plank from side


Ever wonder why your wrists hurt when you’re in a plank position? Or why your neck and shoulders are uncomfortable? Chances are, your body mechanics in your shoulder girdle are little off.  Take a peek at me in the photos above — I’m using good mechanics in one photo, and kinda sloppy mechanics in the next two photos. Can you tell what’s off? 

Elbow pits — there’s a new word for ya.  I was talking to a new client the other day, who happens to be an avid CrossFit junkie. When I showed her how to best  arrange her arms in a plank position, she said “oh, turn my elbow pits forward.” And a new anatomy term was christened — the elbow pit. Thank you, CrossFit junkie, for introducing me to a term that everyone can relate to — the inner fold of the elbow.


elbow pits fwd NEW


Let’s change the photo perspective and you’ll see a BIG difference in my mechanics.

Version 1: my elbow pits are slightly rotated forward. This spirals my upper arms away from the midline of my body, dialing my shoulders into their sockets. Side benefit: my shoulders dropped away from my ears without any extra effort, taking tension out of my neck.

Version 2: all 10 fingers still point forward, but I’ve allowed my elbow pits to turn toward each other.  And my shoulders and wrists are not happy about it. This is the #1 reason why many women detest plank position. We’re plenty strong enough for plank, but crummy body mechanics are making it uncomfortable.

Version 3: what the heck happened to my hands here?! When my fingers turned in, as if I was about to do an elbows-out pushup, my shoulders crept even closer to my ears. The tension load has increased in my wrists and shoulders, and they’re even more unhappy than in position 2.  Pilates friends: yup, this is why I teach you to put all 10 fingers pointing forward when you’re on the reformer and bearing weight on your arms.


Use this positioning technique — elbow pits dialed slightly forward — to eliminate tension and increase your endurance at other times:

  • During any exercise when you’re bearing weight on your arms. Yup, this is particularly helpful in Pilates reformer sessions and yoga classes, as well as anytime that you incorporate plank poses.
  • While you’re walking or running.  Better shoulder mechanics translate to your stride! You have a ‘tell’ here — when your elbow pit is oriented forward, your arms will swing forward. If it’s turned in, your arms will cross your body when they swing.
  • While working at your desk or typing on a smartphone. Got ‘technology neck?’ Start noticing and fixing that elbow pit. This will also help with excess tension in your forearms and wrists.
  • Whenever you notice that you’re carrying tension in your neck, simply dial those elbow pits forward and remember to breathe. Focus on your exhale for five breaths, and you’ll begin to feel your neck and shoulders settling down.