“There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself.” — Kushandwizdom
One of the first things I asked my hip surgeon at my follow up appointment was, “Is it OK if I do a plank?” He looked at me like I had three heads (and later said I was his first patient who asked about doing planks), but then gave me the OK — if I started out slow (15 seconds), and then gradually added to my hold time. This was exciting news! Besides handstands, planks are one of my favorite things to practice. Nine weeks post-surgery, I’m now planking for five minutes.
This didn’t happen overnight. I worked up to it, adding on 15 seconds every day. I even hit a wall at 2:30 and started questioning why, the heck, I was doing planks. But with determination, I rose to the challenge, pushed past 2:30, and never looked back. Several weeks later, five minute planks are still challenging for me — but in a good way. By the time the stopwatch hits 4:45, my arms are a little shaky, I’m breathing heavier, and I’m talking to myself saying things like, “You got this. Keep going. You can do anything for 15 seconds.”
Keep in mind that five minutes is not a requirement for planking. Maybe you make it your goal to hold plank 30 seconds or a minute. Or maybe you’re still wondering why you should do a plank in the first place? Planks are one of the best exercises you can do for yourself. It builds upper body strength, improves your posture, and works all four muscle groups in the abdomen. In fact, planks — when done properly — are better at strengthening your abs than dumb old crunches. Still not convinced? Planks increase muscle definition in your chest, legs, and back. They boost your metabolism, improve bone health, and balance and boost your mood while relieving stress. And as you increase your time, and get stronger with your planks, you’ll start feeling like a badass, and may even find ways to work “I held plank for a minute today,” into casual conversations.
Lest you think you’re too old to take up planking, consider Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who, at the age of 87, reportedly holds plank 30 seconds every day. And how about 74-year-old Cher who is said to hold plank for five minutes. And then there’s George Hood, who at the ripe old age of 62, set a world record by holding plank for eight hours. Yikes! That sounds a little cuckoo to me, but for George, who completed Marine Corps officer training in his 20’s, it was probably just rising to yet another challenge.
I personally don’t have aspirations of holding plank for hours on end, but I do occasionally go a few seconds over five minutes — mainly because I like the challenge of improving myself.
How to plank. Holding plank for a short amount of time with good form is more important than a long hold with sloppy posture. Whether you’re on your hands or forearms, actively press into the floor, separate your shoulders, and pull your naval in as tight as you can like you’re trying to pull it through your spinal cord. Lift your knees, press your heels back, and look just past your fingers. Hold it as long as you can and then make yourself hold it a few seconds longer — even if your arms shake. If it hurts your lower back, you probably need to engage your core just a little bit more. Then tomorrow, or next week, challenge yourself to hold it longer.
Questions about plank? Feel free to email me and let me know your plank story!
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