Brace yourself (literally) for better movement by avoiding these plank mishaps.

There is hardly a core exercise more basic or notorious than the plank. And when performed “actively”—meaning you’re engaging every muscle you can, from head to toe—it neutralizes the spine and taxes your entire body, which, according to Chris Frankel, head of performance at TRX, “brings awareness to alignment and posture with intention and strength.”

Unfortunately, most people “passively plank,” which visually resembles a proper plank, but doesn’t feel like one, and does nothing to bolster core strength.

So, check for any of the following blunders to make sure you’re getting all the benefits.

1. You're Curvy
Failing to maintain a straight line between your shoulders and hips is one of the most notable planking mishaps, as it usually means there isn’t optimal tension in the abdominals and glutes.

Squeeze hard and focus on maintaining a straight line from head to toe.

2. You Shrug Your Shoulders
Many lifters instinctively shrug their shoulders, which doesn’t look or feel right. To fix it, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your forearms toward your hips to maximize core engagement and proper positioning

3. You Have Soft Knees
If you aren’t pushing your toes into the ground and pulling them toward your head, it likely means that your quadriceps are not properly engaged, which will create a kink in the tension chain.

Keep your legs and torso straight and rigid!

4. You Move Your Head
Many amateur lifters tend to flex and hyperextend their neck, which screws up their positioning.

Try to aim your gaze a few inches in front of your fingers to maintain a neutral head position, which will in turn help keep your hips and shoulders aligned.

5. You Don't Know When to Stop
Attempting to set the Guinness World Record for plank time will undoubtedly lead to the aforementioned pitfalls, as well as passive core engagement.

Frankel recommends performing three to four sets of 10 seconds each, with a 3-second reset in between sets. This approach will allow you to accumulate sets of proper planks without your form deteriorating.

Note: It should be a hard 10 seconds.

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