Are Planks Good For Weight Loss?

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Exercise can benefit weight loss but that does not mean all options offer the same results. Find out whether planks are good for losing weight or not.

To lose weight you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food.

Exercises like planks help with this by increasing your energy usage during the workout and by building extra muscle mass.

However, just because planks help weight loss a small amount does not mean they are effective for this.

In fact, they barely help you burn any extra calories during the workout and don’t build that much muscle mass because your abs and hip flexors are relatively small.

These things make planks a bad exercise option for losing a lot of weight.

A 185-pound (83 kg) person would have to plank for around 858 minutes (14.3 hours) to burn 3500 calories (about one pound of body fat).

Additionally, even if planks were effective, you would need at least decent habits in other lifestyle areas like your diet to see weight loss results.

Can planks help you lose weight?

Before going into whether or not they are effective for this purpose, it is helpful to note that exercises like planks can indeed help you lose weight.

To lose weight, you have to make it so your body requires more energy to function than is coming in from food. When this happens, you start using up energy stores like body fat.

Exercises like planks help with this process in two main ways.

First of all, they involve movements that are more intense than your daily activities. This requires more energy than usual.

Additionally, resistance training exercises like planks can help you build muscle mass.

How much you weigh influences how many calories you burn a lot. By increasing your weight in a healthy way with muscle mass, your weight loss progress can speed up.

That being said, doing planks is not a guarantee for weight loss either. If your habits in other lifestyle habits like your diet are suboptimal, you can easily gain weight while following a plank challenge.

Additionally, just because planks help to some extent does not mean they are effective. In fact, planks are one of the worst exercises for weight loss as you will understand from the sections below.

Calories burned during planks compared to alternatives

The amount of energy you use up during workouts is often measured in calories. Additionally, there are ways to predict how many calories planks burn.

One thing you do have to keep in mind about the predictions below is that they are rough estimations. The actual number of calories you burn can vary due to differences in body composition, hormone levels, etc.

Additionally, the estimations only apply during the workout. Any extra calorie burning from extra muscle mass is not included.

These things aside, comparing the estimations to other exercises still gets you an idea of how ineffective planks are for burning calories during the workout itself.

A 155-pound (70 kg) person will burn more or less the following amounts of calories when doing the activities for 30 minutes (1):

  • Plank exercise: 128 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

There will also not be many people that can hold a plank for 30 minutes.

This together with the information that a pound (0.54 kg) of body fat is around 3500 calories should make it clear that planks are not good for burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

Are planks good for building muscle mass?

Next, you may wonder if planks are able to compensate for their low calorie burning by building a lot of muscle mass.

This would add some extra calorie burning throughout the day and in turn, make the exercise better for weight loss.

That being said, planks mainly work your abs and hip flexors. These are both relatively small muscle groups so there is not a lot of room for mass increases.

Additionally, planks are an isometric (static) exercise. This is noteworthy because more dynamic exercises tend to be more effective for muscle growth.

Planks can still make your abs more visible when your body fat percentage is low enough. However, there are more effective exercises for this purpose too.

Are planks good for losing belly fat?

Many people get the idea that because you feel the muscles around your stomach working during planks, this exercise also helps you lose belly fat.

Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to target fat loss in specific areas like your belly. To do this, you have to lose enough weight overall.

So planks are not that good for burning belly fat.

Both because they don’t target this area specifically and because they are relatively bad for losing weight overall.

If you only do planks, you will simply have to do too many of them a day to get even close to losing nice amounts of belly fat.

How much weight can you lose doing planks every day?

By now it should be clear that planks are not that good for weight loss. At the same time, you can still see progress while doing them every day.

The main reason for this is that you can make other weight-loss-friendly changes in lifestyle habits like your diet at the same time. Additionally, you should have time for other exercises too.

That aside, planks still burn a few extra calories which means you could see a tiny amount of progress.

Let’s say a 155-pound (70 kg) person has a routine that keeps them at the same weight and decides to do more planks every day.

If this person implements the relatively high duration of 15 minutes of planks every day, he/she could burn an extra 448 calories (about 0.13 pounds or 0.06 kg of body fat) a week.

Implementing the same routine for 30 days could result in burning about 1920 calories or about 0.55 pounds (0.24 kg) of body fat.

You do need to keep in mind that as you lose weight over time, the same plank workouts start to burn fewer calories.

How much weight you can lose doing the plank challenge

The example above is somewhat of a plank challenge but not many people will be able to do 15 minutes of planking with reasonable amounts of breaks.

Something like a 1-minute plank a day challenge is typically more popular because this is actually an amount of time people can achieve.

A 155-pound (70 kg) person would only burn around 5 calories when planking for 1 minute. This also includes the calories the individual would burn anyway by just being alive.

Even if you would do a challenge where the planks are five times as long, how much weight you can lose is too small to pay any real attention to. At least if this is the only lifestyle change you implement.

If you want to burn calories at home with bodyweight exercises, even something like pushups would be better than planks.

A 1-minute plank is equivalent to approximately 14 push-ups in terms of calorie-burning during the workout.

How many planks you should do a day to lose weight

If you are not entirely convinced yet about how suboptimal this exercise is for this purpose. You can look at some of the estimations about how many planks you should do to lose weight.

One example is that a 185-pound (83 kg) person would have to do 858 minutes (14.3 hours) of planking to lose the calories in one pound (0.45 kg) of body fat (3500 calories).

Other types of planks that are better for weight loss

All of the examples above were for regular planks where you just sit in the exact same position for an extended period of time.

To makes things more interesting and a tiny bit more effective for weight loss you can also consider a few other types of planks.

The main principle to keep in mind with these is that the more intensely you move your body, the more calories you will burn.

For example, there are plank toe taps where you take a step outward and back with each foot.

Some other types of dynamic planks for slightly more weight loss results include:

  • Walking planks
  • Plank jacks
  • High to low planks
  • Side to side planks
  • Knee to elbow planks
  • Mountain climbers

Another option is doing planks with weights on your hips. This will require more energy from your body too.

That being said, even with these more weight-loss-friendly modifications, planks are still relatively bad for losing fat.

Should you do planks for weight loss?

Planks can offer benefits but being the cause of significant amounts of weight loss is not one of them.

They do help to a tiny extent but there are simply too many more effective alternatives for things like burning a lot of calories during the workout and building muscle mass.

In simpler words, if weight loss is your main goal and you only have a limited amount of time to work out, you should not do planks.

Additionally, even if you choose exercises that are more effective, you want to keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like your diet still influence your weight loss results a lot.

Can planking make you lose belly fat?

In theory, planking could make you lose a tiny amount of belly fat if you have good habits in other lifestyle areas and when your body “decides” this area is next. In practice, planking is not that good for weight loss and in turn, losing belly fat.

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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.