Start planking every day and your body won’t be the same. No matter what your personal journey with exercise is, just about everyone has tried some kind of workout routine at some point in their life. Maybe it was only in high school gym class, but it still counts. And because of that, you probably know that there are certain exercises you like more than others. Whether you love squats or jumping jacks or sit-ups or push-ups, there’s one move you should be doing during every workout to see the best results: planking.
Obviously, it’s important to work all your muscle groups, but the abdominal muscles are especially crucial for overall health. Specifically, according to Mayo Clinic, your abdominal muscles are basically central to your body, and help reduce the risk of injuries and so much more. But how do you strengthen your core? Well, start planking every day, an exercise guaranteed to give you the best abs of your life. Seriously, the plank is one of the most effective moves you can add to your daily fitness routine for a number of reasons.
Anyone can plank a little bit every day
While the plank might seem like a physically-straining exercise, it’s actually easy to accomplish. In fact, anyone can plank, and everyone should. The plank has so many modifications you can do, whether you need less stress on your shoulders, toes, or anything else. Additionally, by shortening the amount of time you hold a plank, you’re minimizing the amount of stress on your body, which is another great way to modify the move. In fact, here are the plank variations you should know for the ultimate core workout.
Eric L’Italien, a physical therapist with the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, told Harvard University that planking doesn’t tend to cause injury, and is superior to a sit-up, which "only targets a portion of the core musculature, and the bending forward motion can strain the neck and lower back," he explained. That’s why why doing crunches makes your neck hurt.
So, there’s really no excuse to not try planking on a daily basis. Even if you need to go on your knees or on your elbows, you can get a plank in, and your body will thank you.
First, here’s how to properly do a plank
Now, if you’re ready to really start planking, then you need to know how to hold a proper plank; there are a few different kinds you can try. But, just like any exercise, the plank form is something that could easily be butchered, and leave you not getting the intended benefits.
So, want to know how to plank well? First, learn the difference between all the variations of the exercise (via Healthline). A standard plank involves holding your body up in what is basically the start of a pushup, on your hands and toes. This will work your arms and shoulders more than a low plank. For the low plank, simply lower down onto your forearms and elbows and remain on your toes. This really works your abs, as well as the rest of your body. Finally, you can also try some side planks to isolate your obliques and other muscle groups. Simply start in a low plank position, and rotate to one side until you’re only resting on one forearm and foot. Drop a knee in a side plank if you need more support, as you’ll still feel the burn.
Obviously, your abs will be fire if you plank every day
If you’ve ever done a plank before, then you know just how much it can burn. Specifically, it can feel like planking sets your abs on fire, and there’s a reason for that. Sure, there are plenty of ab exercises that can help make your muscles stronger, but for a full core workout, the plank is the way to go. Seriously, if you want a six-pack, you better be doing planks.
That isn’t to say that planking alone will carve your abdominal muscles into washboard perfection, but it certainly helps. Additionally, when you compare a plank to a regular sit-up, the plank will always come out on top. In fact, according to Shape, a 10-minute plank workout will give you more benefits than a full hour of crunches. The reason? Planks work the entirety of your core muscles, ensuring that your strength truly builds over time. Talk about more bang for your buck!
If you start planking every day, your waist will literally shrink
One of the best ways to change your body and make other parts of your physique look better is to make your waist look smaller. Um, hello, corsets anyone? It’s no secret that having a smaller waist is seen as desirable, and it always has been. But did you know that, according to Harper’s Bazaar, planking could be the best way to shrink your waist?
Sure, you could wear an uncomfortable waist-trainer touted by Kardashians and Instagram influencers alike that might not even work , or, you could add planking to your workout routine. A 2016 study in the International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research literally concluded that doing planks on top of other exercises and core work saw participants waist and "abdominal skinfold measurement" shrink. So not only did the circumference around their waists decrease, but there was also a reduction in the amount of skin, meaning there was some fat loss.
Having a tiny waist isn’t the end-all, be-all, but if you plank every day, your waist will start to get smaller, and it will give you that hourglass figure.
Start planking every day to strengthen all of these muscles
Planks obviously target your abs, but they do so much more than that, too. Believe it or not, but planks are really a full-body exercise, and can help make your entire body stronger. "Planks strengthen your spine, rhomboids, lats, trapezius, core, quads, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and triceps when done properly," celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels told Insider.
Additionally, if you want to strengthen your entire body and be able to excel in other areas of exercise, holding a plank is the way to do it. Fitness coach Tony Gentilcore told Self that, "To lift heavy [weights], you need tension, and the plank is a wonderful way of introducing that to people." Basically, planking builds strength in just about every muscle, so if you plank every day, you’ll find yourself able to lift heavier weights than before, and that’s pretty impressive.
Of course, in order to reap the benefits of a plank, you have to be holding the position properly. Don’t hurt yourself!
You can ease your back pain if you plank every day
As strange as it might sound, planking every day can actually help to ease your back pain, especially if you suffer from lower back pain. It might seem counter-intuitive to do an exercise to mitigate these aches, but planking isn’t your typical exercise. It doesn’t involve anything other than body weight and tension, and because of that, it’s actually beneficial for your back muscles.
According to ACE Fitness, since you hold as still as possible while planking, and since the plank works "layers of the abdominal fascia," not only does it strengthen your core, but that then reduces lower-back pain. Additionally, Dr. Jordan Metzl wrote for NBC News that "Planks are God’s gift to people with low back pain, which is the third most expensive medical condition in the United States."
Planks aren’t a miracle-worker, but if you have back issues or pain, starting to hold a plank every day could end up helping you more than you realize.
Planking burns a ton of calories
As is the case with any type of movement or exercise, planking is going to burn calories. However, even though a plank involves practically no movement once you’re in one, it’s a calorie shredder. Basically, you can work off some ice cream while holding still — in a plank, but still.
The reason why planking is so effective at burning calories is because it works your entire body. "Working multiple muscle groups at the same time burns more calories and is more time efficient," celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels told Insider.
But that’s not all. Andia Winslow, a master certified fitness professional, told LiveStrong that there’s an important key to the plank’s major calorie-burning powers. "Anytime prime movers (legs and glutes) are involved, there will be a greater caloric burn," she explained. "Which is why, in a plank, folks have to remember to engage their legs, squeezing the thighs and glutes along with holding the core and trunk firm." So, to make the most of your plank, squeeze those buns!
You also train your nervous system if you start planking every day
When you think of working out, or any type of exercise, you generally think of the impact it has on your physical body. After all, sweating, getting your heart rate up, and burning calories all have pretty obvious effects on different parts of your body, including overall heart health. But another thing that happens when you work out is that your brain gets some exercise as well. Not only does working out improve your mental health and release endorphins, but exercise, especially planks, help to train your nervous system.
Because planking is an isometric exercise, meaning you hold still in one position, it triggers your nervous system to do some heavy lifting. "In general with isometrics, you’re primarily training the nervous system to coordinate with your muscles in that specific position and fire the right muscles at the right time," exercise physiologist Dr. Mike T. Nelson told Self.
Holding a plank requires physical strength, yes, but it can also build up mental strength and get your nervous system in tip-top shape, which is a definite bonus.
Start planking every day and your posture will improve
Growing up, you might have had a grandmother or uncle tell you to "sit up straight" at the dinner table. As annoying as that was as a kid, they actually weren’t wrong, as posture is incredibly important when you sit or stand for long periods of time. As Charles Kim, a physiatrist and pain-management specialist, told Allure, "Short-term effects of poor posture can include acute pain and aches," he explained. "Long-term effects could lead to faster and premature degeneration (‘wear-and-tear’) of parts that could lead to chronic pain." Fortunately, planking can help improve your posture, as it turns out.
According to Healthline, planking can fix your posture by strengthening your core muscles, as well as your back, shoulder, neck, and even your chest. "Planks can absolutely help build better posture because they are conditioning some of the key muscle groups responsible for holding you upright," celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels told Insider. So, if you want to prevent pain from bad posture, get planking.
Planks are a functional exercise
In addition to planks being an isometric exercise, as well as a great way to build full-body strength, planks are also what’s known as a functional exercise. A functional exercise, according to Insider, is a type of movement (or non-movement as is the case with planking) that involves more than one muscle group and mimics the way your body already moves on a typical basis. Because the plank engages your core and back muscles, which are both used nearly constantly, it is a functional exercise, and totally practical.
The plank is especially practical in injury recovery, as are most functional exercises. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Physiotherapy concluded that "patients who undertake a physiotherapy-led functional exercise program between 12 and 18 weeks after [total hip replacement] may gain significant functional improvement compared with patients receiving usual care." Basically, people who partook in functional exercise routines, like planking, had a faster and more total recovery after surgery than those who did not.
Functional exercise might not seem all that important, but it can help in a lot of different areas, even if you haven’t had surgery or a serious injury.
Your mental health can improve if you plank every day
If you’ve ever dealt with stress or anxiety, you’ve probably been told that exercise can help with both of those issues. And while that might not be what you want to hear, it’s true. Exercise in general is a great way to improve your mental health. According to Harvard University, practically every kind of exercise is known to reduce stress, but that’s not all. "Regular physical activity will lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol, and reduce your blood sugar," the university reported.
As if that wasn’t cool enough, planking specifically can help boost your mental health and reduce stress. According to Life Hack, planks literally stretch out most of the muscle groups that cause the stress and tension you feel in your body. And by getting your heart rate up, planks also boost your mood. On top of that, planks require a great deal of mental fortitude to keep pushing through the pain and the shaking of your muscles, giving you even more of a mood improvement. They might not be easy, but if you’re looking for an exercise to help combat anxiety and depression, planking is for you.
If you want to be a better runner, start planking every day
Once you fall into a physical exercise routine, or even just a movement that you actually enjoy and are able to maintain, it can be thrilling. Maybe you love yoga, or HIIT workouts, or just going on long walks. Whatever it is, it can seriously improve your life when you find something that works for you. But if that thing is running, it comes with more than its fair share of complications. Luckily, planking every day might make you a stronger and faster runner.
As fitness coach Noam Tamir told Runner’s World, "Planks recruit your entire body to create tension of the core — when done right, they can be really good for keeping your back healthy and strengthening your core muscles."
Additionally, planks help improve your running speed. "The runner is trying to create athleticism in the leg muscles that cross their hip," fitness expert Dr. Stuart McGill added. "Creating stiffness in the trunk helps move your legs." Plank every day and you’ll definitely see an improvement in your running time, that’s for sure. Just make sure you’re not jogging incorrectly.
But there is such a thing as planking too long
One of the best ways to get better at planking is to hold your plank for longer each time you do it. When you just start, you may only be able to hold a plank for a few seconds, but if you slowly build on that time, you’ll be holding minute-long planks before you know it. However, exceeding that one minute mark isn’t really necessary, no matter how much stronger you want to get, according to fitness coach Noam Tamir. "Long planks do more damage than good," he revealed in an interview with Runner’s World. "Fitness should be about functional, real-life movements. Holding a plank for a long time isn’t functional."
Additionally, according to fitness expert Dr. Stuart McGill, there’s a sweet spot when it comes to your plank time. "Research shows that for most people, holding a plank for one minute at a time creates a resilient torso," he shared. McGill also added that if you have back pain, to only hold a plank for ten seconds at a time. Clearly, there is such a thing as planking for too long.
Planking will make you stronger overall
If you start planking every day, it’s likely because you want to be healthier in some capacity. Whether it be physically or mentally, planking is meant to make you stronger. And it literally does just that, even more than you might realize.
Planking is great for obvious reasons like the fact that it only requires bodyweight and can be done anywhere, but it’s also a full-body workout. "Planks focus primarily on your core, but also the stabilizing muscles in your upper body, like your shoulders," Judine Saint Gerard, a certified personal trainer told LiveStrong. "But, believe it or not, if you are performing the plank properly, your quads, pelvic floor and glutes will also be engaged."
But here’s the thing: even if your core is the most benefitted muscle group from the plank, that will still make you stronger overall. "With a stronger core, you can be more robust in other areas of your fitness routine," Heather Fletcher, an exercise physiologist explained. "This includes the increased ability to lift heavier weights and [have] better sports performance."
Planks will make you so much stronger, so why are you still reading this? Drop and hold!