Planks are everyone’s favorite calisthenics exercise. Are we right?
Maybe the idea of weight training vs. calisthenics isn’t an argument worth fighting. Perhaps if we put them together, it could significantly impact overall strength for multiple muscle groups and help alleviate lower back issues.
Let’s dive into the weighted plank exercise and see what it has to offer.
What is a Weighted Plank?
A weighted plank is when you add weight to your upper back once you are in the plank position and then hold it as long as you can. Super easy, right?
You’ve probably heard the saying, “a minute isn’t long until you have to plank for one.”
There is a lot of truth there because while a plank might be one of the more straightforward bodyweight exercises to perform, it involves a lot of core strength and discipline to utilize proper form.
By adding weight to the plank, it increases the benefits of the plank as well.
Not only will your core strength be off the charts, but your upper back strength will increase, helping your posture and solving lower back issues.
Adding Weight to Your Upper Back
It’s important to note that usually when performing weighted planks, you have a friend who adds the weight to your upper back directly between your shoulders while you hold the plank position.
Once you feel yourself losing your form, your butt starts lifting in the air, or you feel your back arching, have them remove the weight.
Never sacrifice proper form because you want to hold those additional seconds.
By doing a plank correctly with a neutral spine and your glutes tucked under, you enhance your core muscles, and you will eventually get those extra seconds.
No friend to help. No problem.
If you are working out alone and don’t have an exercise buddy to put the weight on your upper back, you can do it yourself.
The easiest way would be to get settled in your plank position, use one arm, add the weight to your upper back, and immediately place your hand back on the floor. Hold your plank for as long as you can before lowering down and removing the weight.
The option of starting with one knee on the ground as you get set will also work while you place the weight on your back.
Be careful not to jostle the weight as you push up into the plank.
We mentioned some of the benefits of weight planks, and studies have shown that planks increase core strength and contribute to better posture.
Let’s look a little deeper at each benefit to understand the many advantages behind this movement.
Did you just stand up or sit up a little straighter? If you did, make sure you engage your core too.
We always need to be thinking about our core exercises. Weighted planks make our posture better, but how exactly?
To be fair, a regular plank can also improve your posture over time. By strengthening the back muscles, you will find yourself able to stand up straighter.
A weighted plank adds more value to the movement because of the weight at the upper back.
By making the muscles work harder, that better posture comes quicker. Also, since planks encourage the proper technique of keeping your back in line, the practice of holding your back straight will become a habit.
Decreased Lower Back Pain
Unfortunately, plenty of people suffer from lower back pain for many different reasons. Whether it’s a weakened core or a sedentary lifestyle, lower back issues can be debilitating.
The good news is that adding weighted planks to your fitness training could be the perfect solution. If you are tired of chewing painkillers, grab a buddy and try weighted planks.
You will increase your core strength which helps to take the pressure off the lower back muscles.
Your back won’t have to work so hard to support you because your abdominal muscles are doing more work. The second thing is weighted planks strengthen all of your back muscles.
The stronger your upper back is, the stronger your lower back will be.
Stimulates your Mind
Can planks stimulate your mind? They can.
Drop down right now and do a plank. What is the first thing you think other than “how long do I have to hold this?” It’s “okay, breath and focus. Neutral spine. Glutes tucked under.”
You are concentrating hard on keeping the proper technique and focusing on holding your position. There’s a good chance you start focusing on your breathing too.
It’s a common mistake to hold your breath when you are performing a strenuous exercise. This has many adverse effects.
For one thing, holding your breath takes the focus away from the actual activity you are doing and causes your technique to falter. For another, cutting off your oxygen supply results in dizziness, especially when training.
By concentrating on proper body technique and breathing, you stimulate your mind. Planks are suitable for the mind, body, and soul.
How Long Should You Hold a Plank?
Five minutes or bust! We are kidding. If you can hold a plank for five minutes, you are a true rockstar, and we applaud you.
An ideal goal to reach initially is to maintain a plank for 120 seconds. Did you think that we were going to say 60 seconds? Come on, 120 seconds isn’t too much longer than a minute. You got this.
This is a great way to find out how effective your core truly is.
If that feels too challenging or not challenging enough, change up the amount of time. Back off to only 60 seconds and work your way up to 120 seconds. Or maybe go for a full two minutes if you are feeling powerful.
If you are feeling strong, it’s best to get that weighted plank going. Put that plate on and feel the difference.
Are 30-second planks long enough?
If 120 seconds or 60 seconds sounds impossible, a 30-second plank might be the right choice for you, especially if you are a beginner.
If you have been planking like it’s your job, 30 seconds will not be long enough for a more advanced planker. Is that a word?
Anyway, 30 seconds is just right for a beginner to get started in their planking journey. Once you hit 30 seconds, repeat it for several days.
The key to planking is that you need to challenge yourself to hold it for longer so you can progress.
Pick a variation that works best for you and push yourself to get to 120 seconds eventually. Before you know it, you will be at the gym asking your friend to put a plate on your back while you plank.
Weighted Side Plank Variation
If you have mastered the weighted plank, then you can try the weighted side plank variation too. Grab a plate and place it on the floor in front of you.
Place your elbow or hand on the floor, stack your hips and get into your plank position. Once you are set, pick up the plate and place it right near your hip. Hold the position for as long as you can.
While weighted planks work the rectus abdominis (upper abs), transverse abdominals (deep core muscles), stabilizers, and gluteals, the weighted side plank activates the oblique muscles (side abdominals) as well.
Change up your variations to work for different muscle groups and build your fitness level.
How Much Weight Are We Talking About?
To start, try for about 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs).
That amount of weight load should increase your fitness program immediately. You will feel the difference. Don’t stress if you can’t hold the plank for very long.
The added weight will push your limits but eventually lead to more strength, better posture, and increased stability.
The weighted plank is your new best friend in bodyweight fitness.
Not all planks are created equal, so we encourage you to use muscle behind each movement and try different variations.
Remember that a plank is only as good as its form. With the proper technique, a plank can transform your body and increase your overall fitness level.
Grab some weights and add them to your planks for added resistance. You’ll thank us later.