If you have a love-hate relationship with planks, you’re not alone. For a simple bodyweight exercise, planks are no easy feat. They’re undoubtedly good for toning and strengthening our body, but boy, the shake and burn is real! Don’t let this intimidate you, though — it just speaks to their powerful full-body benefits. Another great thing about this core-strengthening exercise? Planks can be performed anytime, anywhere. No need for a gym or fancy equipment. Generally speaking, you don’t even need sneakers! Plus, they’re easy to modify and adapt for all your needs — no matter if you’re a beginner or planking pro. And as you can imagine, they come with a long list of health benefits. Truthfully, any exercise regime could benefit from this single exercise! So let’s master the move.
Ahead, all you need to know about planks — the benefits, ways to incorporate it into your exercise routine, and simple variations to try!
5 Impressive Plank Benefits
If planks aren’t a regular part of your fitness routine, here’s your nudge to fit them in. Planks can help support a stable core, promote strength, and of course, tone our abs and obliques.
Here are five reasons why adding the mighty plank to your fitness routine can be a total fitness game changer.
#1 Planks Strengthen & Sculpt Your Core (& Full Body!)
If you want a strong and sculpted abdomen, you’ll want to stop, drop, and plank! Think of planks as the ultimate core exercise. They’re one of the best ways to build a strong core, which helps to strengthen, stabilize, move, and protect your entire body. In case you didn’t know, your core is made of multiple muscle groups — including your glutes, pelvis, back, hips, and of course, abdominals. While a weak core can lead to neck and hip pain, poor posture, and low back pain, a strong core can have the opposite effect! By strengthening your core (and thus so many muscle groups), you’ll likely see improvements across all other exercises! From improving muscular endurance to strengthening your spine, glutes, and obliques, a strong core will benefit both your workouts and daily life activities.
#2 Planking Improves Balance
A strong core can help support better balance and can help boost exercise performance and endurance. Think about it: when you’re in a plank position, you have to engage multiple muscle groups to prevent toppling over. Naturally, this helps build your balance! And while balance is often associated with flexibility, there’s so much more to it! It can help you run that extra mile, dance that much longer, and yes, hold that yoga pose with poise.
#3 It Can Be Performed Anytime, Anywhere
To perform a plank you don’t need any fancy fitness equipment — in fact, you don’t need a gym at all! All you need is yourself (and maybe a mat). Although, some booty-kicking music in the background doesn’t hurt either (it can even boost your workout)! As a highly convenient and effective move, it’s easy to stay consistent and see major results!
#4 Suport Your Back Muscles
Let’s face it, the majority of us spend far too much time sitting all day. Between sitting at a computer desk at work, to long commute times, we may be spending upwards of twelve hours a day sitting on our rear ends. This can put a massive strain on the back and spine, especially when paired with poor posture. This is where welcoming planks into your fitness routine can drastically help take stress off your spine, all while building strength around your core to help support your back muscles.
#5 Planks Are Easy to Modify & Adapt
Easy to modify or adapt, planks are perfect for all fitness levels. Whether you’re just getting started with a fitness program or you’re looking to take your workout to the next level, this simple and effective exercise is for you! Modify with a knee plank if you’re a beginner, or boost your burn with variations like side planks, forearm planks, and weighted planks. There are endless ways to adapt this exercise based on your needs and fitness level!
Everything You Need to Know to Do a Proper Plank
Quality is Key, and while many of us get caught up in how long we can hold a plank, it really all comes down to how long you can hold a proper plank. If you hold a plank with poor form for three minutes, it’s not going to be nearly as effective as holding a proper plank for 30 seconds. You could even do more harm than good! Poor form increases the likelihood of injury — you risk hurting your lower back, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and more. So, don’t get so caught up on time, it’s important to focus more on proper form here.
How To Hold A Proper Plank
Need a little visual guide to help you get the perfect plank? Here’s how to perfect your plank.
Step #1: To start, get in the push up position. Plant your elbows below your shoulders as if you were pushing away from the floor — your body should be in a straight line with your elbows stacked under your wrists.
Step #2: Check your alignment. Engage your abs and glutes, and keep your hips lifted with a slight tuck of your pelvis. Keep your neck in neutral position and gaze straight ahead
Step #3: Now that your posture is perfected, remember to breathe! Hold for 20-30 seconds.
How to Modify Your Plank
Once you’ve nailed the perfect plank form, it’s time to amp up the burn (or with endless plank variations. Here are some plank exercises to consider, with a beginner, intermediate, and advanced option!
New to planking? Start with this modified knee plank!
Step #1: Start lying face down on the floor. Keeping your knees and toes pressed on the floor, press up onto your hands with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
Step #2: Engage your glutes and core while keeping your neck in neutral position and gaze straight ahead.
Step #3: Maintain a slight tuck of your pelvis and remember to breathe. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Perfect for beginners and advanced plankers alike.
Step #1: Lie on the floor with your forearms directly under your shoulders.
Step #2: Press into your forearms and knees as you engage your core and slowly lift your torso off the floor.
Step #3: Maintaining a neutral neck and spine, tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor. Hold this for 20–30 seconds.
Ready to level up your plank? Try testing your balance and core strength with a side plank!
Step #1: Lie on your side with your legs straight.
Step #2: With your elbow directly under your shoulder, press up onto your forearm as you lift your hips off the ground.
Step #3: Engaging your core, check in on your alignment. Ensure your body forms a straight line. Option to lift your free arm in the air or maintain it at your side. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
5 Common Planking Mistakes to Avoid
Planks are a super simple exercise but getting the correct form is easier said than done. Here are some of the most common planking mistakes and simple ways to correct them!
#1 Improper Head and Neck Alignment
One of the most common planking mistakes? Poor head and neck alignment. When your muscles are starting to shake and burn, it’s all too common to drop your head down toward the floor. But remember, your head is heavy! This can put a lot of strain on your spine and neck. Similarly, it’s common to hyperextend your neck and strain it by gazing up toward the ceiling. Ideally, your head should be in a neutral position, and your neck should form a straight line with the rest of your body. Focus your gaze straight ahead, and remember to breathe!
#2 Arching Your Back
Maintaining proper alignment in your hips and pelvis isn’t always easy, but it’s crucial when it comes to planks! When your pelvis is too far forward, it’s a simple recipe for low back pain! Rather than arching your back or elevating your hips, try to engage your core, tuck your pelvis, and keep your butt down.
#3 Sinking Your Hips Down
When you start to fatigue, it’s easy to let gravity take over and let your pelvis drop toward the floor. But, again, your low back pays the price! Instead, try to engage your core muscles and keep your hips slightly tucked under. Walking your feet further apart can create more stability, too. And don’t be afraid to modify!
#4 Forgetting to Engage Glutes (and Abs)
Squeezing your glutes during a plank will help you engage your core, maintain proper alignment, and protect your back. And yes, forgetting to engage your abs is equally as common! If you want to optimize your move, don’t forget these tips!
#5 Holding Your Breath
If you want to build your planking strength and stamina, don’t forget to breathe! Planks are difficult as it is — if you’re holding your breath, you’re only making it tougher on yourself. On a count of three, breathe in through your nose. Then, exhale out your mouth for a count of four. You’ll notice improvements in your mindset, stamina, and form!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that planks are awesome. They are an equipment-free exercise we can all do right in the comfort of our own homes without having to hit the gym, and they work the whole body. And remember that while holding a three-minute plank may seem like a massive accomplishment, if a 20-second plank leaves you quivering, chances are you are hitting all the muscle groups you need to start building some serious definition and are doing so with the form it takes to see results.
So, whether you can hold a plank for seconds or minutes, don’t sweat it. Everyone is different, and it’s 100% ok to work toward your personal best plank time at your own speed.
Ready to take your plank workout to the next level? Try the Plank Challenge with Vytas to tone your upper half and leave your abs on fire.