Are Planks Good For Getting Visible Abs?

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Some people exercise for health benefits. Others for the more visual changes associated. Are planks good for getting visible abs?

Planks are a type of calisthenics, also known as bodyweight, exercise. They are a convenient way to work out a wide variety of muscles at home without any equipment.

Planks can help to tiny extents in the two steps required to get visible abs. However, for both steps, there are more helpful exercises. You would need a lot of planks to see results.

In short, planks can help you get visible abs but other exercises can help you get there faster.

Planks for uncovering your abs

The first step to getting visible abs that stand out is losing the belly fat that is on top of them. Some people get the impression that to burn fat you have to stay at a certain heart rate, eat certain foods, or do specific workouts.

Unfortunately, targetting fat loss in a specific area like your belly is generally not possible. To burn fat, or more specifically belly fat, you have to lose weight overall.

Some people claim that you can feel a “burn” in a specific place when you are working the muscles in that area with a certain exercise.

However, it’s not because specific muscles are working that your body only uses energy from that place.

Your body looks at your body fat as a single store of energy. It does prioritize certain areas but you don’t have a say in the order this happens.

So for this first step in achieving visible abs, the question is how useful planks are for burning calories.

Are planks good for losing fat?

By moving more intensely and building muscle you increase the amount of energy your body requires. Doing planks will require more energy compared to sitting down so they will help you burn some energy.

Below you can find estimations for how many calories planks burn. Keep in mind that these are estimations. This formula doesn’t take into account certain factors that do influence calories burned with planks.

If you want in-depth estimations and techniques to burn more calories while doing planks make sure you read the article on how many calories planks burn.

Weight Person
1 Minute15 Minutes30 Minutes45 Minutes60 Minutes
125 Pounds (56 kg)4 calories66 calories133 calories199 calories266 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)5 calories82 calories165 calories247 calories330 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)7 calories98 calories197 calories295 calories393 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)8 calories114 calories229 calories343 calories457 calories
Chart of calories burned by planking

These estimations are for during the exercise. Doing a bodyweight workout like planks also helps you build a bit of muscle.

This extra muscle helps you burn calories for a while after you stop doing the exercise. It’s hard to estimate these more long-term calorie-burning effects.

In any case, compared to other exercises planks do not help you burn a lot of calories. That means that for this first step of uncovering your abs, planks are not that useful.

Another way to make your belly appear less fat

Another way you can make your belly appear less fat is by reducing swelling. You do have to keep in mind that not everyone who has a belly that appears fat necessarily has swelling.

You can learn what some possible causes are. By excluding these you know whether or not you need to lose fat in your belly if you want to see a visual change.

Here are some possible reasons your belly might be bloated (1):

  • Eating a lot of salt
  • Fluid retention
  • Constipation
  • Allergies
  • Drinking too many carbonated drinks
  • Certain medicines
  • Medical conditions

While excluding these factors can help, keep in mind that if the number on the scale is high too you likely have to focus on losing fat too.

Planks for making your abs stand out

Once the first step of uncovering your abs is done you can start to think about how you will make your existing abs bigger.

You build muscle by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but because of this damage your body starts processes that repair these muscles.

On top of that, your body builds some extra muscle to be better prepared in the future to do similar activities.

Planks do engage your abs to some extent so they can help you build ab muscle, and thus make your abs stand out more.

As a strength training beginner planks can be a useful bodyweight exercise choice to build some ab muscle mass.

That being said, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass with planks.

When this is the case strength training exercises where you use external weights are the next step if you want to keep building extra muscle.

If you like the idea of building ab muscle with planks you can carry extra weight, for example a heavy backpack or a heavy weighted vest, while doing them to increase the amount of muscle mass you gain.

Planks vs other ab exercises

Whether or not planks help you build some ab muscle mass is not the only question. If you are trying to get visible abs you likely want to know how planks compare to other exercises for working your abs.

Planks are a type of isometric exercise. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot.

On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that sit-ups and crunches are likely better if you want to build bigger ab muscles.

Planks may engage the rest of your core muscles more but that is not relevant if your goal is to get visible abs.


The first step to getting visible abs is losing enough body fat so that your abs are not hidden behind it. For this first step doing planks does not make a lot of sense.

They burn a rather low number of calories compared to other exercises and food.

Once you are at a low body fat percentage you can start growing your ab muscles so that they stand out more. If you are at this step planks can benefit you but again there are other exercises like crunches and sit-ups that can help more with this.

In short, planks do help you with getting visible abs but there are other alternatives that can be more effective.

If you do decide to do planks to get visible abs make sure you use the right technique to avoid any injures. Doing planks with external weights like a heavy backpack or weighted vest may also speed up your ab muscle building.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.