The Plank

I’m talking about the the exercise move, not the lying in unexpected places. The Plank, wherein you prop yourself up on your forearms, toes on the floor, and hold yourself straight. For as long as you can.

The Plank position, as illustrated by Alex Hughes Cartoons (nibster / Flickr)
The Plank position, as illustrated by Alex Hughes Cartoons

For fans of exercise, this is an astonishingly effective way to workout and develop your abs and core. For everyone else it’s a horrible, torturous form of self-flagellation by way of penance for beer and Tunnocks Tea Cakes. That last bit might be just me.

There’s a thing going around on Facebook – The Plank Challenge – which sets a gradually increasing duration each day for a month, but I don’t have that kind of time. Within the artificial constraints of this 52 resolutions in a year challenge thing, I’m going to compress it into a week.

It needs to be significantly challenging, but also plausible for a man of my natural *ahem* strength. I had a go and figured out roughly at what point it hurt. That can be my starting point. So here’s the plan:

  • Day 1: Plank for 30s
  • Day 2: 2 repetitions of 35s
  • Day 3: 3 reps of 40s
  • Day 4: 4 reps of 45s
  • Day 5: 5 reps of 50s
  • Day 6: 6 reps of 55s
  • Day 7: 7 reps of 60s

Look at me, saying “reps” like a personal trainer.

Anyway, those 7 reps could be spread out however worked. Plenty of time to recover. Let’s do this.

Let’s not do this. Planking is bloody horrible. Much harder than it sounds. Seriously, go try it now and meet me back here in a minute.

See what I mean? Ugh. And you only managed 37 seconds.

Day 1 was uncomfortable, because I’m weak, but it’s only 30 seconds. Easy enough to get through. By day 3 I was feeling it though, and on day 4 I was seriously asking myself whether I’d been too ambitious with the 5 second daily increases AND the increasing reps. 5 seconds seems like such a short space of time, but it feels like an eternity when your abdominal muscles are twerking uncontrollably like a Kanye West back-up dancer having an epileptic fit.

Day 5 was a disgraceful show of grunting because I forgot about the whole thing, and had to do the last three repetitions in quick succession right before bed, which almost caused me to give up. I discovered that it helped if I stared at something distracting, instead of the clock, and settled on Five Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth by The Oatmeal. By day 6 I was using Lamaze breathing from the child-birth classes I had thought were a waste of time.

I highly recommend taking a birthing class before doing plank exercises, by the way, with or without imminent parenthood.

Day 7 was … well, awful, but actually manageable. I spaced them out well, and the end was in sight. So I did it.

I’d post a photo of my abs, but there’s no noticeable effect and no-one needs to see my pale belly. Still though, it feels good in the way that makes you feel like it’s working. It takes almost no time, and I’m pretty sure it’s a highly efficient workout for those specific muscle groups. I think I’m going to keep this in my daily routine. Perhaps one 60s plank a day. Perhaps.

  • Difficulty: hard
  • Worthwhiliness: high

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