“The Plank” has become a very popular – even trendy – exercise recently. It’s a yoga pose touted for its ability to strengthen deep abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor, and the transverse abdominis, which supports your back. Fitness trainers will often recommend that the pose be held for as long as possible each day, as it can be a powerful tool used to strengthen your core.
However, Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo says this recommendation is a bad one. Holding the plank for too long can cause back pain, and because it increases pressure in your abdomen, it can also cause blood pressure to rise. For people who already suffer from high blood pressure, or other heart and circulatory problems, sustained holding of plank can be bad for your health.
Rather than holding the plank steadily for 1-5 minutes, Professor McGill recommends holding it for just ten seconds three times in a row. After that, you can take a short break before holding the pose for another ten seconds twice in a row.
While being able to hold plank for more than one minute is a sign that your core is strong, it also means that the plank is no longer giving you much of a challenge. In that case, you can try alternately lifting up one arm or one foot, or doing a side plank instead.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.