How Long Should I Hold The Plank Exercise For?

What Scientists, Researchers, And Fitness Coaches Think About How Long To Hold A Plank: Including Official And Unofficial Standards, Average Plank Exercise Test Results, And The Latest World Records (Plus, Two Free Programs to Help You Increase Your Plank Time)

how long to hold a plank (plank time) - female

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how long to hold the plank exercise. And I always say the same thing, “it depends.” You know, on your goals, conditioning level, which plank you’re doing, etc. It just depends. That said, there are some general standards you can use to gauge your performance.

For example, Dr. Stuart McGill (PhD), who is a world-renowned spine biomechanics specialist and is considered a leading authority on core development, says that two minutes is a good goal to shoot for in the standard abdominal plank on your elbows (1). Holding the plank exercise for that long indicates that you have a reasonably strong core – and most others tend to agree with that assertion, myself included.

Also, a recent study on 168 college students found that your average college-aged female has a plank time of about 1 minute, 30 seconds, while an average college-aged male has a plank time of about 1 minute, 46 seconds (2). That said, you should know that most of these students were considered athletic to begin with, and they all volunteered for the study. Also interesting to note is that the longest plank time held by a female in that study was about 4 minutes. And the longest plank time held by a male was about 7.5 minutes. However, the researchers concluded that any time held for over 2 minutes (roughly) is considered excellent.

And I think for most people, that’s an acceptable goal. In fact, after you’ve hit two minutes, I think it’d be a great idea to move on to more difficult plank exercises like these: 30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs.

In the same breath, there’s no reason you have to settle for the 2 minute goal. Why not raise the bar and try for 3 minutes or even 5 minutes? That’ll put you in the upper echelon of performance and will give you a mega confidence boost – not to mention even better physical results. In fact, I’ve known some ladies who in their late 50’s and early 60’s have held a plank for 45 minutes – yes, FORTY-FIVE. They’re the Siffer-ladies I talked about in this post here, Janice and Deedee, and they’re not training for world records. I also oversaw a 5 minute plank challenge at the Burn The Fat: Inner Circle (in addition to the one I hosted here on PhysicalLiving.com), and nearly 20 people achieved the 5 minute plank in short order.

So, don’t set your goal too low either. Speaking of which…

Important Point: 2 minutes may be considered excellent by some standards, but let’s keep in mind who is making those standards and how they’re doing it. Because as much as I hate to say it, as Americans, we aren’t exactly the fittest people on Earth, if you know what I mean – even if you are an “athletic” college-aged student and some researchers in lab coats claim that you’re among the elite. Suffice to say that the standards have been lowered in recent times and what may be considered “excellent” nowadays was probably average or even below average in days past. Don’t forget that whenever setting your own fitness goals.

So, I wanted to tell you that before I revealed my own plank standards. They certainly aren’t official, but I kinda like them.

John Sifferman’s Totally Unofficial Plank Time Standards

  • Newbie: 30+ seconds
  • Beginner: 1+ minute
  • Intermediate: 3+ minutes
  • Advanced: 5+ minutes
  • Expert: 10+ minutes
  • Master: 20+ minutes
  • Wicked Sick: 30+ minutes
  • Superhuman: 40+ minutes
  • Olympian: 50+ minutes
  • Plank Immortal: 1 hour or longer

Oh, and by the way, I thought you might want to know that as of November 2014…

The Men’s World Record for “The longest time in an abdominal plank position is 4 hours 26 minutes and was achieved by Mao Weidong (China) in Beijing, China on 26 September 2014.” (source here)

And the Women’s World Record for “The longest time spent in the abdominal plank position (female) is 1 hr 20 min 02 sec and was achieved by Gabi Ury (USA) in Boulder, Colorado, USA, on 19 April 2014.” (source here)

Note: Gabi happened to be just 16 years old when she doubled the Guinness World Record for the longest plank, and she also has some physical handicaps that made her feat even more impressive. You can learn more about her incredible story here: 16 Year Old Girl Totally Shatters The Plank World Record.


How long can you hold a plank for?

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The Bottom Line

So, even though the experts say that 2 minutes is satisfactory – even excellent – let’s get one thing straight. Because if we’ve got teenagers holding planks for over an hour, Marine veterans lasting multiple hours at a time, and your average fit ladies in their late 50’s and 60’s holding planks for 45 minutes at a time, then just between you and me, I think you could easily reach 5 or even 10 minutes in the plank exercise and achieve advanced or expert status in a relatively short period of time. I’m just sayin’.

Now, in all seriousness, if you’re performing the plank exercise – and it’s many variations – properly, then most of the fitness benefits you’ll receive will occur in the first few minutes of training. After that, it’s really just gravy. Of course, you will absolutely improve your core strength, stability, and endurance, among other things if you continue past this point. But just between you and me, most people don’t really need to. Plus, many times, an even better strategy is to increase the difficulty of the plank exercise (e.g. like holding the elbow plank on one arm instead of two) rather than just holding an easier variation for longer.

That said, I do recommend testing your maximum plank duration using the traditional front elbow plank since this is the standard plank variation used in most testing situations. But you can certainly test with any of the other variations, like the ones in this program here: 30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs, and this workout here: The 5 Minute Plank for Core Strength, Stability, and Rock-Hard Abs.

John’s Recommendation: Personally, I’ve been recommending to my clients for awhile now that they set a goal of holding a front elbow plank for five minutes. In my mind, that’s an ambitious, yet doable goal for most people to work towards that will not only give you tremendous core strength results, but will also feel like a giant accomplishment once you finally do it. Most people never get beyond the 1-3 minute range. So, five minutes will be pretty special.

Closing Thoughts

So, the question is, will you settle for a beginner or intermediate level performance, or go for the coveted advanced and expert status? Or, will you abandon any semblance of sanity and work towards the elite levels – the mastery, superhuman, or even the Earth-shaking Plank Immortal level?

Well, I don’t know about Earth-shaking, but YOU will most certainly be shaking like a jackhammer by the time you get there. But whatever your ultimate goal – whatever your “end-game” performance is – whether it’s just one minute or one whole hour, just between you and me, I think you can do it.

So, go get it.

Now, if you care, and I doubt that you do, my longest plank performance to date is this one, in which I held the top of the pushup position for five minutes. It’s nothing to write home about, but I’ll take it. Maybe someday, I’ll raise the bar a little higher. It has been over four years since I did that, after all.

Want To Increase Your Plank Time?

Check out my free program on how to work up to a 5 minute plank and beyond: 30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs: A Complete Abs Workout Program to Help You Get Ripped and Dramatically Improve Your Core Strength Using a Unique Twist on the Plank Exercise (for all skill levels).

Click This Image for 5 Different Plank Workouts (for all skill levels)
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Related Posts

The Right Way to do the Plank Exercise

30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs

The 5 Minute Plank For Core Strength, Stability, and Rock-Hard Abs

How to do the Side Plank Exercise for the Best Results

Another Plank World Record That We Can All Learn From

Training Tips From The 3+ Hour Plank World Record Holder

The Ballistic Plank Exercise for Rock-Hard Abs

The Elbow Plank VS Pushup Position Plank

How Long to Hold a Plank

References:

1) http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/3-simple-fitness-tests

2) http://digitalcommons.linfield.edu/symposium/2014/all/8/

Photo credit: 1.

55 Responses

  1. Great article !
    I’m starting to train and did 2 x one minute but my best was 5 years ago with almost 2 minutes after my training session (weights). So it seems that was nothing.
    I’ll try to reach 5 minutes within a month but after seeing your video I’m not sure I will in that short time =)

    • Thanks, Mik! Work hard and you might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish in a month.

  2. I’ve been ‘resting’ on my laurels by being content with a 1 min. plank. Thanks to this article, I’ll set my goal higher.

  3. Hi John,

    I really enjoyed your article. I started planking 3 days ago. Absolutely love it. I challenged a friend to a 30 day planking challenge. I went on line and found modified planking and other great tips. The first day I did one modified plank, 2nd I did 2 modified planks and 2 modified side planks..

    Today I did 4 regular planks!!!! I am so excited!! I am working on form and will work on doing 1 minute and build up. I held my poses for about 30 seconds but they were good ones!

    Thank you for the article and I will definitely keep you posted!

    This newbie is working towards being a Beginner!

  4. Laura Gan

    Great article. Humorous delivery and appealing to the masses. I really like the “unofficial” stats you provided. Thank you for sharing! I am newly hired to create the Corporate Wellness program on Facebook’s Campus for the AlliedBarton Security Staff and will definitely have to remember to add some humor into our workouts and assessments to keep them motivated.

  5. Hi John, thanks for taking the time to write this article. I have been holding my plank for two minutes at a maximum, but will be looking to increase it by small intervals per day as I do the exercise.

    Cheers,

    Justin

  6. Hi John,great article.My goal is at least two minutes,since I start last month from 20 seconds to 1.42 today.Still only basic plank,in future other variations.Best article about plank so far.Keep up!

  7. I am just starting planking, say I start with 20 sec or 30 sec plank. Is there a series of sets that I do? or do I just do it once a day.What would be a good start. I have lost about 25 lbs with eating better and working out. But the core needs work.

  8. Michelle

    I held my all time best plank yesterday at 5 minutes and 9 seconds. I am a 45 year old female. I am supper pleased but pushing to beat that soon!

  9. Hello, I did not know anything about the plank before reading your article, but last time at the gym I saw a guy doing it, so I tried it at home and held it for 2 minutes, I could have gone longer, I’ll try my best later.

    Thanks for the info

  10. Just tied my first plank in the ‘push up’ position…got bored after 5 mins looking at the carpet, One min, two mins that’s for old people!
    BTW I will be 72 soon.

  11. Catherine Borrdales

    Hi John thanks for the great information=) by the way what do you think is the best time to have this plank? before or after morning meal? before or after lunch?or before bedtime?

    • Hi Catherine,

      The best time is when you’ll do it regularly and consistently :)

      I’d also suggest NOT doing it right after a meal or right before bedtime (since it could hurt your stomach and make it harder to fall asleep). But other than that, I’d recommend doing it whenever it’s most convenient for you.

  12. Great article. Just hit 5 minutes today, but I was shaking near the end. There is a plank completion in my home town next month during health week. If I could get to 7 minutes by then, I may enter it. Entry fee is a contribution for Special Olympics in town.

  13. How long you can plank isn’t really an indication of anything unless your time is below 30 seconds. Anything else is completely relative. For example, someone who weighs less or has a short but slim stature should absolutely be able to plank for longer considering they have less weight to hold up and less area to hold straight. Similar to how a guy with shorter arms can usually do more pull-ups than a guy with longer arms.

  14. John…Great article…I was looking for something like this….I am 64 year old male working out regularly,,,I usually do at least 100 reps of various ab exercises…plan to throw in the plank more…topped 2 minutes the other day…want to keep going….I find the forearms sometimes feel numb from supporting the weight for extended periods….because the nerves or blood vessels are compressed? Any comments of yours are appreciated as I continue to learn and endure! Thank you

  15. Hi there,

    I have been working on my overall fitness more seriously than ever before for about six months , with some success (I can plank for 2-3 minutes if you want to measure it by that standard lol and weigh between 59-62 kilos depending on the scale and day) . However , I just started a new job and am in my last year of my undergrad . The past few weeks I have had no time during the week to exercise because my days are 7:30 am to 8pm and I am just exhausted afterwards . I try to make up for this by swimming and doing hiit workouts on the weekends , mixed with yoga or Pilates , but I fear that it won’t be enough , or that I will start to slip . Someone told me I should do daily planks to make up for the lack of exercise Monday to Friday . What do you think ? Would this help or is it not sufficient ? Thanks for your response ,
    Jessica

  16. Hi,

    I just started doing planks for a week or so. I don’t do any other exercises. Just wondering whether planking is enough to stay healthy and fit. I don’t want a six pack. Just want to make sure that my core is strong and my tummy doesn’t bulge out. :)

  17. Planks a lot man

  18. Mark Gagnon

    I am 48 1/2 years old, quit smoking after almost 30 years 20 months ago, i have lost 40 lbs and i am in the best shape of my life. I am so excited because i finally accomplished a true 5 minute elbow plank for the 1st time today.

    Anyone can do it, it takes resolve, commitment, and a will to succeed.

  19. Just got to 4 mins, my goal of five minutes is in sight. Oh by the way I’m 50 and a woman. Jus’ sayin’

  20. I’ve been participating in a team fitness challenge at work and my category is the plank. I’m a 48-year-old female and I go head-to-head against a 20-something very fit male. I always come in second. Each week, my goal is to beat his previous time. My best time so far is 8:41. Tomorrow, my goal is over 9:00. When I plank on my own, I usually plank 3-5 minutes. The competition drives me to go longer. It’s a great sense of accomplishment (after 8+ minutes of misery).

  21. Well I could ditto your entire post exepct the planks and joining the group and loosing the four lbs…oh well, most of it anyway…..You have really encouraged me today to get with it….maybe by the spring we will all feel and look better because of changed habits……

  22. I don’t know if you’re still responding to this article or not since it’s been a while, but I thought I’d take a chance. I have a lot of lower back pain (within 10 minutes of walking or even just standing, I hurt a lot) and planks were recommended to increase my core strength. Right now I can hold a plank for about 20 seconds, although I’m wishing for death by about 10 seconds. If I can get to that 2 minute mark, will my core strength be high enough that I won’t get the lower back pain?

    • Sheri – no one here can answer that question, unfortunately. Planks aren’t the magic solution to your pain, but putting in the effort to strengthen your core is definitely a step in the right direction. I had back surgery over two years ago, recently increased my plank time to 10:30 (a one time deal, believe me), but I still have back pain (stiffness, really). So, what I’m saying is, we don’t know all the facts of your circumstances (weight, current level of fitness, XRAYS, I could go on and on), so no one can tell you that your pain will go away once you reach 2 minutes. It might, but it might not. I understand your frustration because I want someone to just tell me what to do to make it go away and I’ll do it, but it’s just not that simple. Make fitness a lifetime activity instead of looking for a quick fix.

  23. I am shocked to see the survey result that there are 2% respondents who can do one hour plus plank, while those who can do 10+ minutes are also 2%! Anyway, I am 55 and trying to reach my goal of 10 minutes this year, currently best time is 7 minutes 30 seconds after 4 months practice.

  24. Jimmy, getting to 10 minutes was, for me, more mental than physical. You can do it.

    • Amy, thanks for your encouragement, and it is so true about the mentality of this wonderful and miserable exercise. I thought it would take me the rest of the year to reach my 10 minutes goal, but managed to convince myself that I could go for another 30 seconds each time I reached my previous record time. 11 days after my previous post, I got my first ever 10 minutes plank. What a wonderful feeling and sense of accomplishment!

      • That’s awesome! I knew you could get to 10 fairly quick if you had already done 7. For me, it was just a matter of deciding what my goal was ahead of time and I met it every time except once. I have no desire to do 10+ again, but I still want to keep planking. I have a program that gives me a random number between 1 and 5. Whatever it picks is what I do that day. Keeps it interesting!

  25. Mikey Chase

    I started 3 weeks ago on 2 minute planks, I’m now doing 5 x 6 minute planks through out the day, my abdominal muscles are looking the best I have ever had them. I can’t seem to shift the last inch of fat across the bottom of my stomach and iv been in ketosis and stripped down from 13 stone to 9, any suggestions?

  26. I loved this article until i Pressed newbie in the Survey. It was kind of an insult Because you don’t know my weight or Height or age or Build. Other than that, i loved it.

  27. IzzyWhoNeedsToBeBizzy

    Doesn’t play a factor in expected times. if the average is 1 min 30 for college women IN decent shape, volunteers.. how about a woman of 47, I haven’t worked out forever, and did this same time.. I want to start doing it more to strengthen all those areas.

  28. Alessio Ventura

    A better use of time, to build a stronger core, is to plank in tne normal position for 30secs, then go immediately to 15 situps, rest for 1 minute, plank for 1 minute, go immediately to 20 situps, then rest for 1 minute, then plank for 1.5mins, go right to 25 situps.

    Do 5 sets of the above 3 times per week.

    Then 2x per week, go for maximum plank time.

    Keep doing the above and over time increase the plank times and the number of situps.

    Doing this along with wieght training and cardio will turn you into a BEAST.

  29. Lynetta Wiles

    I am at 4 minutes with 3 months into it and I have a spinal fusion! So I definitely need core strength and my back is already straight do to the rods placed on my spine. However, I love the plank! Seems to be working for me!

  30. Richard Ewe

    Hi John….wrote to you before…hope to hear from you this time out!
    I am a 65 year old combat vet not without some damage lol….Just finished my best of 8 minutes and 16 seconds last week. Question….it may be something else…lower ab is more sore than usual…is this possible from pressure on this area/ I have done extra core work leading up to this for more than a year and a half….took up the plank more seriously in the last few months as part of ab training…….do have sciatica issues though….usually stretch for 15 minutes to a half hour…trainers tell me my form is perfect. We have a world class Gym.
    Also, every second counts and is earned going for various goals and levels….why the big jump from 5 to 10 minutes? No recognition for levels 6,7,8, and 9 which are more challenging going from say 3 to 5 minutes. Thank you and hope to hear from you! Nice blog,feed back and information by the way.

    • Hi John…Nice to see my replies published after a spell lol…thanks…would like to have my questions addressed though…I see you do read and reply?…particularly my last response…the reason for the lower ab soreness I wrote about was another condition but possibly aggravated by the plank at that particular time…this is a great exercise for sure. Keep up the good work!

      • Hi Richard,

        Thank you for the kind words, and my apologies for the delay. I do read all of the comments that come in to my site, email, and on my social media pages (etc.), but I simply don’t have time to reply to all of them individually these days.

        I’m glad you’ve identified the cause of the pain since I’m really not able to offer much help for questions like that. I’m not a doctor and can’t evaluate you through a computer anyway. I hope you’ve got it all figured out now.

        The reason why I didn’t include separate categories for the 6, 7, 8, and 9 levels is because I ran out of ideas for cool names – haha! And I wanted to keep it to just 10 levels for simplicity sake.

        I suppose it could be ranked as follows:

        Advanced 5
        Advanced 6
        Advanced 7
        Advanced 8
        Advanced 9

        But they’re informal standards. So, do what you like with them.

        Let me know if you have any further questions – happy to help!

        John

        P.S. Thank you for your service! And congrats on surpassing eight minutes on your plank – very impressive!

  31. I’m 15, and a girl who plays rugby, and I can hold the elbow plank position for at least 1 min 5 seconds. Working on beating that and building up to over 20 pushups! (:

  32. Hi John, thanks for your reply! You do have a great site and one of the few I look at since there are so many. I am sure you are growing rapidly with your informative unique content and it must be difficult to answer everyone….you may need additional assistance!….Doing so though for many creates a sense of team and sharing with others something that you cannot put a value on and separates yourself from others by doing so.

    I have been gladly sharing with other Marines and friends of mine including the staff at the New York Giant Gym facility where I go which is also affiliated with one of the top 50 hospitals in the U.S.A. including a first class rehab wing. The plank I have been using to strengthen a sciatica condition! You never know who you are reaching! :) Keep spreading your word!

  33. Hi John:
    I rolled 60 a couple of months ago. I’ve considered myself to basically be an overweight old guy who really oughta get in the pool or at least take a walk around the block a couple of times a week. Really done next to nothing for 5+ years beyond mowing the lawn only if it’s absolutely necessary.
    Anyway, whenever the topic of planking has come up in the past, I’ve always thought to myself “really? So what’s the big deal?” Yesterday I said it out loud for the first time.
    A pretty fit friend 15 years my junior and my wife responded that I probably couldn’t do it for 30 seconds. I responded that I really thought I could do 2 minutes no sweat. You can probably guess that in spite of my wife’s strong recommendations that I not make a fool of myself, I hit the deck.
    My apologies for bragging, but I knocked out 3 minutes without breaking a sweat, shook a bit, but I really think I could have done 4 minutes, and maybe 5 if there had been some money on it.
    As a youth i started doing pushups. Not a ton, but I would try to get in 40 inclined (feet on a chair) every day, and I always made sure each one was controlled, chest to the floor, no jerky bobs. My friend’s wife who coaches my darn good swimming daughters and who witnessed the whole thing said that core strength stays with you much longer than other muscles, and I guess I showed that to be true.
    Thanks for letting a fat old white guy brag a bit (I don’t get much attention anymore anywhere else), and tell your teenagers to make a commitment to daily pushups.

    • We are capable of so much more than we can imagine, Evan. And competition often brings that truth to the surface. Thanks for sharing your story – I had a good laugh. And please keep at it with the planks.

  34. I plank a few differant positions every night a total of 16 minutes my freinds always telling me im superman with square pecs and great defined abbs, anyways after planking my elbows and shoulders crack like crazy is this normal?

  35. Jagan Janapala

    Hi, how is it doing 10 single mins in a day, more within an hour, I am trying to know the benefits for our physique, I max went to 3 min, but never more than that,
    thanks
    Jagan Janapala

  36. I am 79 year old male and have just started doing the Plank and have found my CORE feels very strong now after building up to 5 mlns.

  37. I am 68 and can hold an elbow plank for over 6 minutes. listening to music and not watching the stopwatch helps, but I get tremendously bored.

    I added a 10 lb. barbell weight to my back just above my waist and was able to make 6 minutes, but not consistantly. Question: am i getting any benefit using the weight?

    • Hi Tom, Thanks for your comment. Assuming that you’re maintaining proper technique and not letting your back sag (i.e. maintaining a neutral spine with tailbone tucked), then yes, a little extra weight will increase the challenge and the resulting conditioning benefits.

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