- Rachel Hosie/Insider
- I planked for a minute every day for a month.
- While I didn’t notice any difference in my performance in the gym, I was surprised that my stomach did look flatter by the end.
- The hardest part of the challenge wasn’t actually planking but remembering to do so.
- It taught me that having a fixed routine is essential for making a new habit stick.
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When it comes to getting defined abs, it really comes down to only one thing: having low-enough body-fat levels to see them.
We all have abs. But some of us are predisposed by our genetic makeup to store less fat on our stomachs, hence having visible abs at a higher body-fat percentage than others.
So really, if you want to have rippling abs or even just a little abdominal definition, training helps of course, but realistically it comes down to reducing body fat. Which comes down to being in a calorie deficit.
There are many non-aesthetic benefits to planking
That said, there are a lot of non-aesthetic benefits to having a strong core, as Vicky Sawyer, a trainer at the boutique London workout studios 1Rebel, told Insider:
“They are great for your posture – by increasing the strength in your core, back, and chest, it is a lot easier to stop yourself hunching over and to keep your shoulders back and down,” she said. “A strong core is vital for injury prevention and will massively improve your workouts and ability to move more, too.
“Planking is also great for arm, neck, and shoulder strength, as you need to hold your bodyweight. This is great for functional day-to-day activities, especially if you’re always carrying heavy bags on the go.
“You also work your lower body and posterior chain as you need to use your butt muscles and thigh muscles to keep your legs off the ground.”
Despite being “into fitness,” I don’t train my abs specifically that often. The reason for this is that one of my favorite ways to work out is weight lifting, and when performing big compound lifts I engage my core as part of the movement.
And then there’s also the fact that I am indeed someone who carries fat around my stomach, so trying to get abs has never really been a goal of mine. Plus I like pizza. Give me a popping booty over a six-pack any day.
But out of curiosity, I decided to challenge myself to do a plank every day to see whether I’d notice any differences in both appearance and strength. Here’s what happened.
A minute of planking every day for a month
- Rachel Hosie/Insider
I decided to plank for one minute every day for 30 days. Crucially, I didn’t set a fixed time of day for when I’d plank, as I wanted to be able to be flexible about it.
I was going to do a forearm plank, and I checked in with experts to make sure I had my form down.
Many people make the mistake of sinking into their shoulders when planking, so if you want to make sure your plank technique is on point, Kate Maxey, a strength and conditioning master trainer at Third Space London, told Insider what to bear in mind.
“Begin lying on the floor, take your elbows underneath your shoulders, forearms flat on the floor – making a fist with your hands,” Maxey said.
“Tucking your toes underneath so they are underneath your heels (with a slight angle towards your elbows), lift your hips up off the ground – your glutes should be in line with the top of your back – no sagging down or piking towards the ceiling.”
“Imagine you are squeezing an orange in your armpit, therefore creating tension through your shoulders and upper torso. Tuck your tailbone under so that there is a natural curve through the spine – you should feel your abdominals contract more than normal.
“Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, like you are trying to hold a piece of paper between your cheeks! Lastly, don’t forget to squeeze your quads and try to draw your toes in towards your elbows.”
The hardest part was remembering to do it
During my first plank, which I did in the morning halfway through a cup of tea, I distracted myself by looking at my phone at the same time – so much so that the minute went super quickly and by the time I checked the stopwatch I’d actually been planking for nearly 70 seconds.
Though I was on my phone, I made sure I was engaging all my muscles, and I actually did feel more energized and somehow leaner afterward.
It had been a good start, but on day two I nearly forgot to do it. I remembered just before leaving home that morning and made sure to think about squeezing my glutes, pressing up across my shoulders, and holding my core tight.
To be honest, I wasn’t finding it hard, and on the fifth day I accidentally planked for 80 seconds.
Nine days into the month, I went to Austria on a work trip. On the day I arrived in Vienna, I was about to go to bed when I realized I hadn’t planked, so I did it in my pajamas at 11 p.m. while full of delicious Austrian food. It did not feel good. But I did it.
This happened again a couple of days later. I forgot until the evening, which then resulted in a very heavy-feeling before-bed plank.
As the month went on I realized it was so much easier to plank in the morning, or at least when I hadn’t just had dinner.
On days when I planked first thing in the morning, I was far more likely to hold it for over a minute too, which I often unintentionally did.
On day 24, however, I woke up really tired for some reason and the plank felt a lot more difficult. I successfully completed my 30-day challenge, though!
I was surprised by the results
I wasn’t expecting to see any difference when I looked in the mirror, but my before-and-after shots tell a different story. Side-on, I think my stomach is slightly flatter in the after photo (right) below.
- Rachel Hosie/Insider
Of course, how we look in photos can vary so much depending on angles, how you pose, where women are in their menstrual cycle, lighting, whether you recently ate a salty meal and are thus retaining water, and more.
I did try really hard, however, to make my before-and-after shots a fair comparison – I attempted to stand the same, didn’t suck my stomach in or pose in any way, and took them all first thing in the morning.
What’s more, my weight was exactly the same at the start and the end of the challenge.
I was surprised by the difference in the side-on pictures, but from the front there wasn’t any change.
- Rachel Hosie/Insider
As expected, I didn’t suddenly have more defined abs or anything.
In terms of my fitness or performance in the gym, I’d be lying if I said I noticed a difference after a month of planking. It may just be that I needed to push myself harder to have a tangible effect on my core strength.
I learned the importance of routine to making new habits stick
I don’t find planking particularly hard – not just for a minute anyway. And I acknowledge I haven’t carried on the daily plank since finishing the 30 days.
The hardest part for me was actually remembering to do the plank, and it taught me a valuable lesson about making new habits part of your daily routine.
My error was not committing to a specific time of day to plank, which meant I kept forgetting. And boy oh boy, was it harder at the end of the day with a belly full of food and a sluggish body.
When it comes to making healthy new habits a part of your day, and something you stick to, it has to become routine and second nature, like brushing your teeth. That will never happen if you just tell yourself you’ll do it at some point over the day.
Whether it’s a skincare regimen, saying affirmations, or the plank, if you commit to doing it at the same time every day – and set an alarm for the first couple of weeks at least – you’re far more likely to stick to it.
- Read more:
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