Mythbusters Episode 4: Why Longer Isn’t Better, or, How Long Should You Hold A Plank For.

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You know the sort, on day 1 you hold a plank for 30 seconds, day 2 for one minute until you’re holding a plank for 5 minutes. Or 10 minutes. I know, how impressive, right? Maybe not. What are the benefits of holding a plank for five minutes? And exactly how long should you hold a plank for?

Holding a plank for as long as possible is at most, in my opinion, just an exercise in boredom tolerance. Once you can get into a balance on your hands and toes, you’ve just got to find the easiest way of holding it that doesn’t tire you out and then stay there.

So essentially it’s an exercise in making something as easy as possible for yourself and getting better at not needing to be strong.

How impressive…

So how to do a plank and how long should you hold a plank for, then, I hear you ask?

Well it’s probably best to go back to the start and ask yourself what’s the reason that you’re doing a plank in the first place?.

The answer should NOT be, doing planks to get a flat belly or six pack abs. That quest is all about food deprivation and having good genetics, neither of which I can help you with.

The answer SHOULD be because you want a stiff core that keeps you stable so that you are stronger and generally less breakable.

juno fitness plank personal trainer in coventryLet’s just take a moment to consider what we mean by “core” though shall we? When we think of a stronger core, and ask how to get a stronger core, do you mean “which exercises will get me a flatter stomach?”

Because a flat stomach does not equal a strong core and ab exercises will not flatten your stomach NOR will they protect your back much.

The muscles that make up a six pack, your abs, their purpose is to make you lean forwards. Think about sit-ups, loads of sit-ups will make you better at sitting up. The abs are pretty superficial (external) muscles that don’t have much of a supporting role to your back; they just make you good at leaning forwards. We don’t usually need to get really strong at doing that, we just need to be able to do it. And most of us can, so, maybe sit-ups are a little redundant.

So what muscles make up your core (if not just abs), how to strengthen your core muscles, how to do planks properly for a strong core and what are you actually trying to achieve from doing planks? – They should be the real questions behind your reasons to do planks.

Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body”

The main function of your core is to stabilise you so that you can move around without going floppy, and falling over. When you lift weights, your core is what allows you to lift well and often enough to get stronger. So it makes sense that to strengthen your core muscles, they should be put under load whilst being asked to remain still.

This is what core exercises are designed to do (they have nothing to do with flat stomachs)⁣.

So coming back to a plank; stacking your elbows and shoulders, and toes and ankles on top of each other without creating any increasing resistance for your core muscles to work against and simply staying still becomes a balance, arguably. ⁣Sure you will get stronger at first, until really soon you’re strong enough to do it.

And then what? Doing it for longer a) will take an ever increasing amount of time and b) mean that you will be gradually losing strength as you try and hold tension beyond the stage where your form deteriorates.

Think about it, the longer you hold something heavy (let’s say a big bag of potatoes, or a kettlebell in a rack position if we’re being on-theme here), are you likely to be holding it with more and more power, skill and strength as the timer ticks?⁣

Or weaker and shakier, compensating by using shit body position the longer you hold on to it?⁣

Yeah. ⁣Exactly.

So why should holding a plank for longer and longer be A Good Thing? ⁣

All you’ll be doing is making it as easy for yourself as possible, so that you can hold it for longer. That means you’ll switch off as many muscles as it takes for you to tire less easily. ⁣

Sounds like a stupid idea when you put it like that, right? ⁣

We need to be putting our core muscles under increasing load in order to train them to be strong. That means, we need to be asking our body to move then making our core muscles RESIST that movement.

wonder woman arm wrestleTo create an isometric contraction, if you want to be scientific about it. It’s kind of like an arm wrestle that nobody is winning (though obvs WW is going to win in this picture); that’s how you want your plank to feel.



And we all know that there’s only so long that will go on for. There’s no gradual weaking; suddenly the tension is gone.

How long should you hold a plank for? A PROPER plank?

30 seconds is probably all you need. ⁣

And if that’s still too easy, do it single armed and make that arm wrestle feeling as you pull your feet and hand together.

There’s a plank challenge for you.

Strong Girls Kettlebell Club and 1:1 training  is for women who have better things to do with their time than spend it being bored in planks that don’t work.

Apply here if this sounds like you.

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