Who else wants to know, “Why Do Planks Hurt My Shoulders?”
Love them or hate them, most people agree that planks are the ultimate abs and core exercise.
However, I know from personal experience that I often find that my shoulders hurt whenever I perform planks.
In fact, I frequently give up on doing planks well before I can even feel the exercise in my abs.
As it turns out I was making a number of mistakes in terms of technique, and perhaps you’re doing the same.
Why Do Planks Hurt My Shoulders?
If planks hurt your shoulders then it’s likely that your technique is wrong. This could range from having your hips too low, arching your lower back, and either an incorrect elbow or hand position. You should also work on your upper body and core strength, which will help to mitigate shoulder pain.
1. Your Hips Are Too Low
The position of the hips is all important when it comes to performing planks.
The most common issue is that you allow your hips to sag too low.
If you find that your hips are literally just an inch or two from the floor, you’re basically transferring a lot of extra weight onto your shoulders and arms.
This in itself will cause the shoulders to tire well before you feel the proper impact of planks on your core.
That being said, there is also a tendency to have the hips too high in order to correct this issue.
Unfortunately, once again, this will put additional stress on the shoulders and arms, thus causing your upper body to fatigue before the abs.
You need to find the perfect hip height in order to take the strain off your shoulders and properly activate your core.
I’ve found that by tensing my glutes and abs while performing the plank, my hips automatically rest in the correct position.
In a way you’re almost trying to get your belly button as close to your lower back as possible.
How to Perform The Perfect Plank
2. Arching Your Lower Back
This is much the same as having your hips too low.
You’ll want your spine to remain in a neutral position, but there is an impulse towards arching the lower back when performing planks.
Once again, this can be corrected by tensing your abs and your glutes whenever you’re doing planks.
Most people tend to arch their lower backs even more when resting on their hands, as opposed to their elbows.
I think the best way to describe the perfect plank position is that you’re almost sticking your butt out a little.
By doing this your hips will naturally rise and your lower back will remain in a more neutral position.
If you find that you are arching your lower back, once more you’re putting far more pressure on the upper body, especially the shoulders, than is necessary.
3. Incorrect Elbow Position
I would hazard a guess that having your elbows in the incorrect position is the main problem for most people.
Your elbows should remain in line with your shoulders throughout the plank.
This is true whether you plank from your elbows or while resting in the push up position on your hands.
I often see people with their elbows in line with their face, which means that the shoulders are taking much more of the strain.
Initially, you should look to bring your elbows back so that they are directly below the shoulders.
You can also flex your feet, which will naturally move your whole body further forward.
Then again, try a slightly wider stance with your feet and this should correct your overall body position.
With that being said, you can actually take the strain off your shoulders by moving your elbows wider as well.
Okay, your elbows won’t be directly below your shoulders with this method, but ensure that they aren’t jutting too far forward.
4. Incorrect Hand Position
The position of your hands is very similar to the position of your elbows.
You’ll often find that your hands are in line with your face or your lower chest when performing planks.
This simply puts far more pressure on the shoulders.
Once again, either have your hands placed directly under your shoulders, or if using a slightly wider hand position, they should still be in line with the shoulders.
I will also say that performing planks on your hands requires much more upper body strength than doing them on your elbows/forearms.
So, if shoulder pain is an issue, then immediately revert to resting on your elbows and forearms.
Another reason planks hurt your shoulders when it comes to hand position is having your hands turned inwards.
Obviously, this is only an issue if you plank with your hands flat on the floor.
This is something I often see when people complain of shoulder pain when performing push ups as well.
By having the hands angled inwards you’ve immediately rotated the shoulders, thus putting them in an unnatural position.
Furthermore, this can cause the chest to collapse, which makes it far harder to stabilize your shoulders.
You may even find that your thumbs and index fingers come away from the floor when your hands are turned inwards.
Yep, this puts more strain on the shoulders.
5. Lack of Upper Body Strength
If planks hurt your shoulders, it could simply be that you just don’t have enough upper body strength.
Basically, your chest, shoulders and triceps aren’t strong enough for you to hold a plank position for any extended period of time.
Of course, the most obvious route would be to work on strengthening the upper body.
You could actually try push up planks on your knees as well.
This involves resting your elbows and your knees in the starting position.
Adhere to all the above protocols first.
So, tense your abs and glutes, ensure that you maintain a neutral spine, and that your hips aren’t sagging.
Then move alternately from elbows to hands and back to elbows.
This way you’re still working the core, but also working on upper body strength at the same time.
Knee Plank Push Up
6. Lack of Core Strength
Now this may sound a little weird, so bear with me.
But, another common reason planks may hurt your shoulders is because you have a weak core.
If your core isn’t strong enough to hold the plank position then your upper body immediately takes on more of the strain.
This puts more pressure on the shoulder joint, which of course can lead to your shoulders hurting.
I know we often view the plank as an introductory exercise to ab and core development, but when performed correctly they are very tough on the core.
In order to strengthen the core it is actually better to do full-body workouts, with exercises that specifically focus on core stabilization.
Examples include exercises that require you to use only one arm or one leg at a time, or holding, using, or having a weight in front of you.
So, this may involve something like a single-arm overhead press, Bulgarian split squats, and goblet squats.
These exercises will naturally require the core to stabilize itself, which in turn will help to strengthen the core.
In fact, this is the basic principle of the workout program Crunchless Core.
Aim to perform full-body workouts which burn fat and stabilize the core muscles, and then focus on specific core-strengthening exercises.
3-Minute Isometric Plank Core Workout
If you find that planks hurt your shoulders then it’s likely that one of the above issues is causing it.
So, look to perfect your technique if you find you’re making any of these mistakes.
Something I haven’t mentioned, but that could also have an effect, is when you’re performing your planks.
If for example, you complete planks right at the end of your workout, when your focus has been the upper body, then this could be an issue.
Your shoulders will already be somewhat fatigued, so it’s likely that they will feel the strain from planks much earlier.
If this is the case, simply do your planks at the beginning of your workout.
I’ve already mentioned that the Crunchless Core workout program provides the ideal way to workout in order to burn fat and strengthen your core.
To learn more about this awesome program check out my Crunchless Core Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.