The plank exercise is sort of like the push-up, and we all know how beneficial doing planks can be for core strength, but if you are actually doing the plank exercise correctly with proper form, it can be extremely challenging and uncomfortable.
For this reason, even fit athletes who do a lot of plank workouts may not be able to hold a plank for very long.
However, over time, with consistency, you may be able to master the basic forearm plank and decide that you want to progress to a weighted plank exercise.
But, are weighted planks good for you? Is it safe to do a plank with weight on your back? What are the benefits of weighted planks vs regular planks?
In this exercise guide, we will discuss what a weighted plank is, its benefits, and tips for performing weighted planks in your core workouts.
We will cover:
- What Are Weighted Planks?
- What Are the Benefits of the Weighted Plank Exercise?
- What Are the Risks of Doing Weighted Planks?
- What Is the Longest Weighted Plank Ever?
- Tips for Doing Weighted Planks
Let’s dive in!
What Are Weighted Planks?
Weighted planks are essentially the basic forearm plank exercise for the core with some form of weight added to your body, typically in the form of weight plates on your back, a weighted vest, sandbags, or flexible weighted implements of some sort.
This exercise is considered an isometric exercise, which means that your muscles are contracting and generating tension, but no movement is occurring.
Therefore, doing a weighted plank is just like doing a regular plank but with some form of weight on your back.
What Are the Benefits of the Weighted Plank Exercise?
Here are some of the top benefits to this exercise:
#1: Strengthen Your Core
Like the standard forearm plank, the weighted plank exercise strengthens all of the muscles of your core.These include the rectus abdominis, obliques, deep transversus abdominis, lower back extensors such as the erector spinae group and multifidus, your glutes, your pelvic floor muscles, as well as your shoulders and upper back muscles.
Adding weight to the abdominal plank exercise increases the workload for your muscles, making the plank more difficult and helping build core strength for more advanced athletes.
#2: Allow You to Employ Progressive Overload
One of the downsides of the bodyweight plank exercise is that there isn’t an easy way to scale a forearm plank as you get stronger aside from increasing how long you hold a plank.
While some people are motivated by holding a plank for a super long time, many of the top fitness trainers, sports scientists, and back specialists say that it is actually not particularly beneficial to hold a super long plank beyond about two minutes.
In fact, renowned back specialist, Dr. McGill, who is a well-known author of numerous books on back health and the creator of the iconic McGill Big 3 Core exercises, actually says that no one should do even 30-second planks.
He states that the most effective way to train the deep core muscles with planks is actually to do sets of 10-second planks with a little bit of rest in between each set.
As your core strength and core muscular endurance increase, you can add more plank exercise sets, but don’t increase the duration of the plank hold (it stays at 10 seconds).
While this will help you build muscular endurance, none of these approaches are particularly effective at triggering muscle protein synthesis by overloading the muscles with progressively heavier weight (unless you are rapidly gaining weight for some reason).
Plus, it just means that the stronger you get, the longer your plank workouts will take.
In contrast, weighted planks can be easily scaled and adjusted as your strength increases or scaled back when you want to change the load for strength vs hypertrophy core workouts or increase the weighted plank load for core strength vs endurance workouts.
This makes the weighted plank better for meeting different fitness goals and preventing strength plateaus.
It is also easier to keep track of your progress because you can record the weight that you use for the weighted plank exercise and gradually increase it as needed.
#3: May Reduce Blood Pressure
As mentioned, the weighted plank exercise, like the standard forearm plank exercise, is an isometric exercise.
This means that your muscles are working and contracting to generate tension, but no movement is occurring (the muscles aren’t shortening or lengthening under tension).
Recent research suggests that isometric exercises—in particular, abdominal planks and wall sits—may be the most effective type of exercise for reducing blood pressure.
What Are the Risks of Doing Weighted Planks?
While there are benefits, there are also risks to be aware of.
It is imperative to note that beginners should not try weighted planks; you need to make sure that you have fully mastered the standard forearm plank exercise and can hold a plank with the proper form and position before you advance.
Adding weight to your plank increases the stress and strain on your lower back.
If you do not know how to properly brace your core and maintain a neutral spine with your forearm plank form, or you lack the muscular strength and endurance to do so, you can injure the tissues in your lower back.
Performing weighted planks increases the risk of ligamentous injuries, disc injuries, muscle pulls of the small muscles in the lower back, and even compression fractures of the spine if you have osteoporosis.
Furthermore, if you are pregnant or have some other contraindication to performing isometric exercises or abdominal planks in particular, you should not try weighted planks unless you are cleared by your doctor to proceed with this exercise.
What Is the Longest Weighted Plank Ever?
As with many Guinness World Records, there is a surprising number of plank world records based on interesting iterations of the plank exercise.
For example, there are plank world records for the number of people who have simultaneously held the abdominal plank in the same place at the same time, and world record plank times for doing the abdominal plank with a 100-pound pack on your back!
As for the regular plank exercise performed on your forearms, the world record plank time for men is a whopping nine hours, 38 minutes, and 47 seconds (9:38:47).
This is a recent plank world record, set on May 20, 2023, by Czech Republic athlete Josef Šálek.
The abdominal plank world record for women was set on May 18, 201, by Canadian athlete Dana Glowacka.
There are numerous weighted plank records, depending on how much weight is used.
For example, the weighted plank world record time for women with a 60-lb pack is 17 minutes and 26 seconds and was achieved by American athlete Eva Bulzomi at Axiom Fitness in Boise, Idaho, USA, on July 6, 2013.
She went on to set the longest weighted plank time for women with a 100-pound pack in 2016 (September 23, 2016), setting the 100-pound world record of 11 minutes and 5 seconds.
The weighted plank world record time with a 200-pound pack is 5 minutes and 5 seconds and was set by Xu Qisheng of China on November 12, 2022.
Xu Qisheng also holds the world record for a weighted plank with a 40-pound pack. Just one day before setting the 200-pound weighted plank world record for men, Xu Qisheng held a 40-pound weighted plank for a whopping 80 minutes and 59 seconds.
Tips for Doing Weighted Planks
Here are a few tips for performing this exercise:
- Work out with a partner if you are going to be putting weight plates on your back so that your training partner can help you add the weight once you have gotten into the proper plank position. Your training partner should also spot you so that the plates do not fall off.
- Use a weighted vest if you are doing these planks on your own.
- Ensure your forearms and elbows are on a cushioned mat or foam pad for enhanced comfort.
- Start with just a very light weight plate until you feel comfortable performing the weighted plank. Then, gradually increase the weight.
- Make sure that you are squeezing your glutes and quads throughout the duration of your plank hold to help alleviate strain on your back and maintain proper form under the weight.
- Vary the types of planks that you do. Just as you can do forearm planks, high planks, planks with arm or leg raises, and up-and-down planks where you press up into a push-up position and then back down into a forearm plank with bodyweight planks, you can replicate these same plank variations with weighted planks.
- Again, start with a very short weighted plank hold (about 10 seconds) and gradually increase the time or number of reps that you do rather than jump right in with a 60-second plank.
If you want to build up to doing a weighted plank vs regular plank, consider trying our 30-day plank challenge here.