We LOVE planks—when done correctly, plank exercises engage and target the whole body, can be incorporated into all kinds of dynamic movement, and require no equipment. Unfortunately, wrist pain and discomfort is a common issue that can be aggravated by planking.
Can I still do planks if I’m having wrist pain?
Yes! With a little bit of troubleshooting, you can absolutely get the benefits of plank exercises, even if you tend to have wrist pain. First, it will be key to assess your plank form, since poor form and alignment may be the source of the problem. When setting up in a plank position, try the following tips:
- Make sure your hands are stacked under your shoulders, with elbows soft and middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Improper positioning of the hands, such placing them too far forward or wide apart, or turning the fingers in or out can contribute to wrist pain.
- Keep “armpits down” by gently pulling shoulders away from the ears – I like to imagine I’m trying to prevent someone from tickling me.
- Spread out your fingers and think about gently pressing them down. This will help give you a more stable foundation and ensure that you are distributing weight evenly across your hands. Lifting the fingers will place additional pressure on the wrists.
- Keep your spine neutral. Keep your chest and hips lifted in a neutral position, not rounded and not sagging toward the floor. Make sure your neck stays in line with your spine as well, keeping your gaze focused straight down at the mat / floor,
- Keep your core solid and engaged by imagining gently drawing your low belly in and up as you exhale, but without changing the position of your spine. Keeping the rest of your body engaged throughout the exercise will go a long way in reducing the pressure on your hands and wrists.
- Pay attention to your “wings”, aka your shoulder blades. A lot of people’s shoulder blades poke out when they plank. They then try to fix this by squeezing the shoulder blades together. All in all, this leads to destabilized shoulder blades, which will inevitably worsen your wrist pain. Try imagining that the space between the shoulder blades is lifting up towards the ceiling/sky as you plank, while also keeping your spine and neck long.
What if my form is good and I’m still having wrist pain?
If you have remedied your overall form and wrist pain persists, there are multiple ways to modify plank exercises to be easier on the wrists.
- Do planks on your forearms. Coming down to the forearms will take all of the pressure off of your wrists, and is still a great full-body exercise. In this variation, make sure your elbows are stacked under your shoulders, with forearms parallel to each other. Keep the other form tips in mind with spine neutral and core engaged. We also recommend turning the hands toward each other (think “thumbs up”) to help keep your scapula stable and prevent the upper back from excessive rounding or sinking.
- Elevated planks. Choosing a stable, elevated surface to place your hands is a great way to reduce the load a while still getting all the benefits of a plank. Choose something stable and solid (not squishy) that won’t slip on the floor, and make sure the surface is wide enough that you can comfortably place your hands directly under your shoulders. We love elevated planks because they let you work on plank form with reduced load, and as your strength and comfort increases, you can gradually progress them by lowering the surface you use.
- Positioning hands and wrists in a neutral grip. Some people find planking easier on the wrists when hands are held in a fist, however it’s important to make sure your upper body stability is not compromised. If you try this version, position your hands in a neutral grip (the palm side of your hands face each other), and be sure you keep your spine neutral, and hands under shoulders. For this version I prefer using equipment to hold onto in order to reduce the overall pressure on the fists– you can use hex-style dumbbells (these lay flat on the floor and don’t roll) or other stable grips made for plank exercise.
How Can MommaStrong Help?
MommaStrong offers planking tips and modification options in all of our workouts, guidance for modifying during pregnancy and postpartum, as well as dedicated “fix me” content for improving plank form, stabilizing your scapulae, and troubleshooting pain points. PLUS our Elevate Your Planks Hack is also available for free on our YouTube channel!