How to Instantly Tell if Your Planks are Lame or Legit

We're not impressed by your five-minute Plank.

Tell Dr. Matt Stevens you can hold a Plank longer than say, 30 seconds, and you'll likely wind up with a challenge.

The Perfect Plank Challenge.

"We often get a lot of clients who come into the office and they tell me they can do a Plank for five minutes plus," says Stevens, a physical therapist and co-owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio).

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Tell Dr. Matt Stevens you can hold a Plank longer than say, 30 seconds, and you'll likely wind up with a challenge.

The Perfect Plank Challenge.

"We often get a lot of clients who come into the office and they tell me they can do a Plank for five minutes plus," says Stevens, a physical therapist and co-owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio).

"So, what I do is I challenge them to do a Perfect Plank, or what we call a Perfect Plank."

The Perfect Plank may be framed as a challenge, but Stevens' intent is really to help people experience what a Plank is actually supposed to feel like. Many people utilize sloppy, weak Planks that make it rather easy to endure a one, two or even five-minute hold. If your shoulders seem to be fatiguing before your core muscles, it's a sure sign your Plank is lame. 

In this video, Stevens outlines how to perform the Perfect Plank Challenge:

The Perfect Plank Challenge

  • Assume a Plank position with your elbows on the ground
  • Tuck your tailbone slightly underneath yourself. You can often naturally achieve this by thinking about "lengthening" your lower back
  • Create a contraction by pulling your elbows toward your feet and your feet towards your elbows. Imagine "scrunching" up the ground beneath you
  • Breathe as you hold that position/contraction

Most people do not Plank like this—mainly because they've been indoctrinated to believe that if you can't hold a Plank for 60 seconds or longer, then you're a weakling. A "Perfect Plank" contraction makes that all but impossible.

"I ask them if they can hold that position for five minutes. Generally, they break within about 5-10 seconds," says Stevens.

If you want to begin building real core strength and actually getting something out of your Planks, you should start performing them in intense bursts lasting roughly 10 seconds. Then stop, take a few breaths, and perform another 10-second contraction. 

Again, if it feels like you can hold it much longer than that, you're probably not doing it correctly.

"When people do Planks, they often let their hips sag a little bit, they get a lot of pressure in their low back, they're just hanging on ligaments and tendons. And that position is very passive. And we want that Plank to be very, very active," Steven says.

"Work to hold it for 10 seconds, then work up to 10 rounds of 10 seconds in that Perfect Plank position."

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Topics: PLANK | CORE EXERCISES | CORE TRAINING