Have you ever wondered how long you need to hold a plank to get results without staying in the pose a second longer than you need to? Us too. We’ll get into the details (spoiler: there are a few things to think about), but first, here’s why you should make the staple move to work on your core in the first place.
Why Is Core Strength Important?
The American Council on Exercise (A.C.E.) says that your core muscles are your back extensors, your internal and external obliques (which help you turn your trunk), your obliques (which allow you to bend to the side), your transverse abdominis (which is used when your Bootcamp instructor tells you to “draw your belly button into your spine! “), your rectus abdominis (also called your “six-pack” muscles), and your mult (which keeps your spine stable).
Annie Mulgrew, who started CITY ROW in New York City and is a NASM-certified personal trainer, says that keeping your core muscles strong is essential for your body to work right.
“Core strength gives stability and balance, makes a person stronger overall, and makes it easier for them to do everyday tasks,” she says. “[When your core is strong], you move better, breathe better, and work at a higher level.” A PLOS ONE study from 2019 that looked at endurance athletes in college found that eight weeks of core training helped runners get more robust and balanced. In the meantime, other studies have shown that strengthening your core daily can help reduce chronic back pain. Mulgrew says, “The stronger your core, the less your lower back, knees, and shoulders will have to work.”
Benefits Of Plank
Mulgrew says that whether you do planks, sit-ups, crunches, or some other move depends on which core-strengthening activity you like (or, instead, can do!). Still, planks are her favorite for one big reason: they give her the most for her money.
“Planking is a better exercise for the whole body than crunches, which mostly work the rectus abdominis,” she says. “Planking works the upper back, hips, glutes, legs, and arms. It’s an isometric exercise that works those deep stabilizing muscles. On the other hand, sit-ups work the hip and lower back muscles a little more than crunches, but not as much as a plank would. Also, if you already have an injury to your lower back or neck, crunches and sit-ups can worsen it, while a plank can help strengthen those muscles without hurting them more.
Plank Perfect Position
Are you ready to start? Here’s how to do the perfect plank to get all the benefits of strengthening and balancing your core:
Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be right under your shoulders. Step back one foot at a time. If you want to feel more stable, put your feet farther apart than your hips. If you feel more challenged, put your feet closer together. Keep a straight line from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. Look down at the floor and slightly ahead of you. Now, tighten your abs, quads, glutes, and hold.
Here are some more tips from Mulgrew about form:
- Both arms and legs should be fully stretched out.
- Shoulders should also be pulled back or down to give your shoulder blades more room.
- Your tailbone goes all the way to the inside of your heels.
- The glutes and hips, as well as the abs, should be fully used.
How Long Should I Hold a Plank?
You might think the answer is easy, but it’s not. Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and advisor to Promix Nutrition, says you can plank every day, but the length of time you should hold a plank can vary 10 seconds to a minute. This is why: Most important is how you look. “The goal is to keep perfect form. Only do it as long as you can keep this,” says Matheny.
Doug Sklar is a certified personal trainer and the founder of PhilanthroFIT in New York City. He says you should try to do three sets of up to 60 seconds as a general rule. He says it’s OK to start with shorter stages and work up to 60 seconds. Still, a minute is usually the best length of time to get the most out of a plank. “Being under stress for a longer time is more of a challenge,” says Matheny. But, he says, if you can plank for a minute without much trouble, you can make it harder by tightening your abs, glutes, and quads.
Again, if you’re not ready, don’t force yourself to hold a plank for even longer than you can. “If you force yourself to hold a plank for too long, it can put a lot of stress on your lower back,” says Sklar. “When you feel tired, your lower back may start to arch. Here, you put yourself in danger of getting hurt.” (This is where the 60-second retake comes in!) So, plank when you can and keep good form for as long as you can, up to a minute. You should get a lot out of it.