Ever wonder how long you need to hold a plank to get results — without hanging out in the pose for a second longer than you need to? Us too. We’re going to get into the details (spoiler: there are a few factors to consider) but first: Here’s why you should work your core with the staple move in the first place.
Why Core Strength Is Key
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the core muscles include the erector spinae (or your back extensors), internal and external obliques (responsible for rotating your trunk), obliques (these help you bend to the side), transverse abdominis (this is the muscle being used when your bootcamp instructor enthusiastically belts out “draw your belly button into your spine!”), rectus abdominis (commonly referred to as your "six-pack" muscles), and the multifidi (which keeps your spine stable).
And according to Annie Mulgrew, founding instructor for CITYROW in New York City and NASM-certified personal trainer, keeping those core muscles strong is essential to helping your body function properly.
“Core strength provides stability, as well as balance, improves overall strength, and enhances a person’s ability to do everyday tasks,” she explains. “[When your core is strong], you move better, breathe better, and function at a higher level.”
A 2019 PLOS ONE study, which focused on college-age endurance athletes, found that eight weeks of core training helped to improve runners' endurance and balance. Meanwhile, other studies have noted that regular core strengthening was a factor in reducing chronic back pain. Mulgrew adds: “The stronger your core, the less strain on [your] lower back, knees, and shoulders.”
The Benefits Of Planks
Whether you do planks, sit-ups, crunches, or some other move really comes down to whichever form of core-strengthening you like best (or, rather, can withstand!), according to Mulgrew. Still, planks are her favorite for a single, overarching reason: You get the most bang for your buck.
“Planking is a more total-body exercise than a crunch, which focuses mostly on the rectus abdominis,” she explains. “Planking engages the arms, hips, glutes, legs, and upper back. It works those deep stabilizing muscles as it is an isometric exercise.” Sit-ups, on the other hand, engage corresponding muscles (hips, lower back) a bit more than crunches, but not as much as a plank would.
Plus, if you have a previously existing lower back or neck injury, crunches and sit-ups can cause even more damage, whereas a plank can help strengthen those muscles without causing any extra strain.
But, as Mulgrew reiterates, there is room for all types of abdominal-focused exercises. She adds that you’d compare a crunch or sit-up to a biceps curl (an isolated exercise) versus a plank to a squat or deadlift (a compound exercise).
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How To Perform A Perfect Plank
Ready to get started? Here’s how to tap into all those core-tastic strengthening and balancing benefits by executing the perfect plank:
How to: Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Place your hands directly under your shoulders. Step your feet back, one at a time. For more stability, bring your feet wider than hip-distance apart, and bring them closer for more of a challenge. Maintain a straight line from heels through the top of your head, looking down at the floor, with your gaze slightly in front of you. Now, tighten your abs, quads, glutes, and hold.
“Planking is a total-body exercise, so it should feel that way!”
Here are some additional form tips from Mulgrew:
- Arms and legs should be perfectly extended.
- Shoulders should also be protracted, or pushed down to open up more space between your shoulder blades.
- Your tailbone reaches towards your inner heels.
- Abdominals should be fully engaged, as well as glutes and hips.
How Long To Hold A Plank
The answer is not as simple as you think. Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and advisor to Promix Nutrition, says you can plank daily, but the length of time you should hold a plank for can vary from 10 seconds to a minute. Here’s why: Your form matters most. “Keeping perfect form is the goal—only do it as long as you can keep this,” Matheny says.
As a general guideline, Doug Sklar, a certified personal trainer and founder of PhilanthroFIT in New York City, recommends striving to do three sets of up to 60 seconds. “It’s OK to start with shorter sets and work up to 60 seconds,” he says.
Plus, shorter planks can still give you a solid workout, Sklar says. He suggests holding a plank for 10 seconds, relaxing for five to 10 seconds, then re-engaging for 10 seconds, and repeating for three to six sets. “You receive very similar strengthening benefits because you are engaging your muscles for the same amount of total time as if you just held the plank for 30 to 60 seconds without stopping,” he says.
That being said, a minute tends to be an ideal time frame for getting the most from a plank. “Longer time under tension is more of a challenge,” Matheny says. But, he adds, if you can easily plank for a minute, you increase the difficulty by contracting your abs more, and squeezing your glutes and quads more.
Again, don’t push yourself to hold a plank for even longer if you’re not ready. “Forcing yourself to hold a plank for an excessive amount of time can put a lot of strain on your lower back,” Sklar says. “As fatigue sets in, the lower back may start to arch. This is where you put yourself at risk for injury.” (That’s where the 60-second reco comes into play!)
So, plank when you can and do it as long as you can hold good form, for up to a minute. You should see great results.
Take Your Plank Up A Notch
Although a plank is truly a gold-standard exercise when it comes to core strengthening and stabilizing (and perfectly fine to do as is!), you can increase the intensity of the move by adding in a few variations.
Take a peek at these 10 plank variations to try, including hand taps, elbow taps, and other destabilizing moves that’ll cause your core to work overtime to keep you in a steady position.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.
Julia Sullivan, CPT
Julia Sullivan, CPT, is a New York City-based writer, indoor rowing instructor, outdoor enthusiast, newbie powerlifter, and devoted cat mother. Her work has been published in Women’s Health, SELF, Health, Huffington Post, and more. She holds a B.A. in journalism and gender studies from Arizona State University and a personal training certificate from the American Council on Exercise. When she’s not covering the latest health and wellness trends, you can find her hitting the hiking trails, working toward her deadlift goal of 400 pounds, and forcefully hugging her cat, Jeeves, against his will.
If planks are accessible to you and you're looking to test your limits, a three-minute plank challenge is one of the best ways to assess your physical fitness, says Mike Donavanik, founder and CEO of digital fitness platform Sweat Factor.Is a 4 minute plank good? ›
As the Mayo Clinic notes, it's an effective workout technique to exercise in short bursts if you're unable to exercise for a long duration. Therefore, if your workout goal is holding the plank pose for four minutes, performing four one-minute planks is just as effective as one four-minute pose.What does it mean if I can hold a plank for 2 minutes? ›
If you can't hold a plank for 120 seconds, you're either a) too fat; b) too weak; or c) doing something wrong in your workouts. A fit, healthy guy should be able to do a two-minute plank. John is also clear about the value of going beyond two minutes: There is none. “Enough is enough,” he says.Do planks burn belly fat? ›
It will not only help you lose belly fat, but build every muscle, which I find much better." However, if you still want to do planks in the gym and you don't have the opportunity for a trainer to observe you and help you do them correctly, you may be doing them wrong.How long should I plank for a flat stomach? ›
This way, the longer you are able to stay in the plank position, the better it is.To lose belly fat, experts suggest that you stick to the goal of holding a plank for about 60 seconds for a minimum of 3 times. According to trainers, following this practice of holding a plank for 60 seconds gives the best results.What will happen if I do plank for 30 days? ›
By increasing the amount of time you hold your plank each day, your body will build up endurance. Endurance is important for increasing physical stamina and strengthening and toning your muscles. The plank challenge alone won't give you a six-pack, though. Try to increase your exercise endurance in other ways, too.What happens if you do 1 minute plank everyday for a month? ›
It's an excellent exercise that works the entire core, which improves running efficiency (a weak core means you have to work harder to maintain form, which means you expend energy you could be using to run further). You may also feel it in your shoulders and lower back, though I did not.What happens if I do planks everyday? ›
Planking exercise improves your body posture by strengthening your back, neck, chest, shoulder and abdominal muscles. If you do the plank every day, your posture improves and your back will be straight.How long do Navy Seals plank? ›
In the Kokoro Camp, the first thing participants do is a 45-minute plank. If you don't know what a plank is, check out the picture. Most people can hold a plank position for 30 seconds to a minute.Are planks better than sit ups? ›
Sit-ups definitely have their place in a core workout. But if you prefer sit-ups over planks, plan to strengthen other important core muscles by doing complimentary exercises. If your goal is to have a strong overall core, then planks may be your best bet.
And do planks give you abs? Planks are an effective way to build core strength and core endurance, which can improve sports performance and reduce injury risk. They can also be used to build muscle, including your rectus abdominus or 'six pack' abs.What happens if you do 2 minute plank everyday for a month? ›
Although planks were tough at first, committing to daily planks resulted in incredible physical and mental benefits! Planks have helped me improve my posture, thus making squats and push-ups easier than ever before. My abs showed signs of improvement, too — much less bloating and no more jiggly tummy.How long should a 60 year old woman hold a plank? ›
Most experts suggest anywhere from 10 up to 30 seconds is plenty. “Focus on doing multiple sets of smaller amounts of time,” says L'Italien. As you progress, you can extend your plank for up to one or even two minutes, but don't go beyond that.Is 1 minute plank hard? ›
“If you can hold a plank for 60 seconds or more I consider that 'strong. ' Less than 30 seconds, you should evaluate why and correct your situation, as you are at risk for back problems.” He says you should also switch up the types of planks you are doing to get better at holding them and strengthening your core.Which is better plank on elbows or hands? ›
So are planks better on the elbows or hands? Planks on the elbows are better for working the core muscles more effectively. Doing planks on the elbows puts your body more horizontal to the floor, which forces your core muscles to work harder to stabilize you.Will planks shrink your waist? ›
Planks are an excellent way to do this. Unlike crunches or traditional sit-ups, the plank works all of the muscles in the abdomen, and it also includes back muscles, arm muscles, and upper legs. Add this every day or every other day, and youâ€™ll be sculpting out a nice, toned, defined waist.How often should I plank to see results? ›
Plank two to four times a week. Increase your time in increments of five to 10 seconds. Once you can hold your position for more than a minute, progress to a new movement, like reaching overhead while planking.How do you know if you are doing plank correctly? ›
Your nose should point toward the floor and the back of your neck should be parallel to the ceiling. Extend your right leg back, with toes flexed, then bring your left leg to join it. The weight of your body should now be fully supported by your hands and toes.What is the plank exercise for seniors? ›
The most effective ab exercise for seniors is the plank.” How to: Facing down toward the floor, place your elbows and knees on the ground while keeping the rest of your body elevated. Form a plank with your body and hold for 30 seconds to a minute.Will I lose weight if I do planks everyday? ›
Although they don't burn as many calories as cardiovascular exercises, they burn some calories, which does help with weight loss. If you are 150 pounds and do a plank for one minute, you will likely burn approximately 3 calories (3). Another way planks help with weight loss is by building strength.
The plank strengthens your spine, your rhomboids and trapezius, and your abdominal muscles, which naturally result in a strong posture as they grow in strength. Developing your posture can improve on a number of ailments, and prevent the onset of other ones. Good posture means you're keeping your bones aligned.How many planks should a beginner do a day? ›
If you are just starting to build core strength, it's better to plank little and often. You don't need to do it more than three times spread out throughout the day. As you get stronger, you can start to work in a few sets. So, plank for a minute, stop and rest for a few minutes and then do another minute.Is it worth it to do planks everyday? ›
By only doing planks every day one can improve the functionality of one's daily activities. Remember that you get to highly engage your arms, shoulders, and neck while doing a plank. Your arms and shoulders are extensively involved in supporting your body weight. Doing these gives these body parts a great work out.Do planks really work? ›
Planks activate more muscles
Additionally, planks don't just work your core: They work your entire body. Planks require your arms, your legs, and all of your abs, making them an all-encompassing workout and a more efficient way to exercise.
The plank is a classic exercise that strengthens your body from head to toe. In particular, the plank helps strengthen your core muscles, including your abdominals and lower back. Having a strong core is linked to reduced lower back pain, an improved ability to perform daily tasks, and enhanced athletic performance.How many calories does a 1 minute plank burn? ›
The plank is a highly effective abdominal-strengthening exercise. For most people, it burns between two and five calories per minute. Planks increase muscle and boost metabolism, so they help to sustain higher levels of caloric burn during rest.How many pushups can a Navy SEAL do? ›
|PST Event||Minimum Standards||Competitive Standards|
|1.5-mile timed run||10:30||9-10 minutes|
Gradually increase your time
“Holding for five minutes will feel like an eternity starting out, but start with 20 seconds, then add 10 seconds every day until you get to five minutes,” says Bustos.
How do Navy SEALs handle 5 days and nights of Hell Week without sleep? Navy SEAL Hell Week is a five-and-a-half day stretch in which candidates sleep only about four total hours, run more than 200 miles and do physical training for more than 20 hours per day.What is the hardest plank position? ›
Stay up: The straight-arm plank is more difficult than the elbow plank, so if you're finding that you need more of a challenge as you hang out on your forearms, focus on perfecting a plank just on your hands.
Aerobic or Cardio Exercise
Studies show that aerobic exercises for belly fat help to reduce belly fat and liver fat. Some great cardio of aerobic exercises for belly fat include: Walking, especially at a quick pace. Running.
The plank is a highly effective abdominal-strengthening exercise. For most people, it burns between two and five calories per minute.How long can an average person hold a plank? ›
Most experts suggest anywhere from 10 up to 30 seconds is plenty. “Focus on doing multiple sets of smaller amounts of time,” says L'Italien. As you progress, you can extend your plank for up to one or even two minutes, but don't go beyond that.What is an impressive plank time? ›
And the longest plank time held by a male was about 7.5 minutes. However, the researchers concluded that any time held for over 2 minutes (roughly) is considered excellent.How good is a 5 minute plank? ›
It doesn't just work your rectus abdominis, but also the rest of your core, and can even help you build strength in your shoulders, chest, upper back, and thighs.