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I can hold a plank for 20-30s tops, I think, far shorter after I did other work. I have some ideas tow get more Volume and effect out of a session:

  • hold until perfect form is no more doable, rest 20 secs, repeat, repeat a few times
  • set timer to maybe 45s, hold until perfect form is no longer doable, start again holding the plank after next beep, repeat a few times
  • hold 10s, rest 10 s, repeat a few times

Of course the actual values for the times will be a matter of experiment. Are there other ways to achieve my goal? Which one should I pick, and why?

Edit to clarify: My goal is to strengthen my core for health reasons and to be stronger overall. I assume that short time holding plank = little training effect. Hence I'm looking for a structured way to get the most effect out of the short sets I can do.

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I tagged this as isometric, since I'm looking at advice how to structure one static hold. Feel reee to advise on other, more appropriate tags. –  mart Nov 4 '13 at 11:36
You ask whether there are other ways to achieve your goal, but it's not clear what your goal is. Do you want a better plank or is the plank a means to other ends? –  Dave Liepmann Nov 4 '13 at 12:03
Does the edit answer your questions? –  mart Nov 4 '13 at 13:49
I found that doing dead lifts and squats as part of my workout increased my plank time by 50%. –  rthsyjh Nov 7 '13 at 11:26
Plausible, but I'm limited to bodyweight and minimal equipment. –  mart Nov 8 '13 at 8:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

What you want to do is use Prilepin tables, which specify how many sets of which duration you should hold for optimal (or near optimal) progress. The goal is always to have about 60 seconds total hold time; once you can do this in a single set it is time to progress to a harder variation (otherwise, you are no longer doing strength work). In the case of a plank, you might consider moving on to a one-leg, then one-arm, then one-leg-one-arm variation, or just push out your arms further and further from your body. You should also consider doing other bodyline exercises, see this pdf for instructions -- the 'fish' exercise is the "opposite" movement to the plank.

For your particular case, per the tables above, you should aim for a 16-20s hold time and repeat for 3-4 sets.

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This is awesome, and the exact thing I would have asked for if I had known it exists. –  mart Nov 8 '13 at 8:43
@mart That's why we're here - to spread the knowledge! Good luck and work hard! –  VPeric Nov 8 '13 at 16:03

To use the plank to get stronger, you should plank for strenuous but submaximal times. In your case that would probably be sets of about 20 seconds, using multiple sets (e.g. 3-6) and resting briefly (e.g. 15 to 90 seconds) between sets. Aim for a reliable 40-second hold in a month or two.

I agree with Arthlete that the only option that looks really unproductive is 10 second hold/10 second rest. The other options you present would be fine. Keep your planks challenging without demanding an all-out effort from your body in every set.

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Your answer was very helpful, I accepted the other one because that one gives me a good base to plan my workouts. –  mart Nov 8 '13 at 8:44

First of all why do you focus only on the plank to maximize the holding time? You can work other exercises that are going to help you with your plank. your whole body is involved in the plank - shoulders, back, legs, abs. Figure out which part of the body dies first and try to strengthen it.

Of course this is not a matter of strength as it is more a matter of endurance. You need to perform this exercise often in order for your body to get used to it. The muscles will adapt and start keeping the position for longer periods of time. Your suggestions to train for it sound good only that I don't understand why you would only hold it for as long as a good form of the exercise is present. After you start getting tired your muscles can no longer maintain a good form but they still keep pushing. Thus I believe you should aim to hold it for as long as you can rather than just until a good form is present. Why? In order to get the muscles used to holding for longer amounts of time. Your endurance strength will progressively increase. The longer you hold, the better. Thus the 10 sec hold vs 10 sec rest doesn't seem very promising to me.

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