Working toward that world-record plank while stuck at home

Sanford Wellness Center fitness expert gives tips for tackling, modifying plank

Justin Underwood holds a plank

It was the plank that could be seen around the world. After eight hours and 15 minutes, George Hood claimed a new Guinness World Record. The 62-year-old former Marine living in Illinois set the new planking record Feb. 15.

A lot has happened since then surrounding the coronavirus. Many gyms, including Sanford Wellness Centers, have closed temporarily to protect the health and well-being of members and staff.

But as COVID-19 keeps many individuals and families at home, we can take Hood’s accomplishment as motivation to get creative with our own physical activity.

Wellness supervisor Phil Carmody, at Sanford Wellness Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, offered some perspective of Hood’s effort.

From the comfort of your carpet

The good news: This exercise doesn’t require a gym! Practice your plank position from home no matter if you plan to hold it for the first time, try for 30 seconds, or hold it more than eight hours like the latest record-setter.

“It’s an incredible feat, period, for anyone. I’d compare it to almost an elite athlete performance. That’s absurd for someone to physically be able to pull that off,” Carmody said.

Carmody says the isometric exercise is the foundation for core training.

“Really good for building up that core strength, and it translates to everyday life as well,” Carmody said.

Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to hold your plank.

“When people think core, they think six-pack. That’s just the outside. You have all these different things involved in your core, and this targets different areas,” Carmody said.

It all comes down to your form

“Your elbows or hands are directly under shoulders to protect your shoulders,” Carmody said. “You want to keep your core nice and tight. Engage your quad and glute muscles. Make sure your hips aren’t dropping to protect your lower back as well.”

Justin Underwood, a Wellness Center member, was making his core strength a big priority recently.

“I like to play baseball, so core strength is huge for swinging a bat hard. I’m a pitcher. You use a lot of core to throw the ball, too. It’s not just arm strength. I focus on arms, core and legs more than anything,” Underwood said.

Holding the traditional plank, from either your hands or your elbows, is a lot harder than it looks, but Sanford Wellness experts encourage you to modify.

“A great variation is to start from your hands, high plank position, use your knees instead of your toes. Allow your body to use a little less of your body weight for the plank itself. Once you feel comfortable with that, drop to the lower plank position. Work your way into that full plank on your toes, whether you’re doing a high or low plank from there,” Carmody said.

“I think the most common issue with the plank is not necessarily starting out, but dropping their hips. Long-term, that could cause some issues for not only lower back pain, but posture and a slew of other issues because it’s all connected.”

Keep this in mind: if you’re hoping to hold your plank for longer than one minute, you could be doing your body more harm than good.

“How does it translate functionally? Will you ever need that much core strength, holding that position for that amount of time? Regardless of who you are, to build your core strength, start with short intervals. That will be the most beneficial,” Carmody said. “Start with 10-second intervals and then build up to 30-second intervals.”

Phil Carmody headshot
Phil Carmody is the Sanford Wellness supervisor.

Photo by Lonnie Nichols, Sanford Health

Sanford Wellness can help

Want help working on your plank? Jump-starting a fitness routine?

When Sanford Wellness facilities reopen, Carmody welcomes members and guests to think about their personal fitness goals and consider inviting members of the wellness team to be part of the process.

“We have exercise specialists and trainers here. Reach out if they’re starting out to get checked. … If they have a goal and want to hold a ridiculously long plank at some point, a trainer will help work with them to work up to that goal,” Carmody said.

Hood, the 2020 World Record-setter, beat the previous World Record by 14 minutes.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Healthy Living, Wellness

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