Fitness Tips

If You Feel Like Planks Never Get Easier, You’re Not Wrong—Here’s Why Your Muscles Always Shake

Tamara Pridgett

Photo: Getty Images/ jacoblund
True story: I could be in the best shape of my life—crushing my workouts, never missing rehab, and everything else in between—but it never fails that I will be out of breath after walking up approximately two flights of stairs and I will be trembling if I hold a plank for longer than 30 seconds. Feeling winded whenever you walk up stairs has to do with your muscles working harder and demanding more oxygen, which results in your heart having to work harder to meet those demands. But what about shaking while holding a plank? It turns out shaking in plank is very common—yes, your favorite athletes probably shake whenever they do planks, too.

"Shaking or quivering during a plank is totally normal. This just 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 over a period of time, your muscles begin to contract and relax at an intensified pace, which results in shaking.

We've all gotten to the point where our muscles are fatigued and our main concern is not collapsing on the ground, leaving form as an afterthought. 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.

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 not to overdo it by focusing on your form. "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," he advises. He also recommends making sure 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 explains.

No matter your fitness level or experience, form refreshers are always helpful, and Dr. Jou emphasizes the need for creating tension in the right areas of the body and in the right direction whenever you do planks. "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 duration of the movement. "This will ensure that you've created a stable spine and even tension throughout the duration of the plank."

It's always a good time to check your technique. Refresh your form with this plank tutorial: 

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