How to Fix Back Pain with Planks

Answering Dr. Google: How do I fix Back Pain with Planks?

Planks are a double edge sword. On one side they are an essential tool for building a strong, aesthetic core but on the other side if done incorrectly can hurt more than help. The problem is when you’re actually performing any plank variation, it’s hard to tell if you have the wrong position that can hurt your back, unless you focus on one major factor.

That one major factor is lower abdominal tension.

Lower abdominal tension, specifically located in ab muscles at and below the belly button, are responsible for several important functions including:

1. Equal distribution of intra-abdominal pressure (pelvic floor health)
2. Prevents overfiring of hip flexors (98% of people need this)
3. Maintaining proper pelvic position during movement to prevent overuse of low back muscles

All are very important, but when it comes to preventing low back pain number 3 is king. That’s why it is so important to feel your lower abs during the ENTIRE duration of a plank movement. If you don’t feel that tension then you can confidently know that you are at risk for overusing your low back.

So how do I feel lower ab tension?

It’s all about positioning of the pelvis. To simplify the anatomical position, you basically want to feel like your slumping or tucking your butt underneath you. We call this posterior pelvic tilting, and what it does is round the lower back (which is not a bad thing) which forces stress to go to the lower ab muscles. (See our video above for visuals and more explanation)

The easiest way to know that you are in the correct position is that you are concentrating on feeling those belly button and below abs working. The other easy way is to feel that it is awkward as hell and feel like you're sticking your butt too far up in the air and that your low back is too rounded. When it comes to changing your mechanics, that’s a good thing.

We don’t want to reinforce bad habits and if the plank is still too easy then you aren’t slumping enough to truly engage those priority muscles. You should have to slow down and really focus. Awkward and challenging is the name of the game with this, especially if you want to do core training and be able to get out of bed back pain-free the next morning.

Give it a shot. The changes can make a huge difference in how much more difficult and rewarding the plank movement can be. 

Questions about your back pain and want to talk with me or one of our other specialists? Click here to schedule a free orthopedic consultation!

Keep Movement Mandatory,

Dr. Brian @movementismandatory