Several times, I’ve tried one plank challenge or another. Usually, it’s a month long challenge – start on day 1 by holding your body in whatever plank position you want to attempt for a small amount of time. The goal is to keep increasing how long you can hold the position until at the end of the month, you’re at some crazy number like 5 minutes or whatever. I’ve never finished the challenge. My longest plank I can recall was somewhere around 3 minutes. At that point, every muscle in my core feels like it’s going to secede – like one of those states in the US that refuses to accept the Trump presidency and is considering forming their only little territory. That’s how my shoulders feel after a long plank, like they would just go off and be somewhere so they don’t have to endure the same torture again tomorrow.
So when I found this article in Men’s Health magazine, I was intrigued. The writer introduced Tom Hoel, a Danish man who, in 2014, held a plank for 3 hours and 8 minutes to set a world record for that activity, if you call holding one’s body in place for that long an activity. Anyway, just a few months later, the record was smashed by Mao Weidong who held the pose for 4 hours and 26 minutes. Not to be outdone, Hoel tried again, this time setting another record with an 4 hour, 28 minute attempt. Only 2 more minutes than Weidong’s best time but he did it. Way to take the record back, Hoel.
But if you’re reading this post in the US, you’re probably thinking, what about us? Are there no plank champions in this land of extreme body-builders, Cross-Fit box-goers and America’s Ninja Warrior competitors? No fear because an ex-marine George Hood smashed all the previous records and held a 5 hour 15 minute plank. Wait, what? Just to put that into perspective. The average finish time for women running the NYC marathon (which happened last Sunday) is about 4 hours and 44 minutes. So imagine a wave of women would take off at the start line in Staten Island meanwhile Mr. Hood would get into his plank position somewhere close to the finish line in Central Park. The ladies would run 26.2 miles and Hood’d still just be there, waiting for them, planking. They’d run the race of their lives, experience all the exhilaration and fatigue of the race and Mr. Hood would just be there planking it up. Sometime after they’d collected their finishers medals and maybe exited the park to meet up with their friends for a big juicy burger, he would relax his limbs. 5 hours and 15 minutes is a long time. Long enough to watch the Titanic almost all the way through, TWICE. Long enough to travel from New York to LAX. That’s a long time to be in one position but I guess if you’re going to do it, being in flight while you plank isn’t a bad way to travel across country.
There were several things to like about the article. I appreciated learning about how people are able to push their bodies to those extremes. I also enjoyed the spin of the article, and in particular this line which addresses why these records aren’t public knowledge.
Most of us will never attempt this kind of record and maybe we shouldn’t either. We know a strong core helps with just about any activity – good posture improves your ability to concentrate so learning how to hold a plank will boost even your writing ability. (I know it sounds like a stretch). But if you can do one minute, should you try to improve to one hour? How long should a plank be?
According to the article, for those of us who want to improve our ability to hold the position, a realistic goal is 2 minutes. In his book, Can You Go? Dan John says,
If you can’t hold a plank for 120 seconds, you’re either
a) too fat
b) too weak or
c) doing something wrong in your workouts.
A fit, healthy guy should be able to do a two-minute plank.
I know the article is aimed at men but I think women can adopt the advice too. So my question for you, can you hold a 2 minute plank and if you can’t, why not and what are you going to do about it? Me, I just pulled out my yoga mat. I fell to the floor after just a few seconds, not surprising because if you haven’t been planking on a consistent basis, your muscles weaken. But I’m going to keep trying again, everyday, until I work my way back to being able to hold it for 2 minutes. No records for me but that’s okay. I just want to be fit.
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