How can I cue Plank or Long Stretch so the wrists don't hurt?

Can I Ask You A Question?

Doing straight-arm planks, or Pilates versions, like Long Stretch, is so important.  These movements develop isometric strength on both the posterior and anterior sides of the body.  I try to integrate them into all of my classes and sessions where the clients are capable.  However, clients consistently complain about their wrists hurting.  It doesn't seem to matter how strong they are -- they still complain about their wrists.  Do you have any suggestions on how to break this pattern? ~ Sincerely, Plank-ful 


 Dear Plank-ful, 

I'm so glad you asked this question.  This is an incredibly common problem or complaint in Pilates and Yoga studios, gyms, group classes and just about anywhere else straight-arm Planks are whipped out by an instructor.  

First let's identify WHY your clients' are feeling this in the wrists.  Most-likely, your client is not connecting with their upper, posterior muscles like the latissimus dorsi (lats) and trapezius (trap) muscles.  Instead they are sinking down into their wrists -- essentially giving into gravity. 

Let's analyze how you can "see" if this is happening in your client's body.  Your body scan should go directly to their upper back/shoulder girdle.  Is it rounded? Are the shoulder blades soft on the upper back?  Are the head and neck dropped toward to floor instead of in line with the spine? 

The second spot on the body scan is the Hips.  Are the hips sinking toward the mat -- again adding weight down into the mat.  Down in the earth? 

If the answers are yes to any of these triggers, then we need to work on our cues and corrections.

First cue -- Lift the head, lift the gaze.  The head should be strong and on the spine not sinking down pulling us toward the mat.  

Second cue -- Connect the shoulder blades on the back.  Allow the larger stronger back muscles to bear the burden of the body's weight rather than the poor little wrists.  

Third cue -- and this is a little trick -- Roll the elbows in toward the body.  This will also turn on the triceps and facilitate a stronger connection of the lats on the back.  This is an enormous help in taking the weight out of the wrists.  

Fourth cue -- Lift the hip points to engage the lower abdominals.  When we sink low, the lower abs are not able to engage therefore more body weight is being held up by those little wrists.  

The same cues are perfect for the Long Stretch.  Give these a try in your own body to see how it feels and then try them on your clients. You'll turn the plank haters into lovers!