The full plank (straight arm plank) exercise guide

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The full plank (straight arm plank)

The ability to hold a stable full plank is a benchmark for fitness and core strength. It’s important to practice proper technique as you build the strength necessary to perform a full plank and modifications of it. A strong full plank provides the foundation for moving into progressions involving external weight and unstable surfaces such as stability balls, the BOSU trainer, and medicine balls.

In plank positions, you are working to build stability and hold your core steady in space. Planks can be done on hands (full plank), elbows, or a prop; your knees or your feet; and in various relationships to gravity. Whichever variation you choose, remember your mountain pose alignment. Hold your legs steady and your pelvis neutral, including a light lift along the bottom of your pelvis. Engage your belly and keep your lower ribs moving toward your spine, but make sure you have room to breathe. Let your shoulder blades descend. Keep your neck long and your chin low.

Other common names for this exercise

  • Full plank;
  • Straight-arm plank;
  • High plank;
  • Plank on hands;

The full plank exercise instructions

  1. Start with a straight body position from your head to your heels.
  2. Stack your shoulders directly over your wrists and firmly plant your palms on the floor.
  3. Maintain a tight core while squeezing through (also known as “firing through”) your quads and your chest to support your core and make the hold easier.
The full plank exercise

The full plank exercise

Put in other words, simply assume the lop position of a push-up, placing your hands on the floor in line with your shoulders, keeping your back flat, your knees straight and your hips in the same plane as your shoulders. Squeeze everything and hold it for as long as you can.

When performing any plank exercise, maintain a straight line without lifting your hips excessively towards the ceiling or letting them sag. Use the strength from your entire core, particularly the abdominals, to hold a steady position.

Common mistakes

  1. Butt lifted higher than the head and heels.
  2. Sagging lower back.
  3. Improper alignment of shoulders and wrists.

More difficult variations

  • Feet elevated straight-arm plank. Place the feet on a raised platform (box, bench, or stair). Straighten the arms with the hands on the floor. Position the hands directly under the shoulders with the arms perpendicular to the floor. Lift the body so the only contact points are the hands on the floor and the balls of the feet and toes on the platform.
Feet elevated straight-arm plank

Feet elevated straight-arm plank

  • Stability ball full plank. Place the feet on a stability ball or moderately unstable apparatus positioned on a raised plat­form. Note: Make sure that the unstable appa­ratus is relatively secure on the raised platform. Straighten the arms with the hands on the floor. Position the hands directly under the shoulders with the arms perpendicular to the floor. With the hands on the floor, lift the body so some part of the lower body is in contact with the unstable apparatus.
Stability ball (unstable surface) full plank

Stability ball (unstable surface) full plank

Full plank vs forearm plank

The full plank is probably the one most people are familiar with. While it does work on your core, the main focus of this type of plank is for the upper body and sculpting shoulders and arms. Therefore, if your main goal is to strengthen your core muscles, which is essentially what the plank exercise does, it is wiser to switch to forearm plank instead.

Replacement exercises

Try these other core exercises.

If you think your core is strong enough, it’s time to discover the three most efficient core exercises you’ll ever try – real core killer exercises.

Closing thoughts

The full plank (also known as the straight-arm plank position) is the simplest plank for total core conditioning. It is especially suitable for beginners as the starting point towards more challenging versions of plank exercise (forearm plank, side plank, plank with opposite arm and leg lift, plank with arm extension, etc).

There are many progressions of full plank ranging from beginner to advanced. You will start with the basics and progress through more difficult variations. The planks featured in this post are especially appealing because they are simple yet challenging and require almost no equipment, so they can be performed almost anywhere.

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