- Holding a plank for two minutes could work all muscle groups, trainers suggest
- The exercise has also been shown to reduce blood pressure more than HIIT
- READ MORE: The exact workout regime that may lower early death risk by 50%
Looking to get healthier using the least amount of effort possible?
There’s one exercise that ticks both boxes, according to experts.
Forget pounding the treadmill or struggling through an intensive bootcamp class – fitness professionals say all you need to do is hold one position for two minutes
Experts have revealed that holding a plank for a short period every day for two weeks can improve balance, strengthen all of your muscle groups, and even lower blood pressure.
According to a large study of nearly 16,000 people, doing four rounds of the exercise for two minutes for a fortnight is enough to lead to sizeable benefits.
Planking for two minutes has been shown to strengthen muscle groups and improve balance
Researchers suggest that doing the ‘plank’ or ‘wall-sits’ are better exercises for helping to control hypertension than more intense exercises like HIIT
Planking involves holding your body horizontal while squeezing your abs and keeping your backside low to the ground.
To do a plank, get down on your hands and knees and extend your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders.
With your hands below your shoulders, extend your right leg behind you and come up on your toes. Then, extend your left leg and push your hands into the floor to stay balanced.
Keep your eyes slightly ahead of your hands and squeeze your core muscles.
However, make sure your backside isn’t up in the air, otherwise your muscles will relax.
India Bailey, personal trainer at TechnoGym, told Stylist UK that planking is ‘an extremely efficient exercise’ that works the ‘hips and lower back, and targets your pectoral (chest), arms, quads, glutes, and your trapezius and rhomboids (upper back).’
A review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine analyzed 270 trials conducted between 1990 and 2023 that involved nearly 16,000 participants.
The team found that those who completed static exercises like planks for a total of eight minutes per day for two weeks had lower blood pressure than those who did more intense activity like aerobic workouts and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
The researchers saw reductions in both systolic blood pressure – the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats – and diastolic blood pressure – pressure when the heart rests between beats.
‘Overall, isometric exercise training is the most effective mode in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure,’ the team, from Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK, wrote.
Planking can be done for two minutes at a time, though you could work up to it by holding for shorter increments.
Researchers at Harvard University have deemed 10 to 30 seconds as enough time to see benefits.
Eric L’Italien, a physical therapist with the university’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, said: ‘Focus on doing multiple sets of smaller amounts of time.’
‘Two minutes is often considered the maximum, and you don’t get much more benefit after that.’
Ms Bailey recommended starting by holding the position for as long as you’re able and then adding 10 to 15 seconds each time.
By this measurement, if you practice five days a week, you should reach 10 minutes after two weeks.