to perfect your plank form, avoid these common mistakes:

Collapsing lower back
Dipping your buttocks is one of the most common plank mistakes. Dropping your midsection can injure the lower back and make the exercise less effective

To avoid dropping the hips, engage the core by pulling your belly button to the spine. Another way to ensure proper posture is to place a broomstick on your back to help align the body. The top of the broomstick should touch your head and rest between the shoulder blades, while the bottom should rest between your buttocks.

Pushing the hips towards the sky
If your shoulders are fatiguing, that means your hips are too high, and all of the pressure is being put on your shoulders. To make sure you are working your core, you need to keep your back flat enough to engage your abs.

Letting the head drop
When you start to feel fatigued, most people subconsciously drop their head from its neutral position to focus on pushing through the pain. It’s important to think of your neck as an extension of your back that remains in line with the rest of your body.

If you’re having trouble keeping your head in a neutral position, try keeping your eyes on the floor, letting your gaze rest about a foot in front of your hands.

Holding your breath
People tend to forget to breathe when they are in a strenuous position, but denying your body oxygen can make you feel nauseous and dizzy. While you are concentrating on your breath, try to relax your jaw and unhunch your shoulders. This will help prevent muscle exhaustion and neck injury.