Want a solid, strong core? Of course you do! Then think about adding a planking routine to your workouts. I noticed a significant difference in my core strength when I added a plank to every workout - currently up to 4 minutes extended arm. My next goal is to incorporate a weighted vest for part or all of the time. I wanted to find out why this simple exercise is so effective so I went to fitness professional (and one of my all time fave Elite Instructors at Lifetime Athletic), Missy Vacala. 

Which muscles does a plank work?

When planking first became popular (1994), there was a rush of new exercises in the fitness industry that didn't require fitness equipment. Even though push-ups have been around for decades, the plank (named after the mimicking of a wooden plank) is fairly new. There are many benefits to practicing a plank position every day. Here are five that I feel are the most important: Strengthens the core safely, improves posture, helps reduce back pain, increases agility/balanced coordination and, my personal favorite, planking helps keep us light on our feet! By strengthening the core we become more efficient at moving in and outside of the gym. The incidence of becoming injured from losing our balance or falling greatly decreases.

Can planking give you a six pack?

This is a very popular question! Everyone wants a six-pack! However, similarly to doing crunches, planking alone will not give you the look of toned abdominals. But when performed in combination with a healthy diet, cardiovascular workouts and a full-body strength training regimen, planks can help you develop definition in your core area.

Which type of plank is harder - straight arm or elbows?

When performing a plank, a great way to start is on your forearms and knees. There are many ways to progress as you get stronger and your stamina increases. Side planking is one way; where you turn to the side with one leg stacked on the other and one hand supporting. Another would be lifting one foot off the ground in a traditional plank position.

How long does it take to see results when a regular planking routine is started? Is it ideal to do this exercise every day? 

By increasing the amount of time you are in the plank position you will become stronger and increase your endurance. A great way to start is on your forearms and knees for :15. If you need a break, don't sweat it! Relax for a couple of seconds and then proceed. Try every day! Planking is an exercise you will be fine training daily. After a few days increase by :15-:30. After a week or so, try progressing to your forearms and feet. Eventually you can work your way up to planking on your hands and feet for one minute. Make that your goal!

How important is form when holding a plank? And will good form help me get results quicker?

Keeping your plank form in check is pinnacle to achieving your desired results. First and foremost you want to brace your abs and tighten your glutes. Whether you are on your forearms or hands, your toes and elbows should be pointing toward each other (inward to the center of your body). Work on creating energy and strength across your chest and back while maintaining a lengthened spine. You can achieve your desired plank goals quicker by adhering to proper plank form!

Can you hold a plank for TOO long?

Honestly, I don't feel you can hold a plank too long but there are some risks to holding over five minutes especially if you are not yet conditioned. It is true that the joints are challenged in a way that may not be the best fit for a fitness amateur. But I feel that working the plank in combination with a well-rounded fitness plan, three minutes is a perfectly healthy goal to work towards.



Missy has been in the fitness industry for over twenty-five years and is a certified Health Coach, Wellness Expert, Elite Instructor and Trainer at Lifetime Athletic and Choreographer and Instructor for WERQdancefitness. Follow her on Instagram @missyvacala


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