Is Holding a Plank For Longer Than 10 Seconds Useless? 

Struggling to hold a plank? Here’s a quick solution - just don’t do it, and now we have research to back that.

4 min read

It doesn’t matter what level you’re at in your fitness game. As long as as you have had even the slightest tryst with physical exercise, you would know that the struggle of holding a plank is very real. And if you can’t hold a plank for longer than a few seconds, here’s a quick solution.

Don’t hold it. No, I did not mistype it. Just don’t hold the plank at all beyond ten seconds. It’s not doing you any good any way, or so a new research would have us believe.

Now, many who swear by the plank for strengthening the core and the back, have maintained that once you reach a benchmark, say three minutes or five minutes, the next step should not be increasing the duration of the plank.

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Instead make it more intense by adding weights. Place them on your back and continue holding the plank for as long as you can. This has been a widely accepted belief about planks.

But ten seconds! Ten seconds?! Fitness enthusiasts were sent into a flutter when the research suggested that anything beyond this duration is pretty much futile.

Stuart McGill of University of Waterloo, Canada, advised holding planks only for short periods of time, according to The Telegraph. The key here is repetition, he added, as opposed to holding a plank for several minutes.

There’s no utility to this kind of activity other than claiming a record. Basically holding repeated holds of ten seconds is best for the average person... My conclusions come from many studies that we have performed, not just a single one.  
Professor Stuart McGill, University of Waterloo

For those who are more concerned about strengthening the back, the professor suggested what he calls the “Big 3”. It’s a combination of three exercises, namely, curl ups, side planks and bird dogs.

Struggling to hold a plank? Here’s a quick solution - just don’t do it, and now we have research to back that.
“Big 3” is a combination of three exercises, namely, curl ups, side-plank and bird dog.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

However, he warned that people should go easy on back exercises first thing in the morning.

Your discs are hydrophilic, which means and they love water, they suck up fluids, so when you go to bed at night you’re actually shorter than when you wake up in the morning... in the morning, your spinal discs are much more inflated, they don’t like to bend and actually it has three times the stress...They would be much wiser just to wait an hour, go for a walk, and let gravity squeeze out some of the water.
Professor Sturart McGill, University of Waterloo

Experts Give Thumbs Down to Planks

Several fitness experts, however, have maintained for a while that planks are not as efficient an exercise as we make them out to be.

Ash Boddy, a holistic fitness fitness expert with over 13 years of experience, reiterates that holding a plank is a “sadomasochistic” move with hardly any benefits for the body. It simply reinforces the incorrect idea of intentionally putting yourself through pain during exercise to achieve results, he says.

During the process of trying to hold planks for longer periods of time, the form often suffers. This, in turn, gives rise to the possibility of injury and other long-term problems. As an exercise, a plank is not dynamic enough, writes Boddy.

Speaking with FIT, holistic fitness expert, Vesna Jacob reiterates the importance of dynamism in exercise. Jacob, who is a physiotherapist and movement expert, says that she has never included planks in her fitness regime.

I know it’s a trend, but planks don’t make sense to me. It is important to transfer energy from your upper to your lower body, and vice versa, for core strengthening. The movements have to be dynamic, that’s how the core works. This is the ideal state according to the science of bodily movements.
Vesna Jacob, Holistic Fitness Expert

So, your answer does not lie in holding this pose for long periods of time.

But Doesn’t Yoga Operate on a Similar Logic?

However, holding poses for long periods of time, has been often associated with bodily strength. Why should only planks be called out? Several Yoga asanas operate on the same principle.

Struggling to hold a plank? Here’s a quick solution - just don’t do it, and now we have research to back that.
“Yoga is used to achieve a specific mental state and the body movements are simply used to reach it.”
(Photo: iStockphoto)

The aim of Yoga, points out Jacob, is quite different from other forms of exercises.

Yoga is used to achieve a specific mental state and the body movements are simply used to reach it. This movement is only one limb of the the entire exercise. Yoga stretches are also very dynamic in nature.
Vesna Jacob, Holistic Fitness Expert

Maybe it is indeed time to say goodbye to all that plank-huffing and puffing. Do you agree with these findings? Or have planks worked wonders for you? Do let us know in the comments section.

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