I love the plank for the fact that it works not only your abs, but your back, legs, and arms. Plus, you can literally do it anywhere and it’s so easy to fit into any routine (or non-routine) as I talked about in “Do It Anywhere Abs: My #1 Core Move“. Lately I’ve been loving the variations of the plank done with straight arms (or from push up position), including mountain climbers and twists (pictured below). It requires greater engagement of all muscles involved to keep the body steady, and is a great alternative to a static plank when you’re ready for something more challenging. Incorporate some of these into a morning routine at home, and you’ll be reaping the benefits before you know it.
The one thing that sucks about straight arm planks and other super effective body weight moves like push ups is that they put a lot of pressure on our wrists, which are already compromised (for those of use who are desk jockeys) due to the amount of time we spend typing. I have weak wrists, and being in this particular plank stance where they bear the brunt of my body weight really causes me pain. Not shockingly, the wrist is made up of delicate tissues and joints, as well as muscles and ligaments. Luckily I found the answer: Push up handles!
What can push ups and planks do to your wrists?
Excessive loading or hyper-extension of the wrists through exercise can tear ligaments, cause sprains and tendonitis, and worsen arthritis. You’ve probably also heard of carpal tunnel syndrome which is related to damage to the nerve in your wrist often caused by typing incorrectly (more on that below). More info here.
Here’s what an overextended hand looks like (ouch!):
I love the straight arm plank variations and refused to give them up, so I looked into some solutions. I read that some people use “soft fists”, where you lean on a first instead of a flat hand, but I found that to be even more painful. Then I noticed push up handles at the gym, and gave them a shot for planks. They were amazing, and I have my own pair at home now!
This is much more comfortable:
Several brands make them, but I recommend this pair by Nike. I would stay way from the ones that rotate (Push-up Pro) because it makes using them for planks too difficult.
There are so many other exercises you can do with them as well, including (of course) push-ups, handstands, limited range tricep dips, and pikes.
A tip for typing:
I spend 99% of my day at the computer, whether it’s for my work, blog, or keeping in touch with friends and the fam. Confession: I am AWFUL about keeping in a correct ergonomic position. I sit perched at the edge of my chair with my legs crossed to help me balance there and type away on my laptop with my hands higher than my wrists. Yikes, this is not good for a health conscious person to be admitting! We spend so much time typing that I’m going to be more religious about sitting correctly going forward. Here’s what they recommend you do:
- Keep your mouse close to your key board to prevent reaching (unnecessary awkward movement)
- Don’t rest your wrist on the desk as you use the mouse (it causes it to bend and creates stress on the nerve)
- Bring the keyboard close to your body so that you don’t have to reach for it. Try to have a keyboard and monitor set up rather than using your laptop if you plan to work for hours at a time! (I am also awful about this and have adapted to peering into a tiny screen).
- Maintain straight wrists, and adjust your chair so your arms at the same level as the keyboard when bent at 90 degrees. Using a palm support can help with this too.
Did you know: there is a keyboard layout (COLEMAK instead of the common QWERTY) that cuts neccessary finger motion by 50%. That is a lot of motion, and probably pretty helpful on the joints!
Do your wrists hurt when you do planks? Do you type ergonomically?