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

So, there’s a little story behind this one. I spend a lot of time helping beginner and seasoned trainee’s with their questions about health, fitness, and training at the Burn The Fat: Inner Circle fat loss support community. I’ve been a contributor and forum moderator there since 2006, and in that time I’ve met some pretty cool people. I’ll be honest and up front when I say that one of my personal favorite members is a woman named Jan, who is the ring leader of the Siffer-Ladies!

The front elbow plank.

The front elbow plank sans grimacing face.

Now, don’t let the cutesy name fool you – these ladies are not your average gym trainee’s. When I picture the Siffer-Ladies showing up at the gym, it’s like an old Western movie where everyone clears out of the bar when the outlaws arrive. The Siffer-Ladies are notorious fitness outlaws! While the so-called “civilized” women are barely breaking a sweat on the Elliptical machine while watching Oprah, the Siffer-Ladies are cranking out endless reps of alligator crawls, ab wheel rollouts, pushups, pullups and partner wheelbarrow walking. They’re hardcore – pure and simple. Some people in their gym even think they’re crazy (I can relate to that!).

Jan has been somewhat of a training disciple of mine and she’s built some pretty impressive fitness levels over the years using mostly bodyweight training. You see, Jan is a lifestyle fitness trainee. She’s found something that works for her, and she’s been sticking with it for years. She trains because she loves it… in a sick sort of way (again, I can relate!).

Every once in awhile, the Siffer-Ladies come up with some crazy idea like holding a plank for 5 minutes straight. I don’t know what possesses them… it’s like they just have an insatiable hunger for self-inflicted torment and indescribable agony – and I give in every time. Jan contacted me a couple weeks ago asking for advice about getting from 3 minutes to a 5 minute plank. After offering her some suggestions, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I’ve never had any of my clients do a plank for longer than 3 minutes, and I’ve never done one longer than that either. It’s uncharted territory. So, you know me… I just had to know if I could do it myself!

I’ll be honest, I had my doubts if I’d be able to complete the 5 minute plank test since I haven’t done any specific plank training in years, but I set my mind to the task and here’s what it looked like…

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

If you’re so inclined, there are a lot of ways to build up to that level and beyond it. The obvious way is to practice more plank exercises like the ones above (and there are many other common variations, too). You can incorporate set/rep schemes throughout your training sessions, or just practice periodically throughout the day (grease the groove technique). You can do pyramid sets, supersets, circuits, or straight sets. The choice is yours, and ultimately your goals will dictate which approach you should take. If you have specific goals, and would like a suggestion, let me know in the comment section below.

The plank routine exercises are:

  1. front elbow plank (FEP)
  2. FEP w/ right arm elevated
  3. FEP w/ left arm elevated
  4. FEP w/ right leg elevated
  5. FEP w/ left leg elevated
  6. right arm and left leg elevated
  7. left arm and right leg elevated
  8. right side plank
  9. left side plank
  10. right side plank with leg up
  11. left side plank with leg up
  12. top of pushup position (TOPP)
  13. TOPP w/ right arm up
  14. TOPP w/ left arm up
  15. TOPP w/ right leg up
  16. TOPP w/ left leg up
  17. TOPP w/ right arm and left leg up
  18. TOPP w/ left arm and right leg up
  19. right side plank, elbow locked
  20. left side plank, elbow locked

Here’s a guide for estimating the duration:

  • 3 seconds per exercise = 1 minute total
  • 6 seconds per exercise = 2 minutes total
  • 9 seconds per exercise = 3 minutes total
  • 12 seconds per exercise = 4 minutes total
  • 15 seconds per exercise = 5 minutes total

If you can hold a front elbow plank for at least 30 seconds, and are skilled enough to hold each other position for a short time, then you’re ready to put it all together in a circuit fashion like the above routine. The fastest way to build up to a 5 minute or longer plank is to work very incrementally on the above exercises – adding only 1 second to each drill at a time, and practicing until it isn’t very difficult (Rating of Perceived Exertion under 6/10).

Do keep in mind that you don’t need to follow the above routine verbatim. You can create your circuit any way you like – picking any number of exercises and any duration. You can even add rest times in if you’d like. It’s all dependent on your goals and how much you want to challenge yourself.


Update: If you want to improve your plank performance, increase your core strength, and get ripped abs, then get on the VIP Waiting List for my upcoming core training system called “3D Abs” which is currently in development.

Sign up using the form below and I’ll keep you posted on its release, give you an exclusive first look at the goods, and some other special perks that won’t be available to the public…







Update (8/4/2010):

Upon seeing the above video and trying out the routine, the Siffer-Ladies challenged me to a 5 minute static plank – top of pushup position. Here is my challenge entry… Yes, I know it’s a long, uneventful video, with the exception of some elevated breathing, and shaky limbs towards the end, but here it is anyways.

If you’re half as crazy as the Siffer-Ladies, you’ll muster up the courage to test yourself and post your results below.

CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT
Fitness Professional

 

P.S. I don’t offer online training, and the only way to get access to me as an online personal trainer is through the Burn The Fat: Inner Circle. I login to the forums almost daily to answer questions. Questions directed to me will be emailed to me by another forum moderator if I haven’t answered it within a day or two. So, if you’d like some regular feedback about your training, nutrition, or fitness lifestyle, then becoming a member at the Inner Circle is your best chance for getting direct access to me…

Not to mention being a part of the most supportive online community for fitness goals with an entire army of trainers, coaches, and other expert columnists at your fingertips. Plus, we have 2 fitness challenges every year (in which I am on the judging panel) with prizes that range from cool fitness gear to luxury trips to exotic locations like Jamaica or Hawaii – free registration to the contest comes with an IC membership. If you’d like to super-charge your social support system, then sign-up at the Inner Circle today. Just watch out for those Siffer-Ladies in the progress journals section!

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

  • Catherine Michelle

    Question about abs workout, planks and pregnancy.

    Hello! Thank you so much for your great website. I’ve started training last September (from nothing to not so bad fitness). But I’ve still have a lot of work to do before considering me “in shape”. I’ve discovered a month ago that I was pregnant. While I’m absolutely delighted (after trying for 5 years) I’m really afraid to continue my fitness training. About the abs workout, I’ve read that any setups and obliques are forbidden. Leg and arm elevation are OK. But I was wondering if doing the planks could be OK. Your input would be most welcome!

    Have a nice week-end!

    • John

      Hi Catherine,

      Congratulations – that’s very exciting! My wife is due any day now with our first, a son.

      I’m sorry to say that this is a subject that I know almost nothing about. The general recommendation that the midwives and doctors give is that you can maintain any strength training activity that you’ve already been doing beforehand, but I think that’s a little too vague.

      However, I know the abdominal muscles stretch quite a bit, and maybe even tear during the later stages, so my gut feeling is to avoid most forms of core training except light physical activity such as pre-natal yoga.

      My wife joined a local pregnancy yoga group and loved it very much because of the challenge and the community aspect. I encourage you to do the same, since the instructor will be able to teach you what kinds of plank poses you can handle and for how long, etc. There’s also a great pregnancy yoga DVD available at http://www.purpleyoga.com that you can use at home.

      Another suggestion is to get in touch with a fitness professional named Holly Rigsby. She has kids and should be able to give you a more direct answer than I have.

      Good luck!

  • Catherine Michelle

    Thank you so much, John! I’ll check on the DVD and I’ll look for Ms Rigsby.

  • Catherine Michelle

    Oh and good luck to you and your wife and congratulations for the baby!!!!!

  • chang

    John, this is an awesome collection of planks! havn’t felt anything in the flanks from exercise in a while so it’s pretty exciting to do :)

    for the side planks with leg up though, there’s great strain on the bottom hip where the iliotibial band connects with the great trochanter of the femur. do you havn’t any suggestions on how to avoid this almost-injury?

    thanks

    • John

      Hi Chang,

      Years ago, I had the tightest ITB bands that my physical therapists had seen in 20 years of practice. So, I hear you on the discomfort.

      The side plank, done properly, shouldn’t create pain in your ITB band – even with one leg elevated. It sounds like you may have some tension there that needs to be worked out. I suggest some joint mobility exercises: pelvic circles, hip circles, and leg swings (forward/backward, and laterals). You can find examples on my joint mobility page here:

      http://physicalliving.com/resources/circular-strength-training/mobility/

      That, paired with some deeper tension release through yoga should do the trick. Ageless Mobility covers the hips very thoroughly and would be a good investment for that.

      After you’ve “cleaned the slate” with the JM and yoga for awhile, you can start using incremental progression to build up to and beyond a side plank with one leg elevated – all pain-free.

  • I use the basic plank and renegade rows regularly to keep a slightly visible six pack. However, I think if I add this variation into my routine those abs might sharpen up quite a bit.

    Thanks,

    Tim

  • Jan

    Got kicked off the IC for 24 hours as AOL is gimpy. BRAVO! Having just done our 4 minute and 50 second plank today, the Siffy-Ladies got a kick out of this video because, even though you are as zen as it gets (we were singing, yelling encouragement, and calling for our mommies)we KNEW what you were going through. We’re only ten seconds behind, but we’ll catch up soon. We need to suck our thumbs for a while. For all those Siffy-ites out there, Siffy ladies are oldies 53 and 58 so go to it, misery loves company :-)

  • Brian

    I am absolutely elated! I found this site a few weeks ago and have been reading it more and more.. I think this is a great thing you are doing. I have been applying many of the principles learned here and I feel absolutely wonderful.. Better than I have in years.. Thanks again

    Cheers.

  • Dave D.

    Ooooooooh. Exquisite. I like it.

  • Petervermont

    Just curious why you did the 5 minute static plank from TOPP rather than FEP. I feel FEP more in my abs and lower back than I do with TOPP.

  • Petervermont

    By the way — this is actually 21 moves for a total of 5:15 since you repeat the FEP at the end. I like the symmetry –ending up where you started.

    Anyways, I just did it. Had a little trouble with my balance on the one arm/one leg TOPP positions.

    I will definitely make this part of my routine. I think that a 5 minute is harder though — the unceasing burn!

    • John

      Yes, I know. Sometimes youtube videos distort the actual duration of time during all the file converting and uploading, so I wanted to make sure I held the plank for a little longer than 5 minutes just to be sure that it would come out right.

      And I agree, a single plank position is much more difficult than the transitioning plank series.

  • Jan

    The reason why the Siffer ladies requested the TOPP for the static plank was because I have tendinitis in my left shoulder and bicep. The forearm plank held in the static position revved up the inflammation. We actually put a small step-aerobics box under our toes in the TOPP position to create the effect of the forearm plank. Our bodies were not slanted with the box. Much easier on the arms and shoulders. That said, I am not sure there is much point (aside from pain) to a five minute plank. It’s really tough on the back. The plank sequence done for five minutes is easier yet still very challenging. As a tool in the tool-box we think that the sequence is better than the static five minute plank. It’s nice to know that if you have tendonitis you can still effectively do planks in the topp position without adding injury.

    • John

      “I am not sure there is much point (aside from pain) to a five minute plank.”

      You bring up a good point, Jan. There may be some very specific athletic needs in certain sports that may benefit from long sets of planks, but for the non-athlete crowd, I don’t see much benefit to be had after 2-3 minute duration planks.

  • Allen

    Yesterday I did a 7 minute forearm plank, just to see if I could. I tried it because a few months ago I was speaking with a friend who told me that there was this “crazy woman” in her fitness bootcamp that could do a 6 min plank. So I thought that I would see if I could match that. It took about a month of progressive practice to go from 3.5 minutes to 6. I have to say that it was one of the hardest physical challenges that I have ever undertaken. In fact, it was so hard (not to mention painful) that I didn’t try for another personal record until yesterday. Curiously, and the reason for my post,is that long duration holds seem to be as much about mental toughness than physical ability. Can you stand the pain? I say this because while I am in very good to perhaps excellent condition, I am by no means in an elite category, just committed. I think that I could have held even longer though I am not entirely sure that there is really a physical benefit to holding planks for these kind of intervals. Still, when you work out often, I find that it helps me to have a series of little goals along the way and setting personal bests like this are motivating. Anyway, for what it’s worth. Best to all.

  • Jan

    Wow, Allen! A seven minute forearm plank is some serious toughness! I’ve been giving this some thought. It can’t be all mental because there is some serious physical pain involved in a long, static plank. Plus, your abdominals and your back muscles are contracting a long time under pressure so every second must add intensity and volume?

  • J

    I don’t have a weighted vest, so I’m wondering if I could wear a backpack to make planks more challenging? I know I *could*, but I guess what I’m asking is if you reckon that weight on the back in a haphazard way like from a backpack would somehow pose an injury risk? MY PR is two thirty minute planks (varying from side, to topp, to side, but remaining in some sort of plank for the duration) with a 2 minute break in between, and I really, really (obviously) adore the exercise, but I simply cannot bear the thought of holding them for longer than I do because I can’t imagine that its an effective use of my training time. That said, anytime I cut them from my routine for awhile, I really notice their absence. I’d like to retain them, just make them harder. Any suggestions? Thanks very much! I’m new to your blog and I absolutely love it.

    • John

      Hi J,

      I had to re-read your comment. At first, I thought you said 30 seconds…

      30 minute planks are INSANE! Consider yourself in good company :)

      Like I said above, I’ve never had any of my clients perform a plank for more than 3 minutes, so I’m not familiar with possible injuries past that point (nor do I know of any research that has been done in this area). You could add a backpack – nothing wrong with that assuming you maintain a good posture/structure throughout the entire routine. But may I suggest another alternative?

      One other way to progress in your training is called movement sophistication. With MS, instead of training harder, longer, faster (etc.), you train better. Quite simply, you increase the QUALITY of your movement, instead of the quantity. I think this is a perfect fit for your situation. If you can do a plank for 30 minutes, you’ve clearly reaped the benefits from the exercise and are MORE than ready for something harder.

      There are a lot of avenues you could take this… Prasara BodyFlow Yoga, hand balancing, or simply more advanced versions of standard plank exercises.

      Whatever you decide, that is some very impressive work!

  • Jan

    Okay. I did NOT need to read that someone can do a thirty minute plank, lol. John, I officially declare myself to be normal from here on out. J is the insane one :-D

    That said, we do plank training days at least once a week these days. They last over an hour and consist of nothing but plank training. Today we completed your five minute sequence then did several reps of 1 minute alligators, bear crawls and wheelbarrows. We find that to do an hour or more of plank training we need quite a bit of rest inbetween. Given enough rest time it’s an amazing workout for cardiovascular as well as strength help. We attracted the attention of a powerlifter/trainer and he loved your sequence planks. We’ve noticed a distinct increase in over all strength doing the plank training. It seems almost every muscle improves.

  • J

    Thanks! Can you give some examples of more advanced planks? Ones besides what’s shown in your video? I do those variations plus a topp where I put opposite knee on the opposite elbow diagonally (hope that made sense). Thanks again!

    • John

      Lots of ideas…

      You can perform any of the above variations with your feet on top of a bench or feet planted flat against a wall. You can use a stability ball with either your hands or feet planted on it. You can start using an ab wheel for rollouts or holds. You can perform some on your fingertips, or on the tips of your toes. There are endless possibilities.

      But it all begs the question: for what purpose am I doing all of this? Or rather, how am I ensuring that my training is helping me reach my goals? (no need to answer, just ask yourself)

  • Christina Chapan

    This was great. I can’t wait to try the variations of the plank.

  • Jan

    My workout partner and I are now doing the five minute plank at least once a week. We find it to be aerobically challenging. We’re getting really strong in our arms and shoulders, and I think it may be helping with our deadlifts. It’s becoming a staple. At first it was just a novelty, something fun to challenge our minds and bodies with. Now we almost feel that our week isn’t complete without it.

  • JImG

    My son is a serious freestyle skier and trains on the trampoline for hours a day. He lacerated his spleen in a fall, and is limited to what he can do. His trainer has him doing planks, but limits him to a minute at a time to avoid raising his heart rate. Your plank stuff is great! Five minute plank will be the goal once he is healthy.

  • JImG

    By the way, one thing his trainer does for him is when he does planks on the ball, she kicks the ball randomly so it’s not totally static.

    It’s neat seeing someone start to get the “training bug” (he’s 13).

  • Greyson

    I noticed that most people wimp out at 5 min. planks, but is it doable to do a 15 min. plank from 2 min. planks in 6 months? I have always had an untrained midsection, and the sky is my limit. (By the way I workout Part Time, not Full time). The world record at the moment is a 34 min. plank. I don’t care if you are the best, I am willing to listen to GOOD advice.

    • John

      I think it is possible to go from 2 to 15 minutes inside of 6 months for a person in good health and average fitness. The plank exercise is one that is quick to adapt, and frequent practice will help the most. Jan, who commented above, has now worked up to at least a 20 minute plank sequence and I think she and her training partner are working up to 30+ minutes. They’ve been progressing quite fast.

  • Jan

    Yeah, easily doable inside of 6 months if you’re doing a plank-sequence. Getting a five minute static plank will help but it’s really nasty on the lower back so if you’re concerned with that just do the plank-sequence.

    You’ll want to do planks twice a week. Once you get the five minute plank sequence you’ll do that once a week. It’s your “short” plank. For your second plank you’ll do your long one. Keep adding on 30 sec – one minute each week. You’ll have your fifteen minutes in no time.

  • Ames

    I’m in high school. My teacher’s making us do the plank. She said doing a plank for 1 minute gives us a barely passing score of 65%. A total of 5 minutes gives us a 100%. And we have to stay in the same position as well. Any tips? My arms just burn after 3 minutes.

  • Nick

    building plank endurance:

    1. set a reasonable goal time, for sake of argument lets say 3 minutes or 180 seconds.

    2. progressive scale endurance:

    hold your plank for:
    10sec/min for 20 min = 200 seconds
    13sec/min for 16 min = 208 seconds
    15sec/min for 14 min = 210
    18sec/min for 12 min = 216
    20sec/min for 10 min = 200
    etc

    3. when you can hold a 1 minute plank, begin to back scale the rest period.
    1min plank + 1minute rest, 3 times
    1min plank + 50sec rest, 3 tiems
    etc.

    grats, you’re doing a 3 minute GOOD form and safe plank.
    This can take a long time depending on your fitness. Always stretch and
    listen to your body.

    This technique can be applied to any strength endurance exercise. Pullups, pushups, etc.

    peace to all, go build your body temple.

  • Nick

    I can’t edit my previous post.

    in step 2, allow yourself 1 minute of rest between attempts such that in step 3 you can begin scaling it back.

    it would be wise to also pursue a lower back strengthening exercise in tandem. The body thrives on balance and is prone to injury when balance is absent.

    good luck to all.

    nick

  • Nick

    I cant edit my post so I’l reply instead :)

    -in step 2, try to rest 1 minute between attempts. The over all goal is to get your reps done within 20 minutes. Regardless of that goal being a 3 minute plank or 30 good push ups.

    -for a beginner training a plank can be excruciating, especially the day after. Listen to your body, start with 2-3 times a week with a day of rest in between for this particular isolation.

    -work the lower back in tandem. Don’t create an imbalance, this leads to poor form later and injury. Never work to injury! more becomes less when you’re not working out following a trauma and are likely on prescription steroids for the inflammation.

    John, great site! I’m researching getting my first set of heavy clubs and stumbled over your page. Subscribed. Presently I have the 2lb wooden variety for flexibility and endurance, etc. They bore me. Looking forward to some clubz!

    later.

  • when doing those variations with hand lifts or leg lifts, wouldn’t it be better to keep the line of the body same as in normal hold rather rather than rotating? I was thinking Dan John-variations in bird dog and he liked the leg to lift lower than usual sky high version…. just a thought….

    • John

      You’re right, Samuli. It’s better to keep a neutral spine. That’s one of the counter-points in these poses that you’ll want to keep track of throughout each set. Of course, all plank exercises are about resisting rotation of the spine, so there will always be a tendency to rotate.

  • Greyson

    Jan, I am now doing the planks every day, but am concerned about when to rest. So far there hasn’t been any back problems, but am now attempting to do this for 90+ straight days in a row. I am just starting the plank again after my last 1/2 Marathon (Oct. 2, 2011). I can do 2 sets in a row for 2 times a day, (1 min, with 2 min. rest), while adding 5 sec. of planks every day, but can’t do it back to back. Am I doing enough sets, or am I setting myself to failure?

  • Jan

    Hi Greyson, so sorry it took me so long to see your question. You know, I have never tried doing planks every day. I’ve done them twice a week but not every day. I see no reason why you’d be setting yourself up for failure if you take care of your back and if you can actually do the plank without harming yourself. If your goal is to do a plank every day for 90 days straight I don’t see a problem with it so long as your stength holds up. You’re in new territory as far as my experience is concerned. Really, when you think about it we use our abs every day just to get in and out of bed. So long as you feel good and you’re not hurting yourself, plank away. My workout partner and I did a 15 minute plank-sequence a couple weeks back after not having done a long plank in a while and we had no trouble other than the usual strain of doing something like that. So, apparently, the abs can be worked alot best I can tell. Hope this helps a little. Have fun!

  • JC Martin

    Hey John!
    So last year my family started a Christmas tradition of seeing who could hold the plank position the longest. I am the youngest brother (23 years old) and last year got last. I want to win it this year. Right now I can hold a plank for just around 3 minutes (haven’t been training at all). To win, I think I’ll need to get up to 7 minutes or more. I have about a month to train. How should I go about training for this? Is it likely I’ll get there? Thanks,
    JC

  • Dar

    Hello! I have been doing planks for quite some time already. In fact, ive been doing many sets of the forearm stationary plank each day for around 5 to 6 minutes each. But what i notice is that if i flex my abs, it only bulges out cause of the muscles but It doesnt have the well-defined lines that shows each of the 6 packs individually. Its visible but it isnt really very clear and noticable. Is there any way that i canuse planks to make it more visible instead of just having the muscles there?

    • Dar, to show the muscles, you need to get your body fat percentage down to something like 11%. Diet’s the key to showing what the exercise has done. Lots of folks on fitocracy do Lean Gains and Intermittent Fasting.

      By the way, I went from an 80 second plank to 9:19 in about two months of gradually increasing my time each week. Now that I see the excellent plans here, I know I can break the 10-minute mark soon.

  • pete

    Hi there . A friend told me of this planking technique a few days ago sand thought I would give it a go .. firstly I would like to say I think I’m really unfit as I’ve been off work now for over a year with sever chronic sinusitus and excruciating head pain taking copious amounts of meds too try get rid of it but the infection just won’t go .. to add to that I have had my spleen removed and also the appendix :( .. about a year and a half ago after feeling rundown for ages I had some tests done that came back as a celioc disese.. unfortunatly for me I can’t seem to maintain a gluten free diet either .. my question being I have a back defect in the order of pars defect lumber spine l5 /s1 bilateral and have always suffered from lower back pain.. after attempting this exercise I managed a static plank of 5mis 30 with no serious effort .. I did find the breathing difficult at the end but two hours latter I don’t really feel sore anywhere .. I have never exercised in my life and drink and smoke ( unfortunatly ) I’m really keen to see what is possible but is it bad for my back as I really don’t want to do serious damage.. I now feel the need to start working out to some extent but also love how the exercise requires mental strength .. something I always believed I have when it comes to using the body for work .. any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.. also thanks on the tips I’ve already read on this site.. very helpfull

  • Ian

    Thanks for a great site! I’m a serious endurance runner and race eeverything from 5k’s to Ultra’s. I know that all other things being equaal, the athlete with the strongest core will have the edge.

    I’ve incorparated the 5m Plank Challenge daily into my training as my first core session of the day, but I always finish it with 2mins FEP. For my main session, I vary the difficulty for the initial set so that thsi may be 4 nins or 5 mins plus. Typically a session looks like this (as completed today) My approach may or may not be of interest to some readers but its yielding great results, which I hope will give me an added edge when target a new PB at London marathon.

    Core Routine: (2nd and main routine of the today)

    Front elbow plank (FEP) 3 x sets

    1 x 4 mins (90s Recovery)
    1 x 2 mins (60s Recovery)
    1 x 2 mins (60s Recovery)

    Then each of the following performed consecutively (with no recovery)

    FEP w/ left arm elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ Right arm elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ right leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ left leg elevated x 30s

    30s Recovery, then…

    FEP w/ left arm/Right leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ Right arm/Left leg elevated x 30s

    30s recovery, then…

    Right side plank x 1 min 20s (static for 60s/dips for remainder – No Recovery)
    Left side plank x 1 min 20s (static for 60s/dips for remainder)

    30s Recovery, then…

    Front elbow plank (FEP) x 2 mins to finish

    Total: 20m 40s

    • Greyson

      Ian, how long can you do a plank? I still have trouble getting past the 5 min. part, despite introducing the ab roller (have to find a way to get rid of my gut). 3 weeks ago I started with 1 set of 5 reps, and now am at 3 sets of 22. Am I doing something wrong?

      I have completed 5 1/2 Marathons in 2 yrs., (1 with poison Ivy), in 2 hrs. 30 min. I have not had any injuries, and will take me a long time to get there. Any help would be great for the stationary plank, since I can’t seem to get to my goal of 2-3 sets of 15 min. plank.

  • Ian

    Hi Greyson

    I plan to attempt longer FEP every week or so and see where I can get to, but currently I’m only at 5 1/2m myself, as of last week. As you’ll note above I tend to do multiple sets of FEP and the plan is to reduce the recovery. I am confident that I can improve significantly on all of the variations and I’m seeing far greater control now with one leg/arm elevated versions in particular.

    I’m on my 5th marathon but race all distances and I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my form in the latter stages of some races, which I attribute to the Plank. That is an amazing time for a marathon incidentally. My current PB is 2:58:20 (at the age of 52) and was hoping to go sub 2:50 this weekend at London, but succumbed to Tendonitis in the Tibialis Tendon.

    I’m not sure what I can say about your question on the Ab roller as I don’t use one. I’m also a little puzzled when you say you are having difficulty getting past the 5 min and yet you say your goal is 3 x 15m! Crikey, that is a very ambitious goal! If the 5min you are referring to is the Plank Challenge, that should come with practice. I do that everyday and then my main session later in the day. This has now moved on as I have increased the difficulty.

    If you’re not referring to the 5min Plank Challenge, I doubt I could offer any advice as it sounds like you are already way past by current 5 1/2 mins for FEP. I will be having a crack at 6-7 mins over the next couple of weeks. I’ve increased my side plank since posting last to 1:30 each side and I plan to reduce recovery between all sets of each variation. My core has come on incredibly well over the last 2-3 weeks especially, since my daily double session:-)

    Apologies, if I’ve missed your point or misunderstood anything. I’ll check back in regularly to find out and also learn some more from the other posters too.

    Good luck!

    • Greyson

      I am referring to the 5 min. plank. I may be 22, but have had the dreaded gut, and am trying to get rid of it without luck. My main goal is to make as much progress as possible before 30. I can swim as well, but am just narrowing this conversation down to just the plank, or anything related.

  • Ian

    Incidentally, did you know that the Guiness World Record for the plank is now 1hr 19m 58s! Unbelievable! I watched some of the excrutiating highlights of it the other day :-)

    I think I’ll be trying to improve my own record by 1/2 minute increments every week or so. Steady but sure is the order of the day.

  • Ian

    Greyson

    Well you certainly can’t spot reduce strictly speaking, so it’s a case of more aerobic work. As far as knocking the bas into shape via the Plank though, the routine I’m following is definitely working.

    As regards the 5min Plank, it really does come down to practice. I currently do the 15s each variation version of course, which gives the 5min, but I always finish with a front plank for 2 minutes, so my session totals 7 mins.

    I guess because I incorporate another session later in the day, this is really testing my core. I always start off with my longest Front Elbow Plank in the later main session and I must admit the 3 x Reps are very difficult as I keep recovery to a minimum. I tend to make the second and third only 2 mins, as that’s all I can handle after the initial 4-5 mins with the short recovery.

    Dont under estimate the value of the side plank though, which I do for 1min 30s currently immediately after my 3 FEP in the main session. The side Plank is very demanding and really tests the whole core, but especially the tranverse abdominus I’m led to believe. This is the one that holds everything in place and hence keeps the abs tightly tucked in, unlike the effect that the ill advised crunches have on the core.

  • Ian

    Apologies for spelling error abaove. Don’t know how that happened, but I’ve had to repost as a result as I can’t edit it.

    “Well you certainly can’t spot reduce strictly speaking, so it’s just a matter of more aerobic work to shift the fat. As far as knocking the core into shape via the Plank though, the routine I’m following is definitely working.

    As regards the 5min Plank, it really does come down to practice. I currently do the 15s each variation version of course, which gives the 5min, but I always finish with a front plank for 2 minutes, so my session totals 7 mins.

    I guess because I incorporate another session later in the day too, this is really testing my core. I always start off with my longest Front Elbow Plank in the later main session and I must admit the 3 x Reps are very difficult as I keep recovery to a minimum. I tend to make the second and third only 2 mins, as that’s all I can handle after the initial 4-5 mins with the short recovery.

    Dont under estimate the value of the side plank though, which I do for 1min 30s currently immediately after my 3 FEP in the main session. The side Plank is very demanding and really tests the whole core, but especially the tranverse abdominus I’m led to believe. This is the one that holds everything in place and hence keeps the abs tightly tucked in, unlike the effect that the ill advised crunches have on the core.

  • Ian, I’m a little surprised to see you say “aerobics” for weight loss… caloric control and some heavy muscle work should do the trick for Greyson, I’d think, since he’s already running. I’m doing intermittent fasting myself (the “skip breakfast” version) plus bodyweight exercises similar to what you show on this site, and I’m finally seeing some progress on the middle-age spread.

  • Back to planks, though. I’d gotten to a personal record of 9:19 with one shift from FEP to TOPP at around the 6 minute mark, but since then I’ve not been able to exceed 6 minutes. I know it’s because I’ve dropped off on the daily planking. When I was doing the plank routine above and doing three or more planks per day, my numbers were going up, not down.

  • Ian

    I thought a poster might come back with that response Jorah :-) Yes I was tempted to say some other intensity work will burn calories quicker (which it will), but as aerobic workouts (which could be a run at say sub 70% WHR) tends to burn a higher percentage of fat as energy (sparing glycogen) that was the basis for my comment really.

    Higher intensity activities engaging more muscle will obviously burn more total calories quicker, but if someone is already doing their fair share of intense sessions, then why not aerobic as opposed to anaerobic. That is the basis for Long Runs in marathon training for example, to utilise a higher proportion of fat as energy, so the body will take it from where it can. Unfortunately, and invariably it seems that the last place it takes it from is the abdomen :-)

    Ref the Plank, 6 mins is my imminent target for FEP (5 1/2min currently), although I am contemplating increasing the duration on the Plank Challenge to 20s plus per exercise rather than 15s to see how I get on. What I’m currently doing is working fine though so I’ll stick with it.

    It’s interesting to note that there are conflicting views on the NET as to which is more difficult and effective; TOPP or FEP. Personally I believe its got to be FEP, as the degree of difficulty increases when parallel to the floor. Having said that the TOPP with one leg and arm elevated simultaneously is more challenging than the equivalent in FEP stance.

  • marcus

    can anyone tell me if planking increases ab size, as if your goal is to make your abs bigger. i know this strengthens and tones but i have a 6 pack and i just want them to rise more. thanks

  • Ian

    I’ve now stepped up the difficulty of the 5 min Plank by incrementing each exercise duration to 30s each, but still finishing with a longer FEP of 2 mins, so my 5 min Plank has now become 12 mins. I can obviously do a longer FEP, but that is part of my main session.

    The main session I do (second of the day) varies, but is around 20 mins plus currently and now looks like this:

    Core Routine: (2nd and main routine of the today)

    Front elbow plank (FEP) 3 x sets

    1 x 3-5 1/2 (mins (60-90s Recovery)
    1 x 2 mins (60s Recovery)
    1 x 2 mins (60s Recovery)

    Then each of the following performed consecutively (with no recovery)

    FEP w/ left arm elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ Right arm elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ right leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ left leg elevated x 30s

    30s Recovery, then…

    FEP w/ left arm/Right leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ Right arm/Left leg elevated x 30s

    30s recovery, then…

    Right side plank x 1 min 30s (sometimes static for 60s/dips for remainder – No Recovery)
    Left side plank x 1 min 30s (sometimes static for 60s/dips for remainder)

    30-60s Recovery, then…

    Front elbow plank (FEP) x 2 mins to finish

    *I’ve now increased the Side Plank duration to 1 min 30s as part of this main session and will try going for a new record for the FEP within the next week :-)

    *Marcus

    I’d have thought that the FEP is bound to have an effect on your ab size, but not to the extent that say bodybuilding would, for example. It’s important to remember that the Plank is a static exercise that strengthens and builds endurance by engaging all of the core muscles and not exclusively the abs. I view it as not being geared to increasing size primarily, but more a case of contioning and strengthening, as you understand it too. When you say rising more, do you mean being more visible? If so, that’s more a fat reduction/dietary matter.

    John or another poster should be able to provide a better explanation of course. I can say that the sessions I’ve tweaked/devised around John’s suggestions are working just great for me! :-)

    Thanks John!

  • Ian

    *Oops, should read ‘Conditioning’

    Apologies for spelling error. Forum doesn’t allow editing of posts.

  • Jan

    Marcus, I am to a 45 minute plank and I don’t think it builds up the abdominals. I’m a woman so I’m not big on large abdominals. I think weighted body building moves like pulley crunches would do that.

  • Ian

    Is that 45 mins FEP Jan or 45 mins duration for a combination of Plank variants? Impressed whichever it is, but even more impressed if it’s FEP :-)

  • Jan

    Hi Ian, you know, I’m not sure what FEP is. We use the plank-sequence
    of eight positions on the forearm going to nine positions on the extended arm. These include bird dogs etc. All done without stopping. Is that FEP? Our static plank is five minutes. We find that’s difficult on the back and like the core development of the plank-sequence which makes a sturdy tube all around the back. Plus you get some killer delts with it. ;-) We did them like you are doing. Just built them up over time. 45 minutes was gnarly though.

  • Ian

    Hi Jan

    Thanks for this. The FEP is simply the Front Elbow Plank (aka Static Plank)incidentally. I’m currently up to 5 1/2 mins with this but about to try for a new target.

    I agree with your thinking on the Plank sequence, which I do every day (normally a.m)I finish this off with an FEP (static Plank) for 2 mins though, and like you, all exercises executed consecutively with no recoveries. I have just increased the duration for each exercise to 30s, which gives me a 12min workout for this a.m session. I will strive to increment each to 1 min per exercise which would give me a 22 min sequence, as I always finish off with a 2 min static.

    front elbow plank (FEP/static)
    FEP w/ right arm elevated
    FEP w/ left arm elevated
    FEP w/ right leg elevated
    FEP w/ left leg elevated
    right arm and left leg elevated
    left arm and right leg elevated
    right side plank
    left side plank
    right side plank with leg up
    left side plank with leg up
    top of pushup position (TOPP)
    TOPP w/ right arm up
    TOPP w/ left arm up
    TOPP w/ right leg up
    TOPP w/ left leg up
    TOPP w/ right arm and left leg up
    TOPP w/ left arm and right leg up
    right side plank, elbow locked
    left side plank, elbow locked
    front elbow plank (FEP/static plank) for 2 mins to finish.

    I then do my main session (as per earlier post) in the evening, which is tougher on the back as you say. More so I guess because of the multiple static planks and the durations.

    I’ve found some other moves to incorporate too, which are used by the MMA community (Tai Plank and Tai Crucifix)These add additional variation and utilise ankle bands to increase difficulty.

    Happy training! :-)

  • John H.

    hello,

    After less then one year training in a gym, I got pain in my lower back. I have it for a while now, I read on the internet that you should first train your deeper abs (TVA and Multifidus) before you train your abs and back in the gym by machines and crunches. I probably got pain in my lower back because I didn’t do this. So now I made a trainingsprogram.

    Front Elbow Plank
    Week 1: 1×30 sec duration every day
    Every week I raise this by 10 sec, if my body is ready for it.

    When I reach 60 sec, I put extra tension at my abs and glute.
    The duration I lower to 30 sec again because the plank is now harder.

    Target: 300 sec (5 minutes) duration before 2013.

    Side Plank

    Week 1: 1×15 sec duration every day
    Every week I raise this by 5 sec, if my body is ready for it.

    Target: 150 sec (2.5 minutes) duration before 2013.

    Besides this I Go to the gym monday, wednesday and friday.
    Monday: Biceps and shoulders
    Wednesday: abs and back (I think I just make this the cardioday)
    Friday: Triceps and chest

    What do you think of this schedule? Do you think I can reach my targets?

  • Ian

    Don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t reach your targets John, but of the two Plank variations you mention, I would say the Side Plank would prove the most challenging to progress with. I obviously do my Side Plank some time into my schedule and I’m therefore consequently partially tired already, but they are one of the toughest, especially with the leg elevated. I currently do mine for 90s as part of my main session, but also looking to increment this.

    Incidentally, there’s no better way of targeting the TVA than with Plank variations from what I’ve gleaned, so you’re bang on with your approach.

    I really don’t see the need for a gym at all. I do all of my stuff at home using body weight exercises, free weights and push up bars (which I also use for dips) A little improvisation at home and the gym is rendered redundant. Arguably, Gym machines only encourage bad form and create muscle imbalances anyway.

    Good luck!

  • Jan

    John, just my opinion, but I think you’re holding those plank positions too long. If your lower back is already hurting then you need to strengthen all the plank positions so that you get a band of muscle that completely wraps your torso front to back and supports everything. I’d hold about ten seconds and no more than 15 for each position and switch to the plank-sequence as John’s video shows. You’ll get more support and strength and then later on when everything calms down you can go for some long form static positions. Glute bridges from the floor or rolling a ball will help strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. As I said, it’s only an opinion, hope you feel better soon.

  • John H.

    Thanks for your reactions!

    @Ian: Because the Side Plank is the most challenging I begin with only 1×15 sec and raise it weekly with only 5 sec if my body is ready for it.
    Yes I also read that the planks are very good to train the TVA and that when this muscle is stronger, that you whole body will be stronger.

    @Jan: Because my lower back is hurting I just have a 30 sec duration for the FEP and a 15 sec for the Side Plank at the beginning. The duration raise is just 10 sec per week FEP and 5 sec Side Plank, if my body is ready.
    When I shake during the excercise or have increase of pain after the excercise, I am not increasing the duration.
    I hope this program works and if not then I will definitely take your advise! Thank you for your opinion!

    When I reach my targets so 300 sec FEP and 150 Side Plank, I hope I don’t have any pain in my back anymore and maybe I have no back pain forever!
    Haha, maybe to optimistic.
    I will post my progress from time to time.

  • Brodgette

    I am a teenage girl and I started with 45 seconds at the begging of the school year. Now i can go way longer, but i havnt been exercising. Now it’s the end of the year and a couple days before I watched this video I did a 3 minute plank with a small break and then a 2 minute plank. Yesterday and today I did 5 minute planks, but my form I not very good! Thanks to your video I will try and use the new techniques.

  • James

    I’ve always found that physically a five minute plank is achievable by most people – it just requires a certain degree of mental resilience.

    After about two minutes it becomes a struggle for me and from then on I try not to focus on the pain and just push through it.

    However; a warning. I have been advised from a couple of sports scientists that doing planks for longer than 3 minutes can be damaging to your spine. Apparently it can fuse the vertebrae together. Since then I’ve been a bit more cautious of doing a plank for too long – but good luck to everyone else… it’s a great physical feat to maintain a five minute plank.

  • Jan

    Hi James, I think you can take those sports scientists remarks with a grain of salt until you actually see studies which prove that long planks fuse vertebrae together. The record for the plank is an hour and a half by a 50 something year-old male, and behind him it’s 70 minutes for an older woman…I think she’s in her seventies, not sure. My record is 45 minutes and I routinely do ten minutes (at least once per week) just to keep myself in the game and I’m turning 60 in a few weeks. Plank away and have fun.

  • David Denis

    I have to agree with Jan. I simply can’t see how spinal fusion could result from doing plank. Sounds like the fearful mutterings of old wives. If there is a claim of science behind the fearmongering, let’s see it.

  • Greyson

    My record is 6 min., but that is stationary, and I am not training as seriously on planks as lots of other exercises.

  • thekingofkings

    Sounds like a sissy workout. How about you pick up some real weights.. Arnold would be ashamed

  • Jan

    LOL, kingofkings. But, in case you’re serious, planks aren’t a workout they are an exercise.

  • Greyson

    King of Kings, try swimming 2 miles, running 6 1/2 Marathons (2 hrs 30 min.), and weight lifting (25-30 rep range), at least 2-3 times a week. If you want to talk about workouts.

  • Greyson

    … I meant at least 2 1/2 Marathons a week.

  • Ian

    Revised one of my routines now and upped by FEP (static plank) record to 7 mins :-) Will target 10 mins before end of June hopefully

    Core Routine: (2nd and main session of the day)

    Front elbow plank (FEP) 3 x sets

    1 x 7 mins (60s Recovery) New Record!
    1 x 2 mins (60s Recovery)
    1 x 2 mins (60s Recovery)

    Then each of the following performed consecutively (with no recovery)

    FEP w/ left arm elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ Right arm elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ right leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ left leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ left arm/Right leg elevated x 30s
    FEP w/ Right arm/Left leg elevated x 30s
    TOPP w/ left arm/Right leg elevated x 30s
    TOPP w/ Right arm/Left leg elevated x 30s

    75s Recovery, then

    Right side plank x 1 min 45s (No Recovery)
    Left side plank x 1 min 45s (30s Recovery), then…

    Front elbow plank (FEP) x 2 mins 30s to finish

    Total: 21mins
    ————-

    My other session is crrently…

    Cross-Training – Core

    Core Routine – Plank challenge: – All variations executed consecutively for 30s each without recovery, except last FEP 2 mins 15s.

    Front elbow plank (FEP)
    FEP w/ right arm elevated
    FEP w/ left arm elevated
    FEP w/ right leg elevated
    FEP w/ left leg elevated
    Right arm and left leg elevated
    Left arm and right leg elevated
    Right side plank
    Left side plank
    Right side plank with leg up
    Left side plank with leg up
    Top of pushup position (TOPP)
    TOPP w/ right arm up
    TOPP w/ left arm up
    TOPP w/ right leg up
    TOPP w/ left leg up
    TOPP w/ right arm and left leg up
    TOPP w/ left arm and right leg up
    Right side plank, elbow locked
    Left side plank, elbow locked

    Front elbow plank (FEP) for 2 mins 15s to finish where I start

    Total: 12 mins 30

    Planning to up to 45s per exercise, which is achievable, but side plank with leg elevated will prove the toughest beyond 30s.

    Getting stronger all of the time and have noticed a marked difference in my physique. My OH Gill has got the bug now too and can’t get enough of the Plank :-)

  • Ian

    Kicked off the 1st set of my main core session today (similar to previous post) with an improved record for my FEP (Front Plank)of 8m 5s :-)…and an improved side plank of 2 mins as part of the same sequence/session. Neither improvement prevented me completing the rest of the session.

    My plan is now to hit 10 mins for the front plank before month end (1 week) Perhaps it’s now time to set some ambitious longer term targets :-)

  • Ian

    Target achieved!:-)

    10mins 01s Front Plank achieved today, with 3 days to spare before my end of month deadline – wooohoo!

    New target needed :-)

    • John

      Rock on, Ian!

      Methinks it’s time to start competing with Jan (see her comments above). Her current record is a 45 minute plank sequence.

  • madani

    After acheiving a 5 min hold plank what’s the next step to work towards and how to make progress without hitting a plateaus?

    • John

      There are many ways you could go, and the simplest is to increase the time limit – why not go for 10 minutes like Ian did (see comments above)?

      Although, you could also try doing your planks with a pair of gymnastic rings, blast straps, or other suspension training gear (either holding on with your hands or looping around your feet). That increases the challenge dramatically.

  • Ian

    Thanks John! I’ve some work to do to get on terms with Jan, but the strength of mind and body is improving by the day :-) I believe there’s a lot of value in mixing it up a bit, hence I do different sessions of sequences and split sequences.

    Great recommendation of yours above John incidentally. That certainly would increase the difficulty. I’m up to around a 23 minute session now, but split sequence. I’ve started completing Right arm and left leg elevated/left arm and right leg elevated consecutively with TOPP w/ right arm and left leg up/TOPP w/ left arm and right leg up within my sequence which adds further difficulty.

    I’ve also just introduced the Ab roller into my workout, but I’m progressing cautiously until I can complete full extension and return. from standing.

    *Madani – in addition to Johns recommenation you could try mixing it up and completing more sequences for all round development. I’m sure it’s key for progression. I’m up to 30s each exercise for the sequence, but I finish with a longer plank (e.g. 5 posts back) and I plan to inrease this to probably 40-45s for my next progression.

    It is obviously physical adaptation that yields results, but also mental strength is developed too and you’ll certainly need anddevelop that!

    Good luck!

  • Ian

    I suppose it is more appropriate to say it is the overload / progression of effort which yields results as a result of adaptation.

  • madani

    Thank you John and you Ian
    well I will try to increase my time plank 25 sec at the end of each week.
    I hope that my training program that I am following will help me get to a 10 min plank by the end of August.
    Actually I an running 3 times a week (sunday, tuesday and thursday)
    my running session include: run a 5K, then do 5 sets of 500 jumping jacks
    then 20 sets of 50 arm swing (back and forth), neck rotate, hip rotate, front stance stretch, 10 sets of 10 straight leg raises and finish with a 3 sets of 4 pullups
    this program changes every 1 to 2 weeks and increases gradually
    on the other days (monday, wednesday, and thursday) I do some calisthenic strenght training, basically sit ups
    set1: 55 situps followed by 40 push ups
    set2: 60 situps followed by 40 push ups
    set3: 45 situps followed by 40 push ups
    set4: 40 situps followed by 40 push ups
    I repeat this combination 5 times totaling a 1000 sit ups and 800 push ups
    I will try to imptove my plank time by the end of every friday.
    Saturaday is a resting day where I get to go to the beach and have fun
    take care John

  • Ian

    11 minute Front Plank achieved today – Woohoo!!! :-)

    Really pleased, having just returned from a weeks holiday in the Canary Islands, I thought I’d test my resolve again after my pre hol record of 10 minutes. I didn’t expect to improve by a further minute so soon after my last record.

    I didn’t neglect the Plank or my running either whilst on hols, but I did cut it back a little. My plan now is to attempt a new record every Friday henceforth or atleast a minimum of 10 mins and a record attempt every two weeks perhaps. I’ll see how I get on.

    *madani

    I also like to x/train to improve my racing (5k to Ultra’s) and it’s obvious you certainly do too. My only concern with your routine is the inclusion of situps, which are really unecessary and arguably potentially dangerous to your spine, based on research my an expert (I think his surname is McGill)

    The only other exercises I use for my core are Bicycle ab exercise and ab roller (recently introduced) Although I’m progressing cautiously with the Ab roller. There are other better alternatives than situps. They truly are redundant!

    I’m confident you will hit your targets without them!

    Good luck!

  • Greyson

    Madani, you could try squat thrusts. They are my favorite, and definitely not for beginners. Just make sure that your form is good, or you won’t get the full benefit of the exercise.

  • Ian

    Having achieved an 11 min Front Plank on 6th July, I decided it was time to increase the challenge of my sequence session too, so this now looks like this:

    Plank challenge: – All variations executed consecutively for 40s each without recovery, except last FEP which was completed for 4 mins

    N.B – Upped each variant from 30s to 40s and extended last FEP.

    Front elbow plank (FEP)
    FEP w/ right arm elevated
    FEP w/ left arm elevated
    FEP w/ right leg elevated
    FEP w/ left leg elevated
    Right arm and left leg elevated
    Left arm and right leg elevated
    Right side plank
    Left side plank
    Right side plank with leg up
    Left side plank with leg up
    Top of pushup position (TOPP)
    TOPP w/ right arm up
    TOPP w/ left arm up
    TOPP w/ right leg up
    TOPP w/ left leg up
    TOPP w/ right arm and left leg up
    TOPP w/ left arm and right leg up
    Right side plank, elbow locked
    Left side plank, elbow locked

    Front elbow plank (FEP) for 4 mins to finish where I started.

    Total: 17 mins 20s

    As I expected, the biggest challenge of increasing the duration of each exercise in this sequence from 30s to 40s was completing the side plank with upper leg elevated. This is definitely the hardest part of the routine for me. Although I can comfortably complete a 3 min side plank, a side plank with leg elevated is so much tougher beyond 30s.

    I’ll probably complete some standalone sessions of these to toughen me up further :-)

  • Ian

    Well I couldn’t wait for Friday to attempt to beat my 11m set on 6th July, so I hit it a day early and managed to add another minute.

    Front Plank record is now 12m 3s :-)

  • CJ Daly

    I’m trying to work up to three sets of one minute plank followed by a thirty second rest. But it’s hard. By the third one, I can only do 30 seconds. My trainer thinks it’s mental but I really can’t hold it any longer. How can I increase my time? Do I practice every day or rest in between?

  • Greyson

    I would start out doing this every other day. I had to when I could only hold a plank for 30 secs. at the beginning, with (you can laugh if you want to), only 2 min. rest in between. Just don’t improve too fast, or you might hit another brick like me (I can’t go past 5 min. even after 2 yrs of practicing the plank).

  • kevin

    My Plank record is 8 mins straight….:)

  • Peter

    It was supposed to be rest Nite but instead I had to attempt pt 1. and pt 2. Never held for 5 minutes before thank you. Stumbled in pt. 1. The leg lift and arm threw me a curve ball. I just have to keep at it. Thanks again it wad fun.

  • Natalie

    Hi there! thanks so much for your video! i am embarking on ironman training so i need to strengthen my core! i will try to become a plank pro that makes the other people in the gym crowd around haha!

  • kevin

    Now the record is up to 11 mins…:) shaking and sweat dripping….

  • Richard

    Hi there I just want to say that weights does not have the same deep affect as this exercise not even close as you well know there are ways to cheat with weights but not this routine,I play a lot of squash and this routine is fantastic

  • Richard

    As I said before fantastic routine

  • madani

    Hi john

    Well, I found that doing a variety of planks is a good and fast

    alternative for the days where I don’t have much time for a full workout

    Now I am doing a variety of 22 plank positions for a 40 sec hold for

    each position totalling a 15 min ab workout and believe me it makes me

    sweat.

    Actually I train 6 days a week and rest on saturdays

    I usually wake up at 4.30 am do my max push up score, followed by 4 sets

    of 50 pushups, a little front stance stretching, take a shower and go to the mosque for prayer before breakfast and heading to work

    In the afternoon, I start training around 5.30 PM

    Sunday: Running 8 miles, neck rotate, arm rotate, a monster hug ( opening your arms widely and closing them in front of you at chest level like your huging a monster- I named it that way, hip rotate and leg stretching followed by pullups ( 5-4-4-5-5) and situps alternated with push ups
    Monday only situps and ushups
    Tuesday instead of running I do 40 min jumping jacks
    then the pullups situps and pushups
    Wednesday situps and pushups
    Thursday Running 8 miles and as sunday
    Friday as monday

    Next month I’ll be back training in the dojo for 2 days a week in Shotokan karaté ( monday and friday) on top of my regular training

    Hope This will keep y’all motivated

    Take care john

    best regards Mo MADANI

  • Gaz10000

    Pull your stomach in when doing the plank, I doubt many will be holding the times they proclaim by doing it the correct way!

  • Ken

    I have Spondylolisthesis (grade 3) and so I have added your plank exercises to my routine to strengthen my core muscles. I am not doing the total 5 minute routine yet since I have to work up to it. I’ll let you know if it helps. Thanks for the video.

  • As part of a 12 week AB challenge that starts tomorrow, I decided to give this one an early shot! Did great.. but boy were my arms shaking! :)

  • Maddy

    Haha I’m 13 and I can stay in plank position for 4 minutes and 37 seconds with good form. I’m definitely going to try this!

  • Greyson

    As of right now, I am not attempting to do 5 min. planks anymore. Last week, I found out that since I wasn’t sucking in my gut, and making sure my hands were directly under my shoulders to support them, I could only do 45 secs. without hurting my back. As much as I wanted to do 5 mins. it isn’t physically possible for me at the moment…

    If there are any new forms from this author, please let me know, and I will try my best to improve. (The planks have helped me maintain a PR, 2:32 min. on 9 miles of hills, and 4 miles of unstable territory).

  • Hiya John, just thought I would mention I have used this link page on my blog so my readers can cross reference and know what is a plank? I hope you don’t mind?

    I am running a planks January 1-31st challenge on my blog, FB and Instagram page so we are hash tagging all the different types of planks that can be done for beginners, medium and advanced peeps! I have also mentioned not to have a repeat of the plank rave a few years back. I am all about safety, building core strength and of course surfacing those arm and abs muscles :-)

    Let me know your thoughts and thanks for such a wonderful site!!! Xx Dani

  • Mason

    Hey John

    Great idea for the plank, love how you mix it up so much. I was just curious as to what your thoughts are on lower back problems and what the best exercises are to help that issue, I am a carpenter and only 21 years old and my lower back is already starting to give me grief.

    Any feedback would be a huge help.

    Thanks from Australia

  • Me

    ok, i’m going on 45 minutes, now. it’s hard to type!!! i’ll check in in the next hour or so. . .

    just kidding!!! i did it for 10 seconds and fell flat on my face. but i’m gonna start there and build up. . .

  • Adam

    Hi, I am currently into strength training, doing compound lifts for low repetitions at near max weights, and am trying to help strengthen my core to help with the lifts such as the deadlift and squat and, most importantly, protect against injury through stability and strength during said exercises.

    Besides the obvious impact the exercises themselves have on my core strength anyway, I have started doing some supplementary planks (just the front elbow planks and side planks for a minute each, back to back for a total of 9 minutes is what I currently do, twice a week (after the compound exercises).) Which would be the best planks or routines for building strength in the core for these purposes? For example, perhaps difficult planks for shorter periods? Or is building endurance good for conditioning the core to consistently engage throughout a lift?

    I currently wear a lifting belt when going towards my 5 rep max, but wish to build my own ‘belt’ also :) and it’s perhaps because of this belt that I feel I should be doing these supplementary routines anyway.

    Thank you for any help.

  • Bob

    Just read this blog last week and decided to see what I could do toward the 5 minute mark. Here are the results–Day one, 1minute 30seconds; day two, 2m30s;day three (today), 5m03s. I will reread the recommendations above and develop a program to expand my plank training. I am 74 years old and really enjoy fitness.

  • Michelle

    Hi John! Great routine, I’m excited to try it out. One question…When I do the FEPs my elbows feel like they’re getting the brunt of the work (pinching, abrasions even) no matter what surface I do them on. Any suggestions?
    Just found this site today and am already hooked on it!
    Thanks so much!
    Michelle

  • Joel

    Hello everybody,

    I have lower back pain and it can be Ischias. Thats why I want to train my core.
    My current situation: I can do 60 sec Front Plank and 30 sec Side Plank.
    But after that my muscles will hurt for 4 days and after one week I can do this again.
    I need your advice on how to train so that my core muscles will be stronger.
    I thought of 3 methodes:
    Methode 1: EVERY WEEK: 60 sec front plank and 30 sec side plank.
    Then if I am ready for it, after a month increase the duration by 10 sec front plank and 5 sec side plank.

    Methode 2: EVERY DAY: 20 sec FP and 10 sec SP
    When this is easy, I increase this by 10 sec and 5 sec.

    Methode 3: EVERY WEEK: the 60 sec routine like JOHN did above, but then 3 sec per exercise. When this is easy I increase every exercise by 1 sec.

    What methode do you think is best to strenghten my core? And why? I would really appreciate your help!

  • Elizabeth R. F.

    Hey John, this is SOOOO awesome! I love your 5 minute plank video. I have dealt with a herniated disc, and learned how to do a Plank in Physical Therapy.
    I was old school, i.e. run, do sit ups, and push ups, but suffered from poor posture at work, slouching at the computer, etc.
    Then i was on the floor with sciatic pain, pulled muscles in my back and a hernitated L5, S1 disc.
    I am doing well now, but cannot run. BUT I do my core exercises and LOVE the Plank. I am now up to 5 minutes, and want to do this routine that you have here. Thanks for the website. Elizabeth

  • John

    I want to share my experience with people who have lower backpain.

    I never had lower backpain until I started with fitness. I trained sit ups and even sit ups with weights and all the other exercises for you muscles.
    I got backpain, probably because my muscles where out of balance. My inner core (TVA) was to weak.

    Then I stopped with fitness and come acrose this site. I tried the planks, I builded it up until 1 minute, but I had a burned feeling for a week after this exercise. I felt it in my lowerback on the right side and in my butt on the right side. Even though I builded it up, everytime I got this painfull burning feeling in my lowerback and butt.
    Then I started doing push-ups and I didn’t felt this burning feeling, I just felt the usual musclepain. I quess this is because you don’t have a continious tension on your core muscles, I mean there is motion in it.

    Now I am doing the workout INSANITY and I am now at day 5 and have no burning feeling only the usual muclespain. It is heavy but you will do very different exercises and there are in motion. I think that is the important factor here, motion. I just started insanity because I had no endurance but for the people with lowerback pain, you don’t need to do insanity.

    If planks gives a burning on your lowerback and butt then first do push-ups. Maybe this is hard because you need strenght in your arms as well but for your lowerback it is easier. You need to do a lot of push ups to make sure your core is strong enough for the plank for not getting this burning feeling. If you can do a maximum of 100 push ups without pause then your core is really strong enough for the planks. Then you can do a plank for 60 seconds and will not have this burning feeling after this exercise.

    I will do insanity for 18 days and then I will test how much push ups I can and will see if I can do a plank for 60 seconds without this buring feeling! I keep you posted! Good Luck everyone!

  • Wow, that’s hardcore. I couldn’t even sit still that long. I had to fast forward. I noticed you were at quite a slanted angle. Is there a reason for that? Additionally, please explain TOPP.
    Thanks!

  • Larry

    Planks are great for injury prevention I find, in sports and training.
    Notice you didn’t do the reverse plank, laying on your back and lifting
    yourself up by your arms under your shoulders. Can do that on palms or
    elbows, and with legs extended or bent (like a coffee table).

    Also difficult a form of plank is a back bridge, starting with
    a shoulder bridge and working up to a full back bridge. Need good
    thoracic and shoulder flexibility for that and working towards it will help.
    I got myself up off the ground for the first time ever.

    Somewhat interesting also is the planche – a leaning forward plank with your palms near your bellybutton to hips.

    In short, I would personally encourage readers to explore a wide variety
    of planks that will have wider beneficial effects than focusing on max times
    of typical types.

  • Gary

    After a month of preparation, I can finally hold a stationary plank for more than 15 minutes! :)

  • Mick

    Hi John,
    Just found you page and the workout. I have been doing Ab training for a month now with a variety of Ab exercises form crunch, pike, hanging leg raise, sprinter position(TOPP knees to elbows,jack knife, elbows to knees(lying on back)also staning position and planking as I knew it. Your video and key points to setting up a plank have most helpfulland I hav actually found it easier. I can do a 5 min plank no problems, now that I have some form I will be attempting a 30 min plank as a fund raising challenge before I head off on a Greenpeace campaign to the Amazon. Thanks again.
    Mick

  • Ken

    I started these plank exercises in Nov 2012 and then I went with the lumbar fusion surgery (L5-S1) in December of 2012 (due to grade 3 Spondy and DDD). The surgery and recovery went very well in part because I prepared by doing these exercises in addition to my other physical therapy routines. It is now Sep 2013 and aside from some minor stiffness or soreness after a good workout I feel much better than before the surgery. I can now do the plank exercises for over 5 minutes and will continue to do so to keep my core muscles strong. You deserve a big “thank you” for this!

  • Patrick

    Hi John great info.
    I am trying to find a concrete answer to my question of “How often can I train my core”. I am primarily intersted in strengthening my core, not so much for the six pack look.
    I would also like to include Olympic lifts/squats three a week, I know this strengthens the core also and I don’t want to overtrain.
    Thanks.

    • John

      Hi Patrick,

      Some coaches swear by one or two core training sessions per week, and others will say that you can train it several times per week. There’s really no cut and dry answer. It just depends on a lot of different factors – tons actually.

      My advice: add 1 additional core workout to your weekly schedule and see how it coincides with your existing workouts and affects your training plan as a whole – your results, and recovery, etc.. If everything is a-ok for a couple weeks, then go from there (maybe add another one).

  • CORTEZ

    MY FRIEND! MY FRIEND! (MR,JOHN)LET MEH TELL YA SIR!PLANK EXERCISES ARE THE BEST THING SENCE SLICE BREAD!

  • Ivan

    Hi John, we are holding a 30-day plank challenge between the offices of my company. It started light, with only 30-second plank on the first day, and is supposed to grow to 270-second on day 29. The day 30 will be the ultimate test.

    It’s day 12 today and I did 320 seconds (that was my max) and want to be on top when the day 30 comes. I’m going to try your routine over the weekend. Do you recommend shorter workouts more often or longest workouts possible every few days?

    • John

      That’s awesome, Ivan!

      Both methods work, and it all really hinges on what works best for YOU and your schedule. But that said, for short-term strength and conditioning goals, more frequent training tends to be more effective. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And if it’s only a couple more weeks, then I say to train as frequently as you can fully and safely recover from. With a simple exercise like the plank, that might be daily or near-daily, or 3-4x/week, etc. It all depends on how hard you work and how fast you recover, among other things.

      I hope that helps a little. Keep up the good work!

  • Janice Smith

    Hey, Ivan. I am one of John’s diciples on the plank-sequence and an oldster at 61. You can do his plank-sequences, long or short times, every day of the week. You’ll simply get stronger FAST. When you don’t do them you get weaker FAST. Since he came out with them…when was that John? Two years ago? My workout partner and I do them every week and sometimes daily. Our longest was 45 minutes which I’m hoping to break next year. Have fun!

  • We do these all the time…even most beginners do 5 minutes. Don’t be too soft on yourself.

    Also you will improve ability to punch if you will stand on your fists and not your palms.

    Want to spice it up? Hold plank. Relax. Inhale. Hold breath. Do one pushup. Breathe hold plank and revover. Inhale. Hold breath. Do two pushups. Repeat up to 10. Use the plank and breath for recovery.

    This will greatly improve ability to give and take a punch.

  • Steve

    I did a plank challenge at work today. I did a full 7 minutes and 2 seconds! Have been training with P90X2 for 5 weeks. The first 5 weeks involves much focus on core and stability with plank like exercises. Highly recommend it. I’m 51.

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