Planks 101: Why, How And How Long

The plank may be a common exercise, but it’s far from basic. This challenging move we all love to hate has just as many benefits as it does variations. Grab your mat and settle in for a motivating read that you’ll want to put right to work once you’ve finished!

Why planks?

If you can think of ten more challenging things you could be doing besides a static exercise, hold that thought. Doing planks is one of the most effective ways to not only work your core, but also set your body up for serious success during higher-impact workouts. By building your core strength in a plank, you can help eliminate back pain in other exercises. Planks also help build flexibility in certain muscle groups, including your shoulders and hips. Try variations that add in side dips and reaches to get the most out of this benefit!

The “how-tos” you need to know.

1. Before You Start

Planks might seem relatively simple, but like any more complicated exercise, form is everything! Before you even get down to attempt your next plank, take a step back to focus on the real core of the exercise (pun intended). Learning to engage your core properly will not only ensure the best results, it will keep you free of injuries.

Sit cross-legged, back straight and elongated and shoulders relaxed. Closing your eyes, draw your belly button slowly inward toward your spine. Be aware of every little muscle contraction along the way, including your obliques. Remember how this feels, then take it to your actual plank!

2. During The Plank

The most important thing beyond the actual move itself is your breath. Did you know that your breath is a movement? Treat it as such as soon as you get into your next plank. Holding your breath can have some seriously negative effects, especially for those with higher blood pressure as it will elevate your heart rate; it can also make you feel dizzy or nauseous. Instead, take a deep breath as you press up into your plank. This first breath will help stabilize your plank in a proper neutral position, setting you up for success during the exercise. Once settled in, switch your breath to a ten-second round, breathing in for five seconds, then slowly exhaling for five seconds.

Timing… it’s everything.

As much fun as a plank contest can be, a plank is only truly effective for the first 30 to 60 seconds, depending on your fitness abilities. Instead of focusing on time, focus on proper form and contracting as many of your muscles as possible (yep, think full body workout). Your body will get maximum results in a shorter amount of time!

Ready, set, plank!

Here’s some serious plank-spiration for you! Add a few moves from these videos to your next plank series to amp up your results and challenge your skills.

3 Effective Plank Variations

25 Types of Planks

Creative Plank Exercises

Mandy Gragg is a New York City-based certified personal trainer and an active fashion and beauty blogger. She shares her fitness, fashion, and skincare tips on her blog Haute Unofficial. Follow her sporty adventure on Instagram for more fitness, beauty, and active fashion inspo.