- The plank is great for strengthening your core and sculpting your abs.
- But personal trainer Max Lowery says it’s the exercise he most often sees done incorrectly.
- He has a technique for holding the plank position that will make your workout more effective – and you have to hold it for just 30 seconds.
The plank – holding yourself on your hands and toes as if you’re about to do a pushup – is one of the most effective body-weight exercises for strengthening the core, not to mention a great way to sculpt abs. It’s so good for the body there are now workouts based around that movement, including the plank challenge.
The challenge is to spend time in plank position each day for 30 days, building up your stamina to hold the position for longer and longer, with the goal being a hold of two or three minutes.
He says it’s not so much about the length of time you spend holding the position but activating the right muscle sets while doing it. If you make one subtle change to your plank, you’ll have to hold it for only half a minute at a time.
“You’ll often see people hold a plank for seven minutes,” he said. “But I personally can’t think of anything more boring, and I usually just hold it for about 30 seconds.”
Lowery has a knack for making your plank doubly more effective in half the time. “It’s a very simple technique that can radicalise the way you train and increase the effectiveness of every exercise,” he said.
Here’s how to do a perfect plank
First, Lowery said that there’s nothing wrong with how most people hold the plank in principle, as below.
As long as your back isn’t sagging like this:
But when you hold a plank in the classic way (as shown below), he says, “You’re not really going to feel it in your abdominal region where you really want to feel it. Most of the stress is on your joints, not on your muscles.”
Instead: “Contract your abs as hard as you can, by that I mean tense as if someone’s going to punch you in the stomach,” Lowery said. “Then drive your abs down, push your elbows back, tilt your hips, and squeeze your glutes.”
Just like this:
“I’m feeling it a lot more like this,” he said.
And the good news is you then have to hold it for just 30 seconds.
You can watch the video of him doing his perfect plank here:
Lowery added that while the example he used was a plank, you could apply this to many other exercises, including squats.
“It comes back to that mind-body connection,” he said. “Once you bring 100% attention to tensing those muscles, that’s when the strength, physique, and fitness levels are going to completely transform.
“If you understand that your nervous system controls your muscles, initially there might be a problem with the communication between the two, but the more you train the nervous system to stimulate those muscle fibres then you’ll really start to feel the burn.”