The moment your muscles engage and you lift yourself into a plank, your brain will start flooding you with questions like, “How long should I hold this plank?” or “Is it almost over?” – and rightly so.
A plank is a hard isometric bodyweight exercise that requires you to hold yourself in a position similar to a push-up, says Ashley Iwanickia fitness trainer and founder of The collective studios. “Primarily a plank exercise targets your core musclesbut recruits your shoulders, back, glutes and leg muscles for supportshe says to Bustle. It also challenges your smaller one stabilizing musclesshe says, all working together to keep you stable.
As with any exercise, maintaining good form is always far more important than the number of repetitions you can perform — or in this case, how long you can hold the pose. Good form is what helps you get the most benefit from an exercise, Iwanicki says, so always take a break when you need to.
As a fitness trainer Kim D’Agnese previously said hustle you can pull one off perfect plank planting your palms under your shoulders, engaging your glutes and abs, and making sure your hips stay in line with your shoulders as you lift. With form in mind, read below for how long to hold a plank and how to increase your time if that’s a goal.
How long to hold a board
To figure out how long to hold a plank, Iwanicki says the ideal length of time depends on your current strength level as well as your fitness goals. “If you’re new to planking, I recommend starting with a series of three 10-second holds with five to 10-second rests in between,” she says. “Practice as many short holds as necessary until you feel comfortable increasing the length of time, eventually working your way up to 30 seconds or more.”
If you’re at an intermediate or advanced fitness level, try holding your plank for 60 seconds to maximize your time under tension, which Iwanicki says will optimize your muscle strength, endurance, and growth. “If that doesn’t feel challenging enough, try more advanced plank variations for your one-minute stop,” she adds.
How to get better at planks
It’s totally fine if you can only hold a plank for a second or two at the beginning. It takes time to develop into a longer hold, which is why Iwanicki says you might want to start with a more supportive variation like this forearm plank, where you balance on your forearms instead of your palms. You can also try planting your palms and bringing your knees down to take some pressure off your abs.
Once you’ve landed on the most comfortable variation, try to hold it for a few seconds. “Continue to practice a plank from your knees or forearms until you can confidently hold this variation for 30 seconds,” says Iwanicki. “From there, push your plank forward by holding off your toes for just 10 seconds at a time.”
Once the 10 second plank feels easy on your toes, you can try holding it off your knees for another 10 to 20 seconds before slowly building up to a standard plank. “As with anything, with consistent practice and training, you’ll improve your skills,” she says.
How often to practice
Frequency and consistency are the most important factors when it comes to building strength. You can throw in a plank at the end of a workout Bonus core exerciseor you can make it a point to practice them regularly so you get stronger faster.
“To see results, I recommend incorporating a plank into your routine three to four times a week for a duration that feels challenging to you,” she says. “While the time it takes to build strength and hold a plank longer will vary by each person based on their previous training experience and ability, most people should see improvement within a few weeks of consistently practicing planks.”
Plank tips and tricks
To make your planking experience a little easier, Iwanicki says you should focus on squeezing more than just your abs to stay up. “Most people just focus on activating their core since that’s the primary muscle group being worked,” she says. “Certainly though Activation of the secondary muscleslike your shoulders, back, glutes and leg muscles can be extremely helpful.”
The goal is to engage all of your plank muscles so you feel tight and stable. “Concentrate on pushing away from the floor under your forearms or palms so that you’re slightly lifting the space between your shoulders,” she adds. “This action should feel like lifting your body weight off the ground to counteract gravity.”
As you hold the plank, continue to squeeze your glutes and quadriceps to support the rest of your body. “Find neutral alignment through your spine and drop your hips in line with your shoulders,” says Iwanicki. “Stacking your joints — shoulders over your elbows or wrists — will also make a plank feel easier because that alignment optimizes how your bones can support your body’s weight.”
Keep these plank tips and tricks in mind, and you’ll soon be holding planks like a pro.
Byrne, JM. (2014). Effect of using a suspension training system on muscle activation while performing a front plank exercise. Strength and Conditioning Journal. doi: 10.1519/JSC.00000000000000510.
Park, DJ. (2019). Which core exercise activates the abdominal muscles most effectively? A Comparative Study of Plank and Isometric Bilateral Leg Raise Exercises. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation. two: 10.3233/BMR-181122.
Kim D’Agnesefitness trainer