Impressive? Yes. But it may not be the most efficient way to train.

By Claire Gillespie
February 07, 2020

Four minutes of planking sounds extreme to most people (time goes much slower when you’re holding your body above the ground, right?), but Canadian athlete Dana Glowacka isn’t like most people—and her version of extreme planking lasts a little longer. 

Four hours, 19 minutes, and 55 seconds to be precise, which was long enough to set a new world record in the female category for “Longest Time in an Abdominal Plank Position” at the 1st International Plank Training Conference in Illinois in May 2019. Yoga teacher Glowacka’s plank smashed the previous female record—set by Maria Kalimera, who held the title for her time of three hours, 31 minutes in 2015—by almost an hour.

According to the official entry on the Guinness World Records website, Glowacka’s son found the record in an old Guinness World Records book and told her she could do it. At that point, Glowacka’s training began, including instruction from George Hood, the 2014 male holder of the longest abdominal plank.  

But is holding the plank position for that long really good for the body? “Planking is safe as long as the body is in the proper alignment and the muscles are being used efficiently,” holistic health coach, certified personal trainer, and author of Let Your Fears Make You Fierce, Koya Webb, tells Health. For plank noobs, “proper alignment” means a neutral head position and hips in line with, or higher than, the shoulders. “Proper plank form means keeping your core and quads tight and your hips lifted. Your feet and arms should be shoulder-width apart, although some people like to bring the feet together,” Webb explains.

If you want to plank to Glowacka’s level, it’s important to have a progressive training program (like Glowacka, who practiced for years before her official record-breaking attempt), Marcus Mitchell, certified personal trainer and co-founder of New York City-based Modern Might, tells Health. “A program that starts with a short planking time and consistently works you up to a plank for hours is probably safe. The body is unbelievably adaptable when trained properly.” 

Related: 20 Plank Exercises You Can Do at Home

However, Mitchell warns against long planking durations if you’re not consistently and specifically training to hold a plank. Instead, he advises aiming to “create tension with good form” for shorter periods of time. “When a plank is done properly, your body should be fairly exhausted within 30 to 60 seconds,” he adds. 

And while it’s pretty cool to be able to say you can plank for hours, the physical benefits of planking for more than a few minutes are slim. “You should have a stronger core than most people, but it’s not the most functional way of training—and certainly not the most time efficient,” Mitchell says. 

Obviously, if you don’t plank properly there’s a risk of injury, as there is with any exercise. “If you feel any neck or lower back pain while planking, this could indicate weakness in the upper or lower spine,” Webb says. Again, focusing on getting the body properly aligned is key. 

Related: The 31 Best Stomach Exercised for Stronger Abs

Whether you last for 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or fancy trying to break Glowacka’s record, the plank is a great isometric exercise, which means it works to contract the muscles by maintaining a single fixed position. Webb explains. “It encourages stability in the body as a whole, creating an overall improvement in balance and coordination,” Webb says. “If done regularly, planking can strengthen your back, chest, shoulders, neck, and abs.” 

To improve your plank hold time, Webb suggests incorporating a few other exercises into your workout: sit-ups, crunches, hip-ups (bridge pulses), push-ups (any variation works), and hollow body holds. “This combination of exercises strengthens the different muscles you use when you plank,” she says. 

"I’m so grateful," Glowacka wrote on Instagram following the event. "Truly, if you put the whole of you in what you believe, you gonna make it!"

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