Why Do My Legs Hurt When Doing Planks? 12 Things To Consider
If you’re looking to increase your core strength, planks are a great exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine. However, for some being able to do the plank correctly can be a real challenge because they feel the exercise more in their legs than their core!
It can be frustrating as you are supposed to be working your abs, right?
It leaves you asking “why do my legs hurt when doing planks”, but don’t worry as the answer to this issue can normally be solved with a little bit of form correction and practice.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why exactly you may be suffering from leg discomfort or even pain while doing planks, and how you can avoid (or minimise) these effects in future. Read on to learn more!
Why do my legs hurt when doing planks?
The answer to this question largely depends on the form you are using while doing planks. Generally, if your legs are hurting when you plank it could be because you’re not keeping your spine straight – the spine should remain in one line from your shoulders to your bottom during a plank. If you find yourself looking up, then this can cause your lower back to strain and lead to tightness in the legs. It could also be that you’ve got weak hip flexors or glutes and are struggling to keep your hips level with the floor. You should also avoid completely locking your knees as this could be causing tension in the muscles around them if you hold the position for too long and your legs will simply be fatigued. In addition, if you’re lifting your bottom or dipping your hips, this could be adding to the leg discomfort you are feeling. You may also need to improve the strength of your legs by doing more compound lifts with squats and deadlifts. Finally, you may be not giving yourself enough time in between planks and are pushing yourself too hard without any warm-up or rest period. You should also consider how long you’re holding a plank, if it’s too long, this could be putting pressure on your legs.
Let’s now look more in-depth at the reasons why you might be feeling planks more in your legs than in your core…
Your legs may hurt when doing planks simply because they are fatigued from the exercise and not used to the pressure being exerted on them. Your quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings (back of your thigh) and glutes (your bum muscles) all take a lot of the force when you do a plank. If these muscles are not used to this kind of stress, then they will start to tire quickly and cause pain in the legs.
One way to reduce leg fatigue when doing planks is to reduce the amount of time you are holding the plank and focus more on your form. Additionally, you can also try to engage the muscles in your feet and toes more whilst planking by pushing through the ball of your foot instead of just relying on the tips of your toes. Your legs will be able to bear more weight this way and it should reduce any pain or strain.
You can also try doing planks off your knees until you have become used to the exercise and your leg muscles become stronger. Once you feel comfortable with this, you can move onto full planks on your toes.
It’s important to remember that planks are a full-body exercise and as such, all your muscles must be working in unison to do it correctly.
The form you use while doing planks is also key. If you’re using incorrect form then this could cause pain or fatigue in the legs, even if you’re relatively strong. You should ensure that your spine is in one line from your shoulders to your bottom and not dipping or arching your back.
Your elbows should also be directly beneath your shoulders and not too close together. Your legs should remain in a straight line without locking your knees or dropping your hips to one side.
Finally, make sure you are looking straight down at the floor and not up or to one side.
If you can maintain good form and focus on engaging all your core muscles, then this should help relieve any tension or pain in your legs during planks.
Ball of feet or tiptoes?
One way to alleviate the discomfort of your legs while holding a plank position is to shift some of your weight onto the ball of your feet instead of relying solely on the tips of your toes. This can help reduce any strain or pain in the legs and encourage more even distribution, preventing them from becoming fatigued as quickly.
However, if you suffer from tight hamstrings, then this could be a contributing factor to your leg pain or discomfort.
One way to reduce hamstring pain would be to use a yoga block to rest your shins on while holding the plank position. This will reduce the amount of tension and pressure on your hamstrings and legs while allowing you to focus more on engaging your core muscles.
Another option would be to stretch out your hamstrings before and after a plank session, especially if they feel tight or uncomfortable.
Not keeping your spine straight
If you’re not keeping your spine straight when doing planks, and are instead looking up or to the side, then this can place a lot of extra pressure on your legs. This can lead to increased levels of fatigue and stress in the legs which could cause pain or discomfort while planking.
Therefore, it’s important that you look straight down at the floor and keep your spine in a straight line from your head to your bottom.
Having your head pointed in any other direction other than straight down facing the floor will put a strain on your neck and back, which could increase the tension in your legs and make them uncomfortable.
When our spine is arched or rounded, it can compress nerves that run the length of our back, potentially leading to significant leg discomfort. Therefore, make sure to pay attention to your posture in order to avoid unpleasant experiences down the line.
Locking your knees
When you’re doing planks, it’s important to not completely lock your knees as this can cause strain on the ligaments and muscles of your legs. Not only that, but if you lock your knees when doing planks, your hips are likely to drop and your bottom will lift.
This places more strain on your legs as they become more engaged in order to hold the plank position, leading to increased levels of fatigue and pain.
Therefore, be aware of your knee positioning when planking and keep them straight and relaxed instead of locking them into place.
Engaging your glute muscles while holding a plank will also help to keep your hips level and prevent them from dropping.
Doing this also reduces the need to lock your knees, as when your glutes are engaged, your quads and hamstrings won’t need to overcompensate in order to keep the plank position.
Your hips are dropping
If you find that your hips are dropping when planking, then this could be due to a number of factors.
It could be a sign of weak glute muscles or tight hamstrings and hip flexors, both of which can lead to increased discomfort in the legs as they bear more of the load.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you are engaging your glutes and stretching out your hamstrings and hip flexors before and after a plank session.
This will help reduce the pressure on your legs, allowing them to focus more on supporting the position rather than bearing most of the load.
If I don’t engage my glutes while in a plank position, my lower back will begin to feel tight and my legs will become fatigued faster. It is important to ensure I am engaging my glutes while planking to prevent this from happening.
Your lifting your bottom
If you find that your bottom is lifting while planking, then this could be a sign of weak core muscles. Lifting your bottom will pull on your hamstrings and hip flexors, leading to increased levels of fatigue and pain in the legs.
Your lower back will also be placed under extra pressure as it is not being supported by your core muscles. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re engaging your core and abdominal muscles while doing planks in order to keep your body in the correct position and avoid any unnecessary strain on your legs.
Consider doing other core exercises such as mountain climbers, crunches and leg raises to help build up your core stability.
This will help keep your hips level while planking and reduce the pressure on your legs, allowing them to focus more on supporting the position.
Tight hip flexors
Your hip flexors are the muscles that connect your upper legs to your lower back and when they get too tight, this can cause pain in the legs when doing planks. Tight hip flexors can also lead to other issues such as knee pain, poor posture, tension in the thighs and lower back, and even shin splints.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you are stretching out your hip flexors before and after a plank session in order to avoid any unnecessary tension in your legs.
Performing exercises such as kneeling hip flexor stretches and single-leg hip bridges can help to loosen up the tightness in this area of the body.
Hip flexors are often overlooked when it comes to working out, but they are an important muscle group that needs to be considered because they are often only given attention after realising they are tight or weak.
Length of hold
When doing planks, it is important not to hold the position for too long as this can cause increased levels of fatigue and pain in your legs. Ideally, you should aim for a 10-20 second hold followed by a 10-second rest.
This will help to reduce the amount of strain on your legs while allowing your muscles to recover in between each set.
The longer you hold the plank the more likely you are going to feel the exercise due to increased levels of fatigue. Therefore, it is important to listen to your body and take breaks when necessary in order to prevent any potential injuries or discomfort.
If you can hold the plank for a long period but feel the exercise more in your legs, think about wearing a weight vest and reducing the time you do the exercise.
People have a tendency to excessive reps and duration when it comes to core exercises instead of raising the resistance for better outcomes. Too often, this is an inadequate approach that yields minimal results – but with more intensity, you can maximize your gains.
Improve leg strength
If you find yourself struggling to hold a plank position without feeling discomfort in your legs, then it could be an indication that your legs are too weak to support the position.
Performing exercises such as squats, lunges, and calf raises can help to strengthen the muscles in your legs and provide more stability when planking.
Having a strong core is important for maintaining good posture while doing activities such as walking, running, and lifting weights, so it’s important to focus on building leg strength as well.
As you are well aware people are often reluctant to train their lower body due to the demands of the exercises above, but having strong and stable legs will help to ensure your planks are performed correctly and with greater ease, as well as having greater lower body strength.
Not warming up
Before you start doing planks, it is important to do a few warm-up exercises in order to avoid any potential injuries or discomfort during the exercise. Dynamic stretches such as air squats and lunge walks are great for getting your muscles warm and ready for exercise.
By warming up, you will be able to perform your planks with greater ease and reduce the level of fatigue in your legs.
Warming up is often another crucial element that is overlooked when it comes to fitness, but making sure you are warmed up before exercising can help to reduce fatigue and prevent any potential injuries.
Take the time to get that blood pumping before you embark on any kind of exercise.
It is important to remember that the main reason for doing planks is to strengthen your core, so it’s important to focus on your form and breathing rather than trying to hold the position for as long as possible.
By being mindful of your posture, ensuring you warm up beforehand, and building leg strength through exercises such as squats, lunges and calf raises, you can reduce the amount of fatigue felt in your legs while doing planks.
It is also important to listen to your body and take breaks when necessary in order to prevent any potential injuries or discomfort. Taking the time to get that blood pumping before you embark on any kind of exercise will help to reduce fatigue and ensure you are performing exercises with the correct form.
With proper technique and a few simple tips, it is possible to safely perform planks without feeling too much strain on your legs.
Do your legs hurt when doing planks and have these tips helped? Let us know in the comments below.