How Long should I hold my planks for?

On the recent survivor episode, immunity challenge was won by holding a plank for 20min. A Canadian woman recently held a plank for over four hours, setting a world record. But what is the the ideal amount of time to train plank? HINT: its shorter than you might think.

What is so good about Planks?

The active plank’s purpose goes far beyond the exercise itself. At TRX we say

“We look at the plank as part of our functional, everyday movement, It’s all about ‘alignment with intention,’ which enables more fluidity when performing other exercises.”

Every exercise requires at least a degree of core contraction. The feedback from an active plank can be applied it to any and every movement.

Squats and deadlifts, for example, are total-body movements that require a heavy bracing of the abdominals and glutes. To be performed safely and most effectively, both require a certain degree of tension throughout the movement.

A pull-up—while it requires a lesser degree of abdominal bracing and glute activation than a heavy squat—still requires it. Having the active plank in your fitness repertoire will help guide proper back and shoulder positioning, allowing you to generate more power while pulling yourself upwards.

How to do it?

Your aim: As modern day kettlebell revolutionary Pavel Tsatsouline put it,

“To create high tension from your toes to your nose,”

Perform two to three active sets of 7- to 10-second planks with a 2- to 3-second ‘reset’ in between sets, suggests Stuart McGill, Ph.D., professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo who is a renowned expert on the topic.

This shorter time duration allows you to focus solely on the intensity of your total-body contraction, as well as the alignment of your hips and shoulders.

Why TRX Planks?

 In a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a suspension trainer was used as a possible method of increasing the effectiveness of the plank.

In the study, the researchers used several plank variations to test the effect on four muscles: the serratus anterior, the rectus femoris, the external obliques, and the rectus abdominis.

Results indicate that suspension training as performed in this study seems to be an effective means of increasing muscle activation during the plank exercise.

Contrary to expectations, the additional instability created by suspending both the arms and feet did not result in any additional abdominal muscle activation. These findings have implications in prescription and progression of core muscle training programs.