Prone Bridge aka Plank
The plank is one of the most popular exercises today and is used in everything from yoga to core strength training, to sports specific conditioning.  In therapeutic and rehabilitative settings this same exercise is also commonly referred to as the prone bridge.

The reason for the two names is based on body position during the movement.  When the body is positioned face down, it is referred to as being in the prone position.  Similarly when the body is face up it is referred to as being in the supine position.  The bridge portion of the name is a term used to describe the act of supporting your own body weight between two points.  Since the terms prone, supine, or bridge aren’t often used in the world of exercise, ‘plank’ is the more commonly recognized term.

In a face down position, balance on the tips of your toes and elbows while attempting to maintain a straight line from heels to head. This exercise requires effort from both anterior (anterior core, quads, chest) and posterior (posterior core, glutes, hamstrings, low back) muscle groups.

The exercise is an isometric contraction, which means the entire body is static (no movement) throughout the time period of the hold.  The most important thing to remember when performing any type of plank is to hold neutral posture throughout the entire exercise.  This is the key to the plank.

Normally when a person first performs the plank it is very difficult, as strength improves, adding variations will increase difficulty and challenge.  Some variations include:

  • instead of bent elbows, you can rest on your hands and use straight arms for support
  • Using two or three points of support instead of four
  • Incorporating an unstable surface

If you feel your lower back collapsing, you have to stick your hips way up in the air, or if you have any type of low back pain while performing the plank, then you need to reduce the difficulty of the exercise.  Low back pain during a plank indicates that your core isn’t strong enough to support the neutral spine and instead you are straining through your back.

To reduce the difficulty of the exercise:

  • Support your body with bent knees and straight arms
  • Place one knee down and reset body into neutral position
  • Remove all unstable surfaces as points of support

The plank is one of the most effective and convenient exercises you can use to improve core strength.  If you looking to develop a core strength training program, you can easily incorporate the plank and it’s various levels of difficulty into your regular workout routine.  If you have any questions about how to do this, send me an email and let me know.