Exercises like planks can offer benefits but you need to do them the right way. Find out how many planks you should do to achieve certain results.
A review of isometric exercise studies suggests you should do planks for 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) to get bigger abs.
One downside of this guideline is that most people will not have the tools to measure MVC. Your best bet is likely doing planks with a resistance where the durations above are barely doable.
Something to note is that getting bigger abs is often not enough to get a visible six-pack. For this, your body fat percentage needs to be low enough.
Planks are not good for losing body fat. To do this you want to consider other exercises or changes in other lifestyle areas like your diet.
That aside, to improve core muscle strength, you should do 1 to 5 seconds per set/plank and more than 30 to 90 seconds per workout at 80-100% of maximum voluntary contraction.
The guidelines for improving core muscle endurance are not as strict. Plank workouts that are easy enough to go over the durations above will likely be effective for improving muscle endurance.
How many planks you should do to get bigger abs
Planks are a resistance training exercise that focuses on core muscles like your abs and obliques.
That being said, this exercise is slightly different from most resistance training movements. Planks are an isometric (static) exercise.
This type of exercise tends to be less effective for muscle growth than more dynamic exercises like sit-ups. Additionally, the optimal isometric exercise set ranges for muscle growth are not as well-studied.
That being said, there is a review of studies that gives an idea of what a good isometric muscle growth exercise routine looks like.
To get bigger abs, the authors recommend doing isometric exercises like planks for 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction (1).
So even if you would do a 1-minute plank a day with enough resistance, you would likely not see that much, if any, ab muscle growth.
A big downside of the recommendation above is that “maximum voluntary contraction” is a measurement that is done with specialized devices. Most people who want to do planks don’t have these available.
If you want to grow your abs, your best bet will be to do planks with a weight where you can barely complete the ranges above.
For beginners, this could mean 5 sets of 30-second bodyweight planks. For advanced lifters, this could mean 15 sets of 10-second weighted planks.
Over time, you will need to increase your durations or weights to keep seeing results.
Does that mean you can get a visible 6-pack from just planking?
Something important to note is that many people will need to do more besides just growing their ab muscles to get a visible 6-pack.
The human body tends to store fat around its waist and hips. If there is body fat covering your abs, you can really grow these by planking without ever visually seeing the muscles.
When this is the case, you preferably want to start with changes in other lifestyle habits like your diet or other exercises that use up more energy. Planks are not good for losing belly fat.
In short, many people will not be able to get a visible 6 pack from just planking.
At the same time, if your body fat percentage is low enough and you implement the sets and durations of planks above, this exercise could be enough to get visible abs.
How many planks you should do to strengthen muscles
Strength comes down to how much force your muscles can generate. The same review mentioned above also notes isometric set ranges for this goal.
To improve ab muscle strength, you should do 1 to 5 seconds per set/plank and more than 30 to 90 seconds per workout at 80-100% of maximum voluntary contraction (1).
Again, since you likely don’t have a way to measure your maximum voluntary contraction, your best bet is doing planks with weights where you can barely hold the position for 5 seconds.
You want to do sets like this for at least 6 to 18 sets per plank workout.
When it comes to improving core muscle endurance, the study review does not offer any recommendations.
That being said, plank workouts that are not challenging enough to stay within the time durations for muscle growth and strength increases should help you improve endurance.
Should you do planks every day?
In resistance training exercises like planks, you damage the muscles you mainly work.
This may not sound like something you want but the damage starts a variety of internal processes that can repair the muscles and make them bigger and stronger.
At the same time, your body still needs time (and nutrients) to complete the processes. If you work the same muscles too soon, you could reduce how many results you get.
For this reason, it is often recommended to give the muscles you worked at least one extra day of rest in between workouts.
That being said, smaller muscles like your abs and obliques tend to recover more quickly. This means most people can do planks every day (even though it is often not necessary).
Doing the plank workouts from the previous sections more often per week can offer more and faster results.
How many planks should you do a day to lose weight?
Many people also consider doing more planks to lose weight and more specifically belly fat.
To lose weight, you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food. At this point, you start using up energy stores like body fat to get the difference.
After that, details like your genes and how far you are in your weight loss journey influence what stores and/or areas the energy comes from.
That being said, planks are not good for burning calories and in turn, not good for losing weight or body fat.
Some rough estimations are that people with different body weights have to do the following durations of planks to burn the number of calories in one pound (0.45 kg) of body fat (3500 calories):
- 125 pounds (56 kg) body weight: 1270 minutes of planking
- 155 pounds (70 kg) body weight: 1024 minutes of planking
- 185 pounds (83 kg) body weight: 858 minutes of planking
- 215 pounds (97 kg) body weight: 738 minutes of planking
Something to note is that these minutes also include the calories you would burn by just sitting down.
In simpler words, planks are not an exercise you should do if your only goal is losing weight.
How many planks should I do a day to get a flat stomach?
If your only goal is to get a flat stomach, you should not do planks. Making changes in other lifestyle areas like your diet and/or choosing different exercises will be a lot more effective.
Is 3 sets of planks good?
3 sets of planks that are long and challenging enough can be good enough to build muscle and improve core muscle endurance. At the same time, it is possible that you need to do more sets to see results.