Why Holding a Plank For 5+ Hours Probably Isn’t the Best Idea for Your Health & Fitness: The Tradeoffs and Consequences of Extreme Fitness and Performance
I’m going to do two things in this post.
1) First, I’m going to briefly share the news that the plank world record was just demolished yet again.
2) And secondly, I’m going to share the downsides of being able to hold a plank for over five hours (or the tradeoffs of specializing in almost any physical activity like weightlifting, running, yoga, kettlebell training, the plank, etc.).
Part 1 – Man Holds Plank For 5+ Hours
So, in case you haven’t heard: 57-year old, George Hood, just broke the world record AGAIN – his third time – by holding a plank for over 5 hours.
“Hood spent nine months training for his record attempt…including four to six hours of training per day and 30 hours of plank time each week.” (Source)
Some of that weekly plank training was also done with a weight vest, and all of this was on top of his other training. So, needless to say, George Hood is pretty good at the plank exercise. Some might even say he’s the best in the world (e.g. like the good folks at Guinness World Records, for instance).
Here’s a short clip that highlights George Hood’s record-breaking plank performance.
So, obviously, George Hood is amazing. And personally, I think it’s awesome that he’s been doing this (even if he’s crazy). Let’s move on.
Part 2 – The Risks and Downsides of Extreme Fitness and Performance
Just the other day, I was watching a presentation by Robb Wolf, who is the author of The Paleo Solution (a New York Times Best-Seller) and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on Paleo nutrition. It was just a general talk on nutrition that he gave at a recent conference. But what I found most interesting about it is that he began his talk by explaining how there are tradeoffs between living and training for performance versus health and longevity (and vice versa).
Said another way, if you are a professional athlete, train like one (even in just some ways), or even if you just put your performance over your health in some way, shape, or form – like a lot of people do – there will be health consequences (i.e. tradeoffs). Robb mentioned that most people don’t think about this and most fitness pros don’t teach it. I agree.
And if you think about it, it makes sense. In order to get really good at a fitness or athletic event, you have to compromise your health. You can’t train at an elite level without some consequences. We tend to think of athletes at being at the pinnacle of human health, fitness, and performance. But usually, they’re just at the pinnacle of performance. That’s their domain because it’s their job, and it’s what matters most to them. So, you won’t hear of a professional athlete taking a day or week off because they want to improve their health and longevity. They’d do that because it will help them win their next competition. Their performance is what ultimately matters. So, they make decisions accordingly.
Suffice to say, elite performance requires a ton of sacrifices, and being the best comes at a cost to your health and social life, among other things. So, if you train recklessly – even for a couple of years – there’s going to be some significant health consequences, which will likely affect your longevity.
On the other hand, if you focus exclusively on your health and longevity, then you probably won’t be setting any world records in your (potentially-longer) lifetime.
So, training for health and longevity is different than training for fitness and performance. Similarly, eating for health and longevity is different than eating for fitness and performance. And we could go right down the list. But the bottom line is that if your goals are primarily health-oriented, then the best approach will be very different than if your goals are performance-oriented.
So, what do we do?
Well, since we only have 24 hours a day – not to mention lots of competing priorities and only one life to live – it’s critically important that you figure out:
a) who you are, which includes your current health status and fitness level, and your existing good and bad habits, among other things.
b) what you want, which includes your goals and the vision you have for your life, among other things (based on your purpose, values, and passions, etc.).
And get as specific as you can because having clarity is essential. If you don’t know these things, then how are you going to make decisions? Think about it. An athlete makes decisions because they know who they are and what they want. They have clarity. You’ll be much better off if you have the same level of clarity for your own life, too.
Now, the greatest hurdle to this (that I’ve noticed, at least) is that most people think that they have all of this stuff figured out. They think they know who they are and what they want. And it may be true that they have a general idea in the back of their mind. But what I’ve also found is that most people have not dug deep down to figure out who they truly are and what they truly want. They haven’t taken the time to go deep – to their very core – to ask the hard questions, to write things down, and commit the articulation of their self and their goals/vision to memory and daily action.
And that’s where most people go wrong. For whatever reason, they just don’t take it seriously. Maybe they think they’re too busy, don’t have enough time for all that reflection, or that they’ve already got it all figured out. Maybe they’re afraid of what they might find. Regardless, it just doesn’t happen, and there are consequences.
So, just between you and I, you need to know this stuff. And if you’ve been struggling to get and stay fit/healthy/etc., or if you feel like you’ve just been coasting through life – being tossed to and fro by the waves – then you really need this.
And taking the time to figure these things out will pay off big time. You’ll notice results immediately, and if you go about it right, then a complete transformation can take place over the short-term.
So, next time someone asks you, “what are you training for?” or “why aren’t you drinking like the rest of us?” make sure you know the answer to those questions.
Note: I’m not one to tell you what you should do. I’ll leave your values and priorities alone. That’s your choice. But you do deserve to know what you’re getting yourself into. It pays to know the risks.
Here’s the cool part: if you put your health before your performance, you can still achieve a high level of performance over the long-term with proper training. So, no, you will probably never achieve an Earth-shattering performance, but you’ll be right up there with the best of them.
It’d be like having a fitness level somewhere between middle-upper to upper class. You won’t be the best, but you’ll be a lot better off than most people. And I think that’s what most people want, which is why I ascribe to the health-first fitness philosophy. Your mileage may vary.
Some of My Top Plank Training Posts
Now, if you’re a regular reader here, then you know that I’m a big fan of the plank. It’s a superb exercise that offers a lot of benefits. So, if YOU would like to do some plank training, there’s lots of good stuff in the archives. It’s some of my most popular content. Here are five of the best posts to get you started:
The 5 Minute Plank For Core Strength, Stability, and Rock-Hard Abs
The Right Way to do the Plank Exercise
The Elbow Plank VS Pushup Position Plank
30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs
How Long to Hold a Plank
Or, you could always check out The Plank Training Archive. Just make sure that you’re crystal clear on who you are and where you want to go before you start planking for hours at a time.
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Health-First Fitness Coach
Photo credit: 1.