Plank Exercise – How To, Target Muscles, and Benefits

Plank is arguably the most popular abdominal exercise after crunches. But unlike crunches, plank doesn’t just work your abdominals. It works your entire core.

What Is a Plank?

Plank is a simple and effective bodyweight exercise you can do to develop the core strength.

The exercise involves an isometric hold position where you hold your body in position for a duration of time.

While there is no dynamic movement to this exercise, it’s a true test of your fitness and core strength.

How Long to Hold a Plank? 

How long to hold the plank position depends on your fitness level and core strength.

Generally speaking, a good benchmark is 30-60 seconds.

If you are not sure where to start, start with an aim to hold for 30 seconds.

But this is not the case of longer the better. What’s most important is to hold for whatever the length in time you can with good form.

There is no point in risking your back and injuring yourself only to hold the plank for longer. It’s best to focus on progress rather than aim high from the start.

That said, the world plank record is over 4 hours.

For me, 60 seconds is really at the top end of my hold time.

If you are starting new, perform several sets at 30-second hold until you build more core strength.

The longer you can hold a plank, the stronger your core muscles are.

Benefits

The plank is a great exercise for strengthening your core muscles. While the core is one word, it includes an array of muscles around the trunk.

These muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor.

The plank exercise is one in a few exercises that allows you to train your core as a whole.

This is important since your core muscles don’t move independently.

Your core works together to provide stability for your body movements. While a weak core impairs body movements, a strong core enhances balance, stability, and functions.

Another benefit of the plank exercise is that it’s safer on the back.

Not only plank helps you reduce back pain, it strengthens the core without hurting the back.

Because plank isn’t a motion exercise, it allows you to develop your core muscles without adding pressure on the lower back.

This is a huge plus for those with a weak back. It prevents unnecessary back pain and injuries.

Forearm Plank Position

Forearm Plank

As you can see from the video, the exercise is simple.

You simply:

1. Get down on all fours with your palms flat and hands under your shoulders. Keep them a little wider than shoulder-width apart. It’s like doing a push-up.

2. Brace your core and squeeze those glutes to keep your body up and prevent the hips from dipping and sticking up. Keep your belly button pulled in.

3. Bend your elbows to lower your body down until you can shift your weight from your hands to your forearms. Your body should form a straight line. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Rest and repeat.

plank exercise

By holding your body in a straight line with no movement, you’ll develop strength in your core— as well as other muscle groups.

That’s how you do a plank.

Now let’s take things up a notch and learn the standard plank.

Standard Plank

Standard plank

1. Get down on all fours as you would do a pushup. Keep your palms flat and hands under your shoulders. Wider the shoulder-width apart. 

2. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankle. Contract your abs to prevent your butt from sticking or dipping.  With your abs pulling in toward your spine, hold for 30-60 seconds.

The longer you can hold the plank, the harder it becomes. 

The Final Word

You just learned what the plank exercise and how it can help strengthen your core muscles.

It’s a simple yet very effective body weight core strengthening exercise you can do anywhere.

And as a bonus, it is a great ab exercise to add to your flat tummy workout.

Furthermore, doing planks regularly will greatly benefit your body. Your posture will improve over time.

Misato Alexandre

Co-Founder

After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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