Why does your body shake during a plank?
“Shaking or quivering during a plank is normal. This means you’re pushing the muscle contraction to its limits and challenging its endurance capacity,” says David Jou, PT, DPT, co-founder of Motivny in New York City. The same goes for shaking during other exercises, according to Dr. Jou. Ultimately, once you start depleting your muscle’s ability to sustain activity, your muscles begin to contract and relax at an intensified pace, resulting in shaking.
If you’re new to planks, you can also expect your muscles to shake during the movement. There is, for one thing, the inherent difficulty of planks, which pushes your muscles to their maximum capability. You are also introducing your body to an unfamiliar activity. “Shaking is your body’s reaction to the new stimulus,” says Adaeze Merenini, CFSC, assistant fitness manager at Crunch Fitness, “and if you’re very deconditioned or a novice, it is to be expected.”
Matthew Accetta, MS, ACSM-CEP, CSCS*D, CSPS, exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, told Well+Good that the body may recruit new muscle fibers and neuromuscular junctions to perform the movement. Until they become accustomed to the stimulus, your muscles might shake during the workout.
Is it good or bad for your body to shake during a plank?
For planks specifically, Dr. Jou says shaking isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on the type of training and intensity you’re after, but recommends focusing on form to ensure you're not overdoing it. We’ve all gotten to the point where we’ve fatigued our muscles, and our main concern is not collapsing on the ground, leaving form as an afterthought. And the longer you hold a plank, it’s more likely for the shaking to intensify as you demand extra effort from your muscles to maintain the position. Technically, you can get away with this every once in a while, but you should aim to avoid falling into bad habits when it comes to technique, as that can lead to injury later down the road. In other words, even if you want to hold a plank for longer, it should never come at the expense of your form.
What to do about shaky planks
If your muscles start shaking during planks, your body is telling you how much it can handle. Over time, as you continue to do more planks, you will notice that you can hold the movement for longer without as much shaking, says Merenini.
With that said, it’s not necessary to push yourself to the breaking point, particularly if your form begins to suffer. If your body starts shaking during planks or other core exercises, “once you’ve reached a couple of sets or reps where form is compromised, it’s probably a good time to rest or stop completely,” says Dr. Jou. Merenini agrees, saying that you can pause to give your muscles a chance to recover and revisit the exercise if you want to try it again.
Whether you’re a beginner or are someone who can easily hold a 3-minute plank, form refreshers are always helpful. Dr. Jou emphasizes the need to create tension in the right areas of the body and the right direction whenever you do a forearm plank—or any one of the plank variations. “With a forearm plank, remember to pull your elbows toward your feet while driving your toes into the ground.” Don’t forget to keep your glutes activated by squeezing them and keep your pelvis tucked without hiking your hips up, he says. And as always, make sure you’re breathing throughout the movement. “This will ensure you’ve created a stable spine and even tension throughout the plank.”
Alternatively, if you want to eliminate shaking to continue your workout, try something less taxing. For example, if you’re doing a traditional plank, consider resting your forearms or hands on a bench or chair to make it easier (this plank is ideal for beginners, says Merenini). If your muscles continue to shake and quake or your form starts to break down, it might be time to stop. “If we continue to exercise while we shake, we can cause excess strain and damage to our muscle fibers or prolonged soreness,” according to Accetta, and in the worst-case scenario, it could lead to injury.
Dr. Jou also recommends ensuring you’ve consumed foods that will give you energy as you train and that you’re hydrated pre-workout because both can contribute to shaking during the exercise. “You could be shaking because you don’t have the nutrients to sustain activity,” he says.
If your muscles have begun shaking during a plank, you can expect the trembling to subside within a few minutes of stopping the exercise. However, if you experience muscle tremors long after working out, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor to understand what the issue might be.
Frequently asked questions
What muscles work during a plank?
According to Kelly Drew, CPT, founder and CEO of 360 Fitness Coaching, in a previous interview with Well+Good, planks are a full-body workout that recruits multiple muscles in one go, including the core, shoulders, chest, quads and glutes. (
Why does my whole body shake during a plank?
Since planks work everything from the core to the upper and lower body, this explains why the muscles throughout your body shake during the exercise—and it’s normal, particularly if you are pushing your body to its maximum or, conversely, you’re brand-new to the movement.
Can too much exercise make your muscles shake?
If you’ve overworked your muscles during sustained strenuous activity, it can cause them to shake due to fatigue. If you experience this, experts recommend taking a break or stopping an exercise completely.
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