We finally have some ammunition next time a trainer tells us to hold one of those never ending, soul destroying planks – they might not be that good for us after all.
Stuart McGill, professor of spine biometrics at the University of Waterloo, told the Telegraph that holding the plank position for more than 10 second intervals is pointless.
A plank involves resting your weight on your forearms, directly beneath your shoulders, with your body forming a straight line from your head to your feet. When it’s done properly, the position is said to be the ultimate stomach sculptor and how long you can hold it has been long been a marker of strength and endurance.
“There’s no utility to this kind of activity other than claiming a record,” McGill claims. “Basically holding repeated holds of 10 seconds is best for the average person. But for people looking for better back health they should be doing the Big 3 everyday.”
The Big 3 features curl ups, side-plank and bird dog moves, which McGill says increases the endurance of the muscles around your spine.
However, we shouldn’t be writing off the exercise immediately.
Strength coach and Men’s Health contributor Dan John says two minutes is the bench mark your should be aiming for but beyond that there’s no benefit.
“Enough is enough,” he says. “It’s just a plank. More is not better.”
Accredited strength and condition coach Bradley Tinklin told Women’s Health that it’s more about form than fortitude.
“You should hold a plank longer than 10 seconds if you can, but you also can’t get caught up in holding it for two or three minutes if you’re arching your lower back most of that time,” Bradley says.
“The plank needs to feel right. You should feel a lot of tension through your mid-section – squeeze your glutes, abs and lats – and feel everything down the front of your body light up. So don’t focus on time; it’s more important to focus on how it feels.”
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