All hail the plank! The ultimate core strengthen exercise that is simple to do and has many benefits including strengthening your abs and back. I often incorporate planks in my classes and in my own workouts. Planks are also a staple core exercise in any strength-base fitness class.
I have been in fitness classes where the instructor says, “okay, we are going to hold a plank for two minutes. “ I say to myself, “I totally got this!” I lie face down on my mat, I anchor my toes into the floor, I take a deep breath in and exhale as I brace my core and lift my hips off the floor keeping my back straight my shoulders down. After the two minutes are up I mentally pat myself on my back for making it through, but was it beneficial? During those 2 minutes, did my form start to fail? Did my hips start to sag, was more core engaged throughout?
One thing exercise can do, if you are doing it mindfully, is it forces us to get real with ourselves. Is what we are doing beneficial and helping us toward our goals (e.g., stronger core) or is it serving our ego? “Ha, I held that plank position longer than Tammy and girlfriend is half my age…I’m cuter too!”
After years of teaching I’ve found that many people can get through holding a plank position for long period of time, but most people cannot do it in proper form. Sometimes you are not even aware of it, 40 seconds go by and all of the sudden your hips start to sag and you lose the straight back position you started off with.
In my classes, I prefer doing a series of planks, only holding each for 10 sec with a short rest between sets. Dr. Stuart McGill professor of spine biometrics at the University of Waterloo states that, “holding a plank for longer than 10 sec intervals is not useful for the average person.” You can read more about his research here:
Getting into the plank position is straightforward but holding it takes strength and endurance. When you are struggling with one or both components, the best thing to do is to modify (e.g. go onto your knees) to help ensure you are not compromising your form in order to reach a time goal.
So there you have it! Try changing up how you perform your planks, I’d love to know how you do so send me a comment. I will be holding my plank until then, so seriously hurry up. This is your girl signing off.