You know how to hold a plank, but are you holding it long enough to make a difference? Luckily, it's probably not as long as you'd expect!
To fire up your core, glutes and hamstrings best, you can plank everyday using an increment of time anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute, Albert Matheny, R.D., tells Women's Health.
This variation depends on your fitness level, as the real key to holding a plank that counts comes down to your form. "Keeping perfect form is goal — only do it as long as you can keep this," Matheny says.
Another professional, certified personal trainer Doug Sklar, echoes this advice with a bit more detail. He says you should aim to perform three sets of planks up to 60 seconds, though you should start with a goal that's appropriate for your fitness level. "It's OK to start with shorter sets and work up to 60 seconds," Sklar told Women's Health.
If holding a plank for one full minute isn't your speed, Sklar says you can still reap the benefits by engaging in short spurts of plank work that compound to a full session. For this, try holding a 10-second plank, then resting for about 5 seconds, then planking again. After six rounds, you've held a one minute plank!
"You receive very similar strengthening benefits because you are engaging your muscles for the same amount of total time as if you just held the plank for 30 to 60 seconds without stopping," he says.
So as not to sacrifice your form and risk injury, try not to hold a single plank longer than 60 seconds. If you need to up the difficulty, try contracting your abs or squeezing your glutes throughout the exercise, or give these plank variations a whirl.
As you work your way up to a full minute of planking, be careful to not to push your body to the point where you're sacrificing your technique.
"Forcing yourself to hold a plank for an excessive amount of time can put a lot of strain on your lower back," Sklar says. "As fatigue sets in, the lower back may start to arch. This is where you put yourself at risk for injury."
When you feel that arch, lower down for a short rest, then try again with corrected form.
Both professionals agree that one minute is one minute, no matter how it's accomplished. They also agree that the one minute you spend holding that pushup position will lead to some serious total-body results.