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January 26, 2015
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
One test is essential to measure your physical fitness – the plank.
Holding the plank requires excellent core stability and strength and it is
surprisingly tough to master. Try it right now. How long can you hold
the plank position? And, more importantly, how do you measure up to
the fittest guys in the US? How long can an average man hold the plank
position and are you above average in this department?
Why is the Plank Important for Fitness?
Fitness starts at your core. And it ends at your core, if you are not
strong in this part of your body. The muscles in your back, abdomen
and buttocks help to protect your spine against injury and also assist
you in carrying out a full range of movements. If you’ve got great core
strength, the chances are you have superior physical fitness.
The plank works your core and is also a test of core strength. Holding
the plank gives your glutes a challenge as well as your internal and
external obliques, your abdominals, your lower back, buttocks, hips,
and other smaller stabilizing muscles.
There’s More to the Plank than Meets the Eye
The plank looks kind of easy but you’ve got to do it right to get the
benefits. And it can be difficult to master. Basically, you carry out the
plank by dropping down from the press-up position and bending your
elbows at 90 degrees. Rest your weight on your forearms and the balls
of your feet. Interlock your hands. And hold.
For the correct technique, watch that your elbows are directly beneath
your shoulders and you are not leaning your weight onto your wrists
or hands. Lengthen your spine in both directions equally and lift the
head away from your shoulders so you are not hunched. Tuck your tail
bone slightly under and push your feet backwards into the ground.
How Long Can an Average Man Hold a Plank?
The US Army and Fire Service don’t test guys on their ability to plank
(although perhaps they should), however we can assume that military
types are above average in terms of core strength and how long they
can hold the position. But what exactly is “average”?
According to fitness coach Nick Tumminello, the average guy should be
able to hold a plank for at least 60 seconds. Stuart McGill, Ph.D., at the
University of Waterloo in Ontario says the average man should be able
to hold for two minutes.
A study carried out at Linfield College in 2014 revealed that the average
college-aged student female could hold for 1 minute and 30 seconds,
while the average college-aged guy held for 1 minute, 46 seconds. But
these times are on the low side for athletic individuals – the longest
plank time in the study was actually 7.5 minutes for a guy.
Two minutes? Pah. What about two hours? Or even four?
The men’s World Record for the longest time held in a plank is 4 hours
26 minutes, achieved by Mao Weidong of China in Beijing, China on 26
Before this, the record was held by American George Hood who held a
plank for 3 hours, 7 minutes, and 15 seconds. T
hink you can achieve this, too? According to Hood, the regime
necessary for holding a plank so long included 12 to 15 hours of
planking training per week, a technical coach to get the technique
correct, general training for four hours a day, and a total of 200
pushups, 2,000 crunches, and upwards of 100 curls a day to build
muscular endurance .
How to Increase Your Plank Time
If you don’t have quite enough time, or inclination, to complete four
hours of training a day but you do want to increase the amount of time
you hold your plank, try these tips.
Practice, practice, practice. Plank strength comes through repetition.
You can also increase core strength and planking ability by doing the
three-point tennis ball throw: hold a single-arm pushup and use your
free arm to bounce a tennis ball off the wall in front of you.
Or, assume the plank position but place your elbows on a Swiss ball
and move your elbows in circular motions, holding the correct plank
So, How Long Should You Hold the Plank For?
Even if you cannot hold a plank for more than a few seconds, you can
still work up to what should be around one to three minutes.
Remember that the fitness benefits you get come in the first few
minutes of the position, so extending for hours really does not do much
to enhance your physique – although all the training you complete to
get to this point certainly will.
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