You will feel a lot of things during a challenging set of planks — a sore core, muscle fatigue, sweat dripping down your face. However, pain in your hands or wrists shouldn't ever make the list.
Discomfort in your hands or wrists during planks might be a sign that your form needs some tweaking, explains Kevin Piccirillo, a Crunch Fitness manager and NASM-certified personal trainer.
First, Piccirillo says you should know what a proper plank looks like — this will help you identify your mistakes and self-correct your form. It's relatively simple, but there's plenty of room for error.
To perform a plank, start in a push-up position. Your hands should be stacked directly under the shoulders — be careful not to round your shoulders.
"Your body should be in a neutral position, squeezing the core, glutes, and just about every other muscle in the body in order to stabilize your body. The neck and spine must also remain in a neutral position," Piccirillo explains.
Now that you know what a plank should look like, let's address the common pain-causing mistakes — starting with incorrect arm and hand placement.
"Improper hand positions, such as placing hands too far forward or too wide apart, can put additional pressure on your wrists," Piccirillo says. "Turning hands inward or outward can also cause wrist pain."
In addition to keeping your hands stacked under your shoulders, be sure to keep your hands flat, too. Piccirillo says cupping your palms and/or lifting your fingers can cause pain to the hands and wrists, as well as put pressure on the heel of the hand.
Remember: planks are actually a full-body move, so mistakes made in the bottom half of the body can lead to pain, too.
"If you don't tighten your core and glutes, your bodyweight could shift to the shoulders, which puts more strain on your wrists and hands."
When keeping proper form still proves difficult, Piccirillo suggests decreasing the length of time you hold the plank, which will in turn help you prevent strain. You can also modify planks by using a fist, gripping a dumbbell to keep the wrist straight, elevating the body into an incline position to decrease the weight on your hands and wrists, and doing planks on your forearms.
If the pain is determined to be caused by improper form, Piccirillo says working with a certified personal trainer — someone who can help you focus on technique and suggest alternative moves — might be valuable.