Planks are a basic, but fundamental core move. They are a great way to establish that mind-body connection and really focus on what you feel working.
They are a great anti-extension and ant-flexion movement so you learn how to brace.
But what if you have shoulder aches and pains that don’t allow you to do even a modified version of the plank?
What can you do to still get the amazing core benefit of a plank in a way that allows you to work around your pain?
Before I go into one of my favorite core isometrics to use to modify the plank around shoulder pain, I want to discuss a key tip to help you modify any moves you find don’t fit your needs or goals.
Because it can feel overwhelming to come up with variations when you’re injured or need to regress a move to get more out of it!
How To Modify Moves: Ask Yourself This Key Question
When I’m considering how to modify a move for a client, I’m not only thinking about what the injury or restriction is and the muscles we were planning to work, but also the GOAL of including the movement in the first place.
I think so often we just think – “I want to work my abs.”
But you really want to assess WHY you’re including this specific move. Do you want the anti-flexion/anti-extension core benefit?
Is it about the hold to be able to assess what you feel working as you do it so you can improve that mind-body connection?
Is this about building up toward another specific movement?
Or is it training your body through a specific movement pattern?
You always want to ask yourself…What is your goal for the movement?
We want to think about the purpose of the movement and not just the muscles we are trying to work because that then allows us to modify in a way to get the same benefits.
In the case of the plank, maybe it is learning to brace those abs correctly while having time to focus on that mind-body connection to hold harder.
Maybe it is those anti-extension or anti-flexion benefits.
Maybe it’s using it as part of your warm up to activate your core and establish-that mind-body connection.
But based on your goal for the movement, you can then select the best modification to help you reach that result!
When it comes to the plank, to get that same isometric benefit while working the same muscles in a very similar way while avoiding the shoulder loading, I like to use the Banana Hold or Hollow Body Hold.
This move for me hits on all the same “goals” I’m often trying to achieve with the plank while also allowing me to then regress or progress as needed based on the clients fitness level all while avoiding shoulder irritation!
Tips To Use The Banana Hold:
The Banana Hold is a very challenging core isometric movement.
And it’s a key move to include if you want to learn how to brace better to protect your spine while also improving your pull ups, push ups and even handstands.
It’s also as close as you can get to a SUPINE version of a plank.
To do the Banana Hold, lie on your back with your legs out straight together. Reach your arms overhead. If you find that reaching your arms overhead irritates your shoulders, you can keep your arms down by your sides, reaching toward your feet.
Tilt your pelvis, tucking your hips up toward your ribs to engage both your abs and your glute max.
Then squeeze your glutes and flex your quads as you lift your legs up off the ground. The higher up you raise them, the more you will modify the movement, which can be key to help you make sure your abs are working and your lower back isn’t taking over.
As you hold your legs out as close to the ground as possible, make sure you don’t lose that posterior pelvic tilt. And don’t just let your legs rest there. Flex your quads hard. Squeeze your glutes and even think about using your adductors to hold your legs glued together.
Whether your hands are reaching toward your feet or your biceps are up by your ears reaching overhead, crunch your shoulder blades up off the ground. Keep your head in line with your spine and do not tuck your chin.
If you feel your neck straining, you can put your hands behind your head to help. But you also want to think about slightly stacking your chin as if making a double chin to hold.
Focus on feeling that tension all through your core to hold here. Run through flexing your abs more, lifting your shoulder blades up slightly higher. Squeezing your glutes. Engaging your quads. Assess what you feel working and try to engage harder to create that soakage as you hold.
If you find you can’t control this version and you feel your lower back taking over, raise your legs up higher or even bend your knees.
You can even do one leg at a time, bending one knee in toward your chest as you hold, to perform a shorter hold on each side.
Do not get ego in the variation you use and try to use a harder variation just because it’s harder.
EARN that more advanced hold and instead focus on really getting everything to work correctly.
The more advanced you are, the more you should even be able to use that mind-body connection to even engage everything quicker and harder during a more modified variation.
So if you’ve been worried you’ll be missing out on the benefits of planks because of shoulder pain, give this isometric move a try!
And remember, there is always a way to modify moves to fit your needs and goals. Just remember your GOAL for the movement you’re including!