Weight loss is important as it helps prevent certain health conditions like diabetes and various heart conditions. This is one of the reasons why people who are overweight are advised to lose weight. There are different ways to do so, and these methods are affected by factors like age, current weight, gender, genes, amount of sleep, stress levels of the person, and others. Two of the most recommended ways of losing weight are cutting on calories and working out. Different exercises can help with weight loss, and that is why we shall look at planking for weight loss in this read.
What Is A Plank?
A plank is an exercise that works to help strengthen the core by working the transversus abdominis muscle. This muscle is responsible for supporting and stabilizing the torso during isometric contractions. A plank is also said to be a workout that helps strengthen the core in general and the abdomen area. Since the main purpose of a plank is to strengthen your core, it is therefore responsible for improving your posture, which helps reduce back-related injuries and lower back pains.
The plank is known for working the muscles around the core area, but those are not the only muscles it works on, as it targets most major muscles too, including various leg muscles and hand muscles. Planks are pretty famous as most workout plans have to involve either the traditional plank or its variation. Variations of the plank are usually for people who have mastered the art of doing the basic plank, and they feel like they need to make the plank a little bit challenging for themselves.
Planks are also famous for the fact that they provide substantial results for a short period. It belongs to the strength training group of workouts because they help build strength, and this means they do not burn a lot of calories, but that does not mean they don’t help in weight loss as you will see how they aid in weight loss in later parts of this read.
How To Do A Plank?
It is important to know how to do a plank properly because this enables you to enjoy all the benefits associated with this exercise. Just like any other exercise, maintaining the right form while doing a plank is very important as it prevents various injuries that might be associated with doing it wrong. With that said, here is how you do a plank (2):
- You start by kneeling on your yoga mat or whatever you are using to prevent your elbows from getting injured.
- The next step is to place your elbows on the mat.
- Then with your legs hip-width apart, extend your right leg back and then your left leg.
- While doing all this, make sure to keep your neck, back, and hips in the same line and your core engaged.
- Hold this pose for at least 10 seconds.
- You should do 3 sets of 10 to 30 seconds hold.
Common Mistakes Done When Doing A Plank
There are mistakes that most beginners make when doing planks. This is bad as it increases their risks of getting injuries. Here are some of these mistakes:
Collapsing Your Lower Back
You find most people risk getting back pains while doing planks by dipping their butts. This removes the torso from the flat position it should be in, putting a strain on your spinal cord and increasing the risk of back pains. To prevent this from happening and to help you to maintain the right body positions while doing a plank, you can ask a colleague or a person at the gym to place a stick on your back. At all times, make sure the top of the stick is touching your head and the bottom rests between your buttocks. It should also make contact right between your shoulder blades for proper alignment.
Tilting Your Head Up
When you are doing a plank, your neck, back, and hips should be in a straight line (3). Your neck should not be tilted up, as this could strain your neck, which is something you don’t want.
Planking For Weight Loss: Moving Your Butt Upwards
Your butt shouldn’t be in a position higher than the back or a position similar to the downward dog when doing planks (4). This prevents the body from engaging the core as it should during the plank. The aim is to keep your back and your butt flat enough so that your abs are engaged. While doing this, make sure you don’t dip your butt too much either.
Letting Your Head Drop
This is more common to happen. This usually happens when the person starts to check the rest of the other body parts, like the stomach, while doing the plank. While they may be checking to see if the other body parts are in the right position, they may forget to return their head to the needed position, resulting in a poor form of doing the exercise (4).
Sagging Your Hips
Your hips usually start sinking when your abs have gotten tired, and this should be a clear sign that it is time to end your plank. If you notice your hips are sinking right from the start of the exercise, try to separate your feet a bit wider and focus on engaging your abs (3).
Planking For Weight Loss: Not Breathing
As humans, we hold our breaths while we are in a strenuous position, which is not advisable, especially while doing a plank. This restricts the amount of oxygen getting into your body, and this can cause nausea or dizziness (4).
Focusing Too Much On Your Stopwatch
This can be your stopwatch or whatever instrument you are using to measure the time you spend on the plank. You need to know when to stop as doing a plank for long in a bad form does not really help, and that is just tiring yourself for no reason (4).
Arching Your Back
When you are doing a plank and arching your back at the same time, you are not engaging your abdominal muscles as you should. Instead, you are putting more weight on your hands. To prevent this from happening, always make sure your shoulders are wide and down (3).
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How Long Should You Hold A Plank For Weight Loss?
It goes without saying that the longer you hold the plank, the more calories you burn. The question is, can you really hold a plank for that long while maintaining the right form? The plank is not the easiest of exercises, and just like any other exercise, you get better at it the more you do it.
According to experts, the length of time you can hold a plank can vary from 10 seconds to 60 seconds (5). Well, it’s hard for a beginner who started planking today to hold a plank for 60 seconds, and that’s why if you are new to the exercise, you are advised to start with shorter reps as you work yourself up the ladder. Short plank holds are also an effective workout, and you should not think that the only way you can get the most out of a plank is by doing it for a long time.
Planking For Weight Loss
If you are a beginner, start by holding a plank for 10 seconds, and rest for about 5 to 10 seconds, then do another plank for another 10 seconds. Repeat this for 3 to 6 sets (5). By doing this, you can receive the same strength benefits you would have gotten for holding the plank for 30 seconds or 60 seconds continuously as you are still working your muscles for the same amount of total time (5). If you are a pro and 60 minutes just doesn’t do it for you anymore, you can increase the difficulty of doing the plank by contracting your abs more, squeezing your glutes more, and squeezing your quads more. You can also try different variations of the plank that are a bit harder and more intense.
When holding a plank, it is always important to listen to your body, even if you plan to hold it for a long time. Your body will tell you when to stop. If you try to hold a plank longer than you actually can, you put yourself at risk of getting injured. The more tired you get, the more your back starts to arch, which increases your chances of getting injured while doing the exercise or may cause lower back pains.
Who Should Not Do A Plank?
Although a plank is recommended for all people, certain groups of people shouldn’t attempt it. These people are:
People With Shoulder Injuries (2)
The plank engages your shoulders too much. If you have a shoulder injury, doing a plank would only make the situation worse.
People Who Feel Pain On Their Shoulders After The Exercise (2)
Planks should make you feel a lot of things, but the pain in the shoulders is not a good sign. If you feel pain on the shoulders after doing a plank, you should consult an expert before you do the exercise again.
Pregnant Women (2)
Expectant mothers are usually advised to exercise, but planks are not one of those that they should be doing. First and foremost, the plank position does not give the mother enough room to actually perform the exercise. Secondly, doing the workout might cause the mother to fall, which might cause injuries and even worse things; hence, if you are an expectant mother, you should steer clear planks.
People Who Have Been Told By An Expert Not To Do Them
If an expert tells you not to do a plank, then you should listen to them as they have a reason as to why they are telling you that.
People Who Don’t Know The Right Form Of Doing A Plank
If you don’t know how to do a plank correctly, you shouldn’t be doing the plank, to begin with, as this increases the chances of you getting injured.
Planking And Weight Loss
As mentioned earlier, planking is a strength training exercise, and thus it does not burn as many calories as exercises belonging to cardiovascular exercises such as jump rope do. This does, however, not mean that planks cannot help you lose weight. Although they don’t burn as many calories as cardiovascular exercises, they burn some calories, which does help with weight loss. If you are 150 pounds and do a plank for one minute, you will likely burn approximately 3 calories (3).
Another way planks help with weight loss is by building strength. Although planks are not good at burning calories, they are actually good when it comes to building muscles, which goes a long way in helping burn calories. Muscles have a high resting metabolism compared to fat mass. This means they burn more calories at rest compared to fat. This helps a person burn calories and thus leads to weight loss. Therefore, we can say planks help with weight loss by building muscles.
Benefits Of Planking
Apart from helping with weight loss, planks have other benefits they offer. Here are some of these benefits:
Planks Help Build Strength – Planking For Weight Loss
Planks are part of strength training exercises and thus help build strength and muscles. Being strong is helpful in many ways. Being strong makes everyday activities like carrying groceries from the car to the house easy.
Planks Are A Full-Body Workout
Despite the belief that planks mostly work out the core muscles, the planks actually engage muscles all over the body, from the neck all the way to the legs. When done properly, planks work your glutes, quads, triceps, lats, biceps, etc.
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Planks Work And Improve Your Core’s Performance
Planks are an effective exercise when it comes to working the core because they engage all of its muscles. These are muscles like the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, oblique muscles, and glutes (1). Having a strong core helps in so many ways. A strong core helps with movements as all the various limbs’ movements originate from the core. A strong core also helps stabilize, balance, and power the body during the various activities you do during the day (3). This helps prevent fall injuries. A strong core also makes everyday activities like sitting on the desk all day, putting on your shoes, or standing become easier.
Planks Help Reduce The Risk Of Back And Spinal Column Injuries
Planks help you build muscle all over the body while also making sure you don’t put a lot of pressure on your spine and back (1). Planking regularly helps build back muscles, and these muscles form a strong support for your entire back. This also helps prevent back pains.
Planks Help Improve Your Posture – Planking For Weight Loss
Nobody wants to have a bad posture. Planks, by making the core strong, help improve your posture (1). A good posture helps keep both your joints and bones in the correct alignment, and this helps both of them to be better maintained and healthy. It also helps prevent backaches and pains and makes a person look better and feel more confident.
Planks Help Improve Your Flexibility
The form you hold while doing planks helps with stretching all your posterior muscle groups and this helps improve your flexibility (1). When you are flexible, you perform better when it comes to physical activities, you are less prone to injuries, and you have a good posture.
The Bottom Line
Planking for weight loss requires you to build muscles so you can increase your resting metabolism, and hence promote weight loss. Planks are not cardiovascular exercises, which is why they do not burn so many calories. While doing a plank, it is always important to remember to hold the correct form. Doing this exercise in the wrong form can cause injuries very easily. Do not try to hold a plank for longer if you can’t, as you are likely to compromise on your form. Short plank holds have the same benefits as long plank holds. Do what you can and go on adding the number of seconds you can hold a plank when you get used to the exercise. If you have any existing shoulder injuries or an expert has instructed you not to do planks, you should not attempt to do them.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day (2021, lifehack.org)
- Benefits of Doing the Plank Exercise Everyday (2020, medlife.com)
- How to Do a Plank (2020, verywellfit.com)
- How to Do the Perfect Plank (2014, greatist.com)
- This Is How Long You Really Need To Hold A Plank To See Results (2017, womenshealthmag.com)