Ah, the plank. At first, this abs exercise seems so easy — you just prop yourself up on your elbows or palms, and hold. But then 30 seconds pass, then 45, then 60 … and before you know it, you’re sweating, grunting, and wondering exactly how long do you have to stay in this position, anyway? The record for the longest plank ever held is five hours and 15 minutes, by 57-year-old former Marine George Hood (per Active). You’re probably not up to that challenge, but is it something you should aspire to?
Nah. Holding a plank for just a minute will do the trick, certified personal trainer Doug Sklar told Women’s Health. “It’s OK to start with shorter sets and work up to 60 seconds,” he added. If that’s a struggle, though, don’t give up. You can hold your plank for just 10 seconds, take a five-second rest, then plank for another 10, and repeat till you hit a minute. “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,” Sklar explained.
Planking is only beneficial if your form is correct
Whether you hold a plank for 10 seconds at a time or try to beat the world record, your plank won’t benefit your abs if your form is off, according to fitness experts. In fact, you could actually hurt yourself in the process. “Without proper form, you are not working your muscles, you are just putting stress on your joints or spine which can lead to injury. If you are not actively holding tension in your plank you are either relying on your joints/stacking of bones to keep your position, not your muscles,” Albert Matheny, RD, CSCS, told The Healthy.
So what is the right way to plank? In an interview with The List, celebrity trainer and former The Biggest Loser personality Jillian Michaels summed it up colorfully: “Make sure to keep your spine totally straight and aligned — especially your head, making sure you aren’t straining to look up or allowing your head to drop down. Draw your belly button up and in towards your spine, and tuck your tailbone by squeezing your booty,” Michaels added, “as though it was tryna gobble up ya undies.”