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Perfecting the Plank

By Tanya Davies

Have you ever been at the gym performing an exercise and wondered, ‘How will this help my body in my day-to-day activities?’ If you answered “yes,” you probably weren’t performing a functional exercise at the time. Functional exercises help your body perform real-life activities – and the plank is one key exercise.

Okay, we’ll get this out of the way up top: planks scare people. Holding yourself horizontally to the ground looks hard. However, once you know how to do one, you will realize what a perfect exercise the plank is. Planks are a safe way to strengthen your core, as there is no flexion in spine. A strong core can help you perform activities such as reaching up to grab a plate from the cupboard or swinging a tennis racket without being injured.

Planks also help strengthen your trunk and whole upper body, which includes the pelvis, hips and shoulders. Having upper body strength will help you with everyday activities, such as lifting grocery bags, garbage bins and children. Other benefits include improved coordination, endurance, posture and, what most of us want, a toned midsection.  

Basically, a plank helps you can build muscle strength and endurance without moving a muscle. Have we converted you yet? 

Which muscles?

Planks strengthen your: 

  • Gluteus Maximus 

  • Quadriceps 

  • Upper back: trapezius and rhomboid

  • Chest: pectorals and serratus anterior

  • Calves

  • Abdominal muscle group

Ready to try a plank?

We asked Jason White, a Toronto-based Certified Athletic Therapist at Physiohealth Studios and Jason White Therapy, to explain how to do a proper plank.

“The hardest part about a plank is committing and holding still until the end,” says Jason. “Start with small intervals if you are a beginner, then slowly increase the duration of the plank” Jason adds that while the 2019 Guinness World Record for a plank time is 8 hours and 1 minute (male) and 4 hours 19 minutes and 55 seconds (female), “smaller intervals have showed to create more benefits.”  

To perform properly:

1) Start by lying face down on the floor. 

2) Push your body up, keeping your body straight and horizontal to the floor.

3) Your hands should be shoulder-width apart on the floor, directly under your shoulders with your arms straight. 

4) Balance your weight equally on your hands and toes, with your feet parallel to each other and about hip-width apart. 

TIP: The wider your feet are the more stable the plank.

TIP: Engage your core by trying to squeeze your belly button to your spine. 

5) Avoid arching your back and keep your butt down. Keep straight and stable and you neck in a neutral position.

TIP: Remember to breathe. 

6) Hold the plank for your desired time, and then slowly lower your body to the floor to rest before repeating.

TIP: You can also have your forearms resting on the floor during a plank if you want to take the pressure off your wrists.

Beginners: hold the plank for 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off and repeat for 3-5 sets.

Intermediate: hold the plank for 20-30seconds on, 10 seconds off and repeat 3-5sets

Advanced: hold the plank for 60 seconds on, 10-20seconds off and repeat 3-5set.

Want to make it easier?

Keep your knees on the floor while holding the plank. 

Want a challenge?

Plank with Shoulder touches: While in a plank position, reach your right hand to touch your left shoulder. Put it back down and repeat with left hand tapping right shoulder. Try to keep your torso and hips still during the movements.

Single Leg Plank: Start in plank position. Lift one leg up behind you, keeping your body flat and both the extended and supporting legs straight. Repeat on the other side. 

Stability Ball Plank: Start in the plank position with your forearms and elbows on a stability ball and feet on the ground. Hold the plank while trying to remain stable on the ball.

Contributing Athletic Therapist
Jason White


As a former competitive swimmer, Jason White experienced his share of injuries and treatment. His desire to help others overcome injuries and resume healthy lifestyles led him to becoming an Athletic Therapist and RMT, and is the focus of his current private practice.