Why Does My Head Hurt When I Do Planks? Understanding the Causes and Solutions for Headaches

why does my head hurt when i do planks?

Why Does My Head Hurt When I Do Planks? Understanding the Causes and Solutions for Headaches

Are you someone who enjoys incorporating planks into your exercise routine, but consistently experiences a throbbing headache shortly after or even during the exercise?

You’re not alone. Many individuals have found themselves in a similar predicament, wondering why their head hurts when they do planks.

In this blog, we will delve into the potential reasons behind this discomfort and provide practical solutions to help you continue reaping the benefits of planks without the unwanted headache.

Why Does My Head Hurt When I Do Planks?

When performing planks, it is not uncommon to experience headaches, and there are several potential reasons for this discomfort. One possible cause is the increased pressure within the blood vessels of the head due to the isometric nature of the exercise. When you hold a plank position, the muscles in your upper body, including your neck and shoulders, contract and tense up. This muscle tension can restrict blood flow and lead to an accumulation of blood in the vessels of the head, resulting in a headache. Additionally, poor form and alignment during planks can place excessive strain on the neck and upper back muscles, further contributing to muscle tension and discomfort. Furthermore, other factors such as dehydration, high blood pressure, improper breathing technique, and exercising in a hot or humid environment can exacerbate headaches during planks. It is important to address these factors and make necessary adjustments to prevent and manage headaches during the exercise.

Lack of Familiarity with Planks and Incorrect Form

Let’s start by addressing one of the most common culprits: incorrect form. If you’re new to planks or haven’t mastered the proper technique, it’s no wonder you might be experiencing headaches. Maintaining the correct alignment and engaging your core muscles are crucial for avoiding unnecessary strain on your body.

To conquer this hurdle, consider the following tips to improve your plank form:

  • Align Your Body: Ensure that your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Avoid sagging your hips or arching your back, as this can strain your neck and lead to headaches.
  • Engage Your Core: Focus on activating your abdominal muscles throughout the exercise. This will not only help you maintain the proper form but also alleviate unnecessary tension in your neck and head.

Incorrect Body Positioning

The horizontal position during planks can also contribute to headaches if your body isn’t properly aligned. A neutral spine is essential for preventing strain on the neck and head.

Here’s an analogy to help you visualise the correct positioning: Imagine your body as a straight line from the crown of your head to your tailbone. Just like a well-stacked tower of blocks, you want your body to be in perfect alignment, without any tilting or bending.

To achieve this, try the following tips:

  • Engage Your Core: By actively contracting your abdominal muscles, you provide stability to your spine, reducing the risk of headaches.
  • Imagine a String Pulling You Up: Visualise a string attached to the top of your head, gently pulling you upward. This mental cue can help you maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.

Head and Neck Movements

Are you guilty of turning your head excessively during planks? This common mistake can strain your neck muscles and contribute to headaches. It’s crucial to keep your head in a neutral position or aligned with the rest of your body.

Consider the following tips to prevent headaches caused by head and neck movements:

  • Neutral Head Position: Keep your head in line with your spine, gazing slightly ahead of you. Avoid looking up or down, as this can strain your neck.
  • Strengthen and Stretch: Incorporate exercises and stretches that target your neck muscles to build strength and flexibility. This will help alleviate tension and reduce the likelihood of headaches.

Duration and Intensity of Plank Exercises

Pushing yourself too hard or performing planks for extended periods can lead to headaches. It’s essential to gradually increase the duration and intensity of your plank exercises, allowing your body to adapt over time.

Consider the following tips for proper progression and recovery:

  • Start Slow and Gradual: Begin with shorter plank durations and gradually increase the time as your strength improves. This approach allows your body to adapt without overwhelming it.
  • Recovery Time: Give yourself adequate recovery time between plank sessions. This will prevent overexertion and reduce the likelihood of headaches.

Exertion and Muscle Tension

Excessive strain and tension in your muscles can also contribute to headaches during planks. Warming up, stretching, and maintaining a balanced exercise routine are essential for avoiding this discomfort.

Try the following tips to reduce exertion and muscle tension:

  • Warm-Up: Prioritise a proper warm-up before diving into your plank exercise. A dynamic warm-up routine, such as light jogging or dynamic stretches, can prepare your muscles and prevent unnecessary strain.
  • Stretching: Incorporate stretching exercises, particularly targeting your core and upper body, to increase flexibility and alleviate muscle tension.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Consider incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga into your routine. These practices can help reduce overall muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Factors Affecting Overall Health

Various health-related factors can influence headaches during planks. Blood pressure, hydration levels, and exercise environment can all play a role in your discomfort.

Consider the following factors and tips to optimise your overall health during planks:

  • Blood Pressure: If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to monitor it and consult with your healthcare professional. There may be a correlation between spikes in blood pressure and headaches during exercise.
  • Hydration: Dehydration can exacerbate headaches during planks. Make sure you’re adequately hydrated before and during your exercise session. Take regular water breaks to maintain proper hydration levels.
  • Exercise Environment: Exercising in a hot and humid environment can affect blood circulation and increase the likelihood of headaches. Ensure your workout space is well-ventilated and temperature-controlled.

Related: Why Does the Ab Wheel Hurt My Back?

Breathing Techniques and Oxygen Supply

Believe it or not, your breathing technique during planks can impact headaches. Maintaining a steady and controlled breathing pattern is crucial for optimal oxygen supply to your body and preventing headaches.

Consider the following tips for breathing during planks:

  • Controlled Breathing: Focus on taking slow, deep breaths throughout the exercise. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This controlled breathing pattern will help deliver oxygen to your muscles and minimize the risk of headaches.
  • Practice Breathing Exercises: Explore different breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or alternate nostril breathing, to enhance your breath control and promote relaxation.

Modifying the Plank Exercise

If you consistently experience headaches despite improving your form and addressing other factors, it may be time to modify the traditional plank position. Fortunately, there are variations that can be more comfortable for individuals with headache issues.

Consider the following plank modifications:

  • Forearm Planks: Instead of the traditional high plank on your hands, try performing forearm planks. This variation can reduce strain on your neck and head.
  • Wall Planks: Perform planks with your forearms and feet against a wall, creating an angle that reduces the load on your upper body while still engaging your core.
  • Side Planks: Switch up your routine by incorporating side planks. These planks target your oblique muscles and provide a different challenge for your core.

Alternative Core Exercises

If planks continue to give you headaches, don’t worry. There are alternative core exercises that can target your abdominal muscles without causing discomfort.

Consider adding the following exercises to your routine:

  • Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and lift your hips off the ground, engaging your glutes and core.
  • Bird Dogs: Begin on your hands and knees, extend one arm forward and the opposite leg backward, and hold the position while engaging your core.
  • Modified Planks: Perform planks with your knees on the ground instead of the traditional full plank position. This modification reduces the load on your upper body while still working your core muscles.

Importance of Warm-Up and Cooldown

To avoid headaches during and after planks, it’s crucial to pay attention to your warm-up and cooldown routines. These essential steps prepare your body for exercise and aid in recovery, reducing muscle tension and the likelihood of headaches.

Consider the following tips for warm-up and cooldown:

  • Warm-Up: Prior to starting your planks, perform a dynamic warm-up routine. This can include activities such as light jogging, jumping jacks, or arm swings to increase blood flow and warm up your muscles.
  • Cooldown: After completing your planks, take a few minutes to perform static stretches and gentle exercises to cool down your body and promote muscle relaxation.

Proper Workout Environment

Your workout environment can also impact headaches during planks. Exercising in a well-ventilated and temperature-controlled space is important for minimizing the risk of discomfort caused by environmental factors.

Consider the following tips for creating a suitable workout environment:

  • Ventilation: Ensure there is adequate air circulation in your workout space. If possible, open windows or use fans to maintain fresh air flow.
  • Temperature Control: Avoid exercising in excessively hot or humid conditions. If necessary, use air conditioning or choose cooler times of the day for your workout.

Stress and Relaxation Techniques

Stress and tension can contribute to headaches during planks. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine can help manage stress levels and reduce the occurrence of headaches.

Consider the following stress-relief and relaxation techniques:

  • Deep Breathing: Take breaks during your planks to practice deep breathing exercises. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your abdomen with air, and exhale slowly through your mouth. This simple technique can help calm your mind and release tension.
  • Meditation or Yoga: Consider adding meditation or yoga sessions to your weekly routine. These practices can help reduce overall stress levels and promote relaxation.

Related: Why Is The Ab Wheel So Hard? 

Equipment Considerations

Lastly, the equipment you use during planks can impact your comfort and the likelihood of headaches. Choosing appropriate exercise equipment, such as a supportive mat or cushion, can minimize discomfort during the exercise.

Consider the following equipment considerations:

  • Supportive Mat: Invest in a high-quality exercise mat that provides adequate cushioning and support for your body.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Wear comfortable workout attire that allows for freedom of movement and doesn’t restrict blood flow or cause unnecessary strain.


Are planks good for your brain?

Planks can indirectly benefit your brain by improving overall physical fitness and promoting healthy blood flow. Regular exercise, including planks, enhances cardiovascular health, which in turn supports efficient blood circulation to the brain. This increased blood flow can provide essential oxygen and nutrients to the brain, promoting cognitive function and overall brain health.

Why does my head hurt when I do ab exercises?

Headaches during ab exercises, including planks, can be caused by various factors. One common reason is increased pressure in the blood vessels of the head due to muscle tension and isometric contractions. Additionally, poor form, neck strain, dehydration, high blood pressure, improper breathing techniques, and exercising in a hot or humid environment can contribute to headaches during ab exercises.

What effect does plank have on the brain?

Planks primarily target the core muscles, but they can indirectly benefit the brain. Engaging in regular plank exercises, along with other forms of physical activity, promotes overall fitness and cardiovascular health. Improved cardiovascular fitness enhances blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, which can support cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health.

Is it bad that my head hurts when I workout?

Experiencing headaches during workouts, including planks, is a common occurrence, but it is not necessarily a cause for concern. However, if the headaches are severe, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

How do I stop my head from hurting when I work out?

To prevent or reduce headaches during workouts, including planks, there are several strategies you can try:

  • Ensure proper form and alignment during exercises, especially in the neck and upper back.
  • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to allow your body to adapt over time.
  • Stay hydrated before and during exercise to prevent dehydration, which can contribute to headaches.
  • Focus on maintaining a controlled breathing pattern throughout your workout.
  • Incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce overall muscle tension and promote relaxation.

What do exertion headaches feel like?

Exertion headaches are characterised by a throbbing pain in the head, often described as a pulsating or pounding sensation. The pain typically intensifies during physical activity, including workouts, and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as neck pain, nausea, or sensitivity to light and sound. Exertion headaches can vary in intensity and duration, ranging from mild and short-lived to more severe and prolonged. If you frequently experience exertion headaches, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management strategies.

Final Thoughts…

By now, you should have a better understanding of why you might experience headaches during planks and how to address this issue. Remember, it’s essential to prioritize proper form, body alignment, and gradual progression in your plank exercises. Listen to your body, seek professional advice if needed, and prioritize your overall health and well-being.

If planks continue to give you headaches despite implementing the suggested solutions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Don’t get discouraged. With the right adjustments and modifications, you can continue your fitness journey and enjoy the benefits of planks without the unwanted headache. So, let’s conquer those planks and keep striving for a stronger, healthier you!

Do you experience headaches when doing planks or any other form of exercise and have these tips helped? Let us know in the comments below.

If you enjoy sport and use CBD to help with your recovery in between gruelling workouts, then you are in the right place. Here at Sport CBDs, we train hard and recover the best way possible…

We have regular workouts (check out the YouTube channel), CBD news and CBD products to help you gain that edge! 

If you wanted to check out the reputable CBD we have on offer here at the site, then please head to the Sport CBDs Store (CLICK HERE). We also do fitness clothing and yoga accessories too. 

Until next time, all the best…

Beginners Upper Body Kettlebell Workout


Founder – Sport CBDs

Featured Image Attribution – Image by fxquadro on Freepik

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