Not that long ago, “planking” was all the rage across the social media landscape. From a yoga practitioner’s standpoint, it looked like a Face-Down Shavasana. But as this pose’s English translation – Corpse – suggests, like all fads, it died out. From a fitness point of view, Plank pose means taking your body into a slight incline on your hands and feet while attempting to maintain a neutral spine. And therein lies the potentially insidious problem, which isn’t exclusive to yoga, so this applies to you, too, workout warrior.
Nearly all yoga classes these days seem to include some variant of Plank. Whether it just makes a cameo or appears relentlessly as a component of a Sun Salutation, don’t throw biomechanical caution to the wind when you reach this stance. The version I’m most concerned about is what I’ve dubbed the “Saggy Plank.” It’s something I’ve been noticing across the board, whether I’m teaching private clients or leading classes at yoga studios or CrossFit gyms. You know the one: the lower back caves in (that’s called hyperlordosis or swayback), the knees start to dip, and before you know it, you’re a crumpled heap on the floor, as if you’d just had your hands kicked out from underneath you in Upward-Facing Dog (Google it, non-yoga types). To deflect further torpedoing of your lower back, consider which anatomical anomalies might be causing this lumbar lowdown.
One could easily point the finger at a muscle duo of near celebrity status across the fitness spectrum: the iliopsoas, a consolidated term for the lumbar-to-groin-spanning psoas major and its more southerly sibling, the iliacus, which covers the front, indented surface of the hip bone much like a pie crust covers a metal tin. Both of these hip-flexing muscles fuse into a common tendon on the inside, upper edge of the femur, the bone of the upper leg. If you have a psoas major that’s especially fibrous, tight and weak, it could be tilting the pelvis forward, bringing with it the lower back bones, causing that concave appearance to the lumbar spine in Saggy Plank. Stretching it would be great for all walks of life… literally “all walks” since each and every step – whether walking or running – involves the iliopsoas. How to stretch the hip flexors? There’s an app for that. Actually, I have an idea. Tune in (pun intended) next week for my variation on YTU Coreso Leg Lifts.
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