How planks challenge your body is a wild concept. It might seem easy, all you’re doing is holding our own weight above the floor, but everyone who’s done a plank before knows… it’s anything but easy.
What is a Plank?
Put simply, a plank is a core exercise where you hold a push-up position (with flat hands on the floor, or on your elbows) for as long as you can, or for timed intervals.
When it comes to plank exercise, many might not even know that they’re better for your body in the long run because planks are a static exercise. Instead of working your joints to the point of wearing them down (with exercises like crunches and push-ups) you’re holding one position and challenging your muscle strength.
The idea that if you’re not using added weights (other than your body weight), the workout isn’t worth it, is outdated. By doing body weight exercises, you’re building functional muscle and getting a great workout in. Plus, there’s no need to buy supplies! You were born with everything you need.
The Core Struggle
A lot of people tend to struggle with core muscles - with good reason. They’re a hard muscle group to work physically. It also calls for mental endurance - there’s no minute that passes slower than the minute you spend in a plank. But the key to how to hold a plank longer is all about that mental toughness - it’s about working through that pain threshold and not giving in when your brain yells at you to stop (see: pain cave).
Tim Duba, cofounder of Protekt, gets it - but he also wants to stress how important a strong core is.
“Core strength is crucial to everything that everyone does. If your core is weak, you're going to get a bad back while you're out running, cycling is going to be harder, doing push-ups is going to be harder. If everybody focused on workouts that improve the core, they'd probably see a lot less struggle in other areas.”
Keeping It Interesting
Plank exercises can get boring sometimes, which is why it’s great to switch things up.
Knowing how to create a fitness plan that works for you is all about making modifications. While in the plank position, try turning your hips over from side to side to work your oblique muscles. Not only does this modification target other muscle groups, it keeps your brain active, too. You’ll be less likely to fall into a rut by integrating new movements.
Tim Duba has a few tried and true core workouts (in addition to plank exercises) and plank positions that really work for him.
“Lately, I’ve been doing timed planks for 30 seconds to a minute. There’s another pose where you start in the full push-up, front leaning rest, then drop to your elbows. Then you do each side. Left, then the right, then back to elbows, then the full extension. And it smokes me. If you do each one with a minute rest, it's pretty tough. Core work is truly an exercise you can do every day and just change which poses you're using. For example, mountain climbers, instead of holding still, you can do elbow taps, shoulder taps, there's a million ways to do them, but the workout stays the same.”