Better and Bolder: Hold It

fierce close up

This is kind of a fun idea in part because it’s something that can be done in so little time and yet yields such good results. It’s a 30 day plank challenge. Every day, hold plank. 

The first day, hold for thirty seconds. Every third day, add 15 - 30 seconds until by the 30th day, your hold is 5 minutes. This article includes tips for posture as well as a chart showing the increments to increase. 

Plank is excellent for building core strength, both front and back, which means abdominals and back muscles get stronger. It’s less about the shoulders and arms than it is about the core, which is why it’s important to tighten your butt and abdominals just a bit. Don’t hold your breath or squeeze your muscles, just lightly contract the muscles to help you keep straight (which means your butt isn’t up in the air or sagging close to the ground). Know where your tail bone and pubic bone are. Concentrate on elongation.

Do you need to get all the way up to 5 minutes? Probably not. While the core muscles are considered to be endurance muscles (they keep us upright and twisting all day), we aren’t static for that long in our daily lives. You may prefer to build up to one or two minutes and then begin playing with variations. Here’s an article that shows a few dynamic ones. Remember to go for form and not speed. 

This Wiki article with pictures explains the points to remember for form. 

Below are some video suggestions. 

This one features guys with great British accents -- really, it enhances the experience quite a bit! The first few variations are very helpful for those who find they cannot hold plank with the best form yet for any amount of time. It is much better to be in a position that’s safe and effective rather than straining to maintain a position that’s too difficult. For instance, I don’t do the variation with one leg and one opposing arm off the ground. I can do it, but I strain to do it and that can set me up for an injury. So I bring it down a notch, bringing up just one leg or one arm. The variations that the Wiz guys show includes resting on the knees, another way to create stability. The same principle applies - start with 15 seconds and over the month build up the time spent in that position. We’ve got months and months ahead of us. You can start with one variation and the next month move to another. 

This clip shows plank as a position in yoga, so she has very specific tips about how we extend through our bodies and exactly where we place the weight in our feet. She’s fun, and the clip is helpful and brief. 

This one is slightly odd and I love it for being odd. It’s brief and clear, too.

If you’re looking to increase your strength this year, plank is one of the most perfect exercises to do. Just start at the variation and time that feels stable, comfortable, and just a tiny bit challenging. Increase the time or go to a more difficult variation when you’re ready.

The trickiest part? Remembering to do it daily. Tie it to another part of your routine. Brush your teeth, hold plank, get dressed for the day. Come home from work, change out of your work clothes, hold plank and then get on with your evening. Favorite TV show? Hold plank during commercials. Get your family to do this with you. After all, the family that planks together, stays together.