Starting to feel like you could read a book while holding a standard plank? And sip some tea too?
Maybe that’s taking it too far. After all, when done right, the simple plank engages your core and most other muscles. It’s demanding despite its simplicity.
But if you’ve been doing simple planks for a while now, the weighted plank can be a natural progression. Adding weight to the exercise makes it more challenging but more rewarding.
In this post, we explain everything you need to know about weighted planks, including how to do them right and their benefits. We’ll also share common mistakes and a popular variation, the weighted side plank. Ready when you are!
What Is a Weighted Plank?
Weighted planks are a step up from the basic plank exercise. Also known as loaded planks, they up the difficulty by adding a weight plate, weighted vest, or dumbbells.
Weighted plank muscles worked include the deep core muscles, upper abs, gluteals, and stabilizers. Other muscles used in plank for side variations of the exercise are the obliques.
The weighted plank is a great exercise to do if you’re used to the plank and want to keep improving your core. The weight adds new demands on your muscles, and with that comes a tougher, more interesting exercise.
However, be careful not to start with a weighted plank if you haven’t already mastered the standard plank. You may risk injury.
How Do You Perform Weighted Planks?
For the standard weighted plank, you need a weighted plate. It’s safer to do the exercise with a friend who can place the weight on your back.
But if you’re careful and don’t rush it, you can do the exercise on your own too without risks. Let’s take a closer look at both options.
Note: It’s easier and safer to perform the weighted plank with a weighted vest rather than a weighted plate.
With a training partner
1. Get down on your hands and knees and adopt a tabletop position.
2. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
3. Extend your legs behind you into a push-up position.
4. Engage your core.
5. Ask your training partner to place the weighted plate on your upper back.
6. Keeping your legs pressed together, press your forearms into the floor.
7. Keep your back flat and body straight. Don’t let your hips sag.
8. Hold for at least 10 seconds if you’re a beginner and up to 30 seconds.
9. Have your partner remove the weight and slowly bring your body down to the floor before standing up again.
On your own
1. Kneel on the floor, holding the weighted plate vertically behind you. The plate should be touching your soles.
2. Holding the plate with both hands against your lower back, bend forward.
3. Supporting the plate with your lower back, bring your hands forward, and place them on the floor in front of your shoulders. Your head should be between your hands.
4. Move forward, extending your arms and legs into the standard plank position. Be careful to balance the weight on your back so that it doesn’t fall.
5. Straighten your legs and back and engage your core.
6. Hold the weighted plank position for at least 10 seconds and preferably 30.
7. Slowly return to a kneeling position, holding the plate with your hands at the back and letting it drop gently on the floor behind your soles.
Tip: Do weighted planks after main strength exercises or as part of your warm-up.
Benefits of the Weighted Plank
The weighted plank is a good exercise for runners who want to build a stronger core and back. A randomized controlled trial found that core strength training can improve running performance in long-distance runners.
More specifically, the trial measured the finish times of a 5,000-meter run on an outdoor track in runners who trained their core for 6 weeks.
The weighted plank is also great if you swim and perform other physical activities or sports. A more recent study also found that training your core for 6 weeks can improve swimming performance.
But bear in mind that a Swedish study notes that while strength training can contribute to athletic performance, the results may vary from athlete to athlete. You won’t know just how much the weighted plank will boost your athletic performance until you try it.
Strength training exercises like weighted planks can also improve bone density. Bone density naturally decreases with age and lack of physical activity. High-impact exercises, in particular, can increase bone density in young women, according to research.
A review article found that long-term habitual exercise, including running, helps counteract in women the bone density loss that comes with age. It also improves bone density in men.
Physical exercises can also help prevent osteoporosis by improving bone density, according to an article published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.
Adding weights to weight-bearing exercises improves bone mineral density in patients with osteoporosis more than doing the same exercises without weights, according to this study.
By improving your core, weighted planks can improve your posture. Expansive postures in which you hold your back straight make you more physically attractive to others. A better posture can also mean better running form.
What about weight loss? Do planks help you lose weight? You can also do a weighted plank for weight loss. It may especially help define your ab muscles. Coupled with healthy eating, it can lead to a flatter, more appealing abdomen.
Good to know: The weighted plank is a low-impact exercise, making it easy on your joints.
How Long Should You Hold a Plank?
Did you know that the world record for holding a plank is over 4 hours? Don’t worry, you don’t need to hold a plank for hours for it to be effective.
If you’re new to planks, holding a plank for 10 seconds is a good start. Once you become used to the exercise, you can increase this to 30 seconds. If you’re very fit, you can hold a standard plank for up to 3 minutes. However, more is not necessarily better, especially if you risk injury.
Wondering, “How many sets of planks should I do?” For core strength, do 3 sets of 30 to 60 seconds, resting a minute between sets. For muscle endurance, do 2 to 4 sets for up to 60 seconds each.
The weighted plank is more demanding. Start at 10 seconds and increase this gradually to 30 seconds. If you can hold a weighted plank for 60 to 120 seconds, that’s great.
But don’t do it overnight. Give your body time to adapt to the intensity of the exercise. It’s also important to maintain proper form throughout it.
How Much Weight Should You Use?
Start with a weight of no more than 1 to 2.5kg (5.5lb) for a weighted plank. This makes the exercise challenging without increasing your injury risk.
You can progressively increase this weight as you build this exercise into your weekly workouts. As you add more weight, make sure it remains comfortably challenging to handle.
What Plank Technique Errors Should You Watch Out for?
Getting the weighted plank exercise right is more important than simply holding it for a long time. Here are some of the common plank mistakes to avoid.
- Hiking your hips too much. Keep your spine straight.
- Arching your lower back. It can cause lower back pain and reduce the benefits of the exercise on core stability.
- Scapular winging. This occurs when your chest and shoulder blades collapse downward. To avoid it, press your hands into the floor and imagine you’re squeezing an orange in each armpit.
- Not tensing your whole body. The exercise should engage more than your core.
You also want to avoid holding a plank for too long. It will invariably affect your form.
Weighted Side Plank Variation
Once you’re comfortable with the weighted plank, you can keep things interesting by trying the weighted side plank. This variation works your obliques. You’ll need a dumbbell to do it.
1. Adopt a side plank position. Place your right elbow on the ground and lift your hips off the floor diagonally.
2. Hold the dumbbell with your other hand.
3. Breathe in, exhale, and engage your core.
4. Raise the dumbbell slowly toward the ceiling and then lower it to your side to complete a rep.
5. Do 10 reps and then switch sides. As you progress with this exercise, you can increase sets up to 3.
Tip: Another way to do this exercise is with a weighted plate. Begin in the side plank position, with a plate close to you. Pick the plate and hold it near your hip. Maintain the position for 30 seconds or longer.
Now that you know how to train planks, here are the things to remember.
- Weighted planks are great for building a stronger core and back and improving bone density.
- You can do weighted planks with a weighted plate or a weighted vest and the side variation with dumbbells.
- Hold a weighted plank for 10 to 30 seconds or more, but not longer than 3 minutes.
- Proper form is more important than simply holding the position for as long as you can.
- Start with a low weight and increase this gradually to avoid injury.