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Do planking exercises really work?

Planking is a popular core strengthening exercise that has caught on with both fitness enthusiasts and newcomers to the gym.  But before you restructure your entire workout routine, does planking really work? And what is the best way to do it?

Inbar Naor-Maxwell, ACSM, EP-C, EIM2, an exercise physiologist at the Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center, weighs in.

“Planking is a very good exercise for the core because it targets your abdominal muscles and your back muscles,” says Naor-Maxwell. “Building a strong core is one of the most important things you can do for your body, as strong core muscles help you maintain good posture, reduce lower back pain and improve your balance.”

How do you perform a plank?

“A plank is an isometric exercise,” Naor-Maxwell says. “So we don't see any change in the joint angle or any change in the muscle length. You are just holding the same position the whole time.”

The traditional plank is performed by:

  • Placing your elbows beneath your shoulders with your legs extended.
  • Push your body up to the top of a pushup position, making sure your hips are aligned with your upper and lower body, like a table top.
  • Contract your abs and squeeze your glutes.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Drop your knees to the floor for a brief rest. Repeat for three sets.

“Planking for 30 seconds is perfect for beginners,” says Naor-Maxwell. “If you have been planking for a long time and are trying to achieve endurance, try to hold your plank for 60 seconds. You can also try different plank variations, like a side plank or a knee plank, to challenge yourself.”

How often should you do planks?

“You should try to incorporate core exercises into your workout routine at least three times a week,” Naor-Maxwell says. “It doesn’t have to be planks, but anything that engages your core. The neat thing about planking is it targets a few more muscle groups than just your core. It also targets your shoulders, upper back, legs and glutes.”

Add a few upper and lower body exercises to your workout. Eat a healthy diet, and you’re on your way to becoming physically fit.

Check out additional workout routines and fitness advice. 

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