There are many exercises to choose from when you’re trying to lose weight. What about planks, are they good for weight loss?
Planks are a popular type of bodyweight exercise but popular doesn’t mean effective. There are many plank challenges that promise you a lot of weight loss but in reality, there are many exercises that will help you a lot more with this than planks.
For a muscle-building exercise, planks are not that great for building muscle mass. They also don’t burn that many calories while you are doing them. Both are important workout aspects when going for weight loss.
If you are looking for a no-equipment, at-home exercise something like pushups will help you more with weight loss than planks.
What exactly are planks?
Planks are a type of calisthenics, which means bodyweight, exercise.
The most basic form of the plank is the forearm plank. This exercise involves staying in a pushup-like position but you lean on your forearms instead of your hands. The main point of attention is keeping your body in a more or less straight line. You then hold this position for as long as possible.
There are many other plank variations that involve different postures and moving of arms and/or legs. This will have an impact on how good the plank is for weight loss.
Cardio versus HIIT versus muscle building
All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and muscle building. In terms of what parts of your body they mainly impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.
Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.
The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight are slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.
You do train your cardiovascular health to some extent but planks are mainly a muscle building workout.
Muscle building helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor in how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning fewer calories with the same habits.
Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat. This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the number of calories you burn 24/7.
Some of the muscles you will train with planks include:
- Lower back
While you can categorize planks rather as a muscle-building exercise, the amount of muscle mass you will build won’t be that much.
Doing muscle-building exercises with external weights, or even just doing different bodyweight exercises, will allow you to build way more muscle mass in a shorter amount of time compared to planks. This in turn leads to more weight loss.
So for example doing weighted planks by carrying extra weight, even if it’s just in the form of a heavy backpack, will benefit your weight loss results.
Cardio and HIIT
Cardio and HIIT mainly help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.
This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.
HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.
HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stopped the exercise.
Do this for long term weight loss
So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.
For long term weight loss muscle building is usually more time and effort efficient.
You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you get more out of your cardio workout by increasing the amount of mass you have to move around.
Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.
A full-on weight lifting workout might be more time-efficient for long-term weight loss but if you don’t like that kind of workout, chances are you won’t stick to that. This can make planks a better choice depending on the individual. The workout that doesn’t get done doesn’t burn any calories.
How many calories do planks burn?
You have to keep in mind that the amount of calories burned by exercising depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels, and more influence it.
That being said, there are still approximations for how many calories you can burn by doing a plank. You can also see the calories burned for different kinds of exercises to see how all the workouts compare.
The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1).
- Planking: 165 calories
- Water Aerobics: 149 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
- Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
- Jumping rope: 372 calories
- Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories
Not a lot of people can do a plank for 30 minutes. Nonetheless, this does give you a perspective on how effective this exercise is for calorie burning compared to others. You can check out the specific article on how many calories planks burn for different time intervals and bodyweights.
The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. For example, if you do plank variations where you move your arms and legs you can burn more calories in less time.
The numbers above are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.
The amount of calories you can burn with planks is not great, especially if you keep in mind that most people can’t do a plank for more than a few minutes. There are many exercises that can benefit your weight loss a lot more than planks.
How long does it take to see results from planks?
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from planks will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.
15 minutes of planks a day could help you burn an extra 820 calories in 10 days which is about 0.23 pounds of body fat. 30 days 2460 calories and so on…
Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.
Because of the muscle you may gain from planks your weight might not move that much. That does not mean you are not losing fat. If you lose inches but not weight when you start doing planks you are most likely gaining some muscle weight and losing body fat weight.
Should you do planks for weight loss?
The number of calories burned per minute of planks is rather low compared to many other exercises and workouts. You may build some extra muscle with planks but there are again exercises and workouts that will help you a lot more with this.
If you are specifically looking for a no-equipment, quick & convenient, exercise at home something like pushups will likely help you more with weight loss than planks.
All in all, planks are likely not the best exercise if you are trying to lose a lot of weight.
Keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.
Do planks burn belly fat?
Burning belly fat is more about losing weight overall than doing a “targeted” workout. Since planks can help you burn a certain amount of calories it can help you lose belly fat as well. There are however better strategies to burn belly fat.