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This Is Exactly How Long You Need to Hold a Plank to Flatten Your Belly

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 10/20/2017 Brooke Nelson

© fizkes/Shutterstock Finally! The six-pack you’ve always dreamed of is only a plank (or two!) away. You’ve even mastered the plank upgrades that can reshape your body. But there’s just one catch: While the act of planking is pretty straightforward, how long you should actually hold one is probably a bit less clear. Thankfully, the experts have you covered.

To reap the most rewards, performing three sets of planks for up to 60 seconds each is ideal, according to Doug Sklar, a certified personal trainer and founder of PhilanthroFIT in New York City.

But if you’re new to planking, don’t risk injuring yourself in the name of a slimmer waistline. 'It’s OK to start with shorter sets and work up to 60 seconds,' Sklar told Women’s Health. 'Forcing yourself to hold a plank for an excessive amount of time can put a lot of strain on your lower back. As fatigue sets in, the lower back may start to arch. This is where you put yourself at risk for injury.'

If one minute is too challenging, try holding a plank for 10 seconds, relaxing for five to 10 seconds, then re-engaging for 10 seconds. Repeat for three to six sets.

And don’t worry about losing out on any gains in the meantime; planking for shorter periods of time can still amount to a solid workout. 'You receive very similar strengthening benefits because you are engaging your muscles for the same amount of total time as if you just held the plank for 30 to 60 seconds without stopping,' said Sklar.

On the flip side, holding a plank for one minute might be a breeze for you. If that’s the case, Matheny recommends increasing the difficulty by contracting your abs, as well as squeezing your glutes and quads.

Form should always come before figure, of course. Although planking can strengthen your entire body, you should only do it for as long as you can hold the correct position, experts say. 'Keeping perfect form is goal—only do it as long as you can keep this,' Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and advisor to Promix Nutrition, told Women’s Health.

Tired of the same old plank position? Mix up your workout routine with these exercises that flatten your belly—without a single crunch. Or skip the gym completely with a few flat-belly tricks that don’t require a lick of exercise. You’ll be on your way to amazing abs in no time!

Gallery: The Best Workout for Every Age The definition of the best workout: 'Ultimately the best workout for any age needs to be one that fits your time constraints and that you enjoy,' says Kyra Williams, NASM-certified personal trainer and coach for USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting. 'If it doesn't work for your schedule, it's hard to get to, and if you tend to be all or nothing, you will end up with nothing.' The key, experts say, is to find something that you can stick to long term. Finding something that boosts your energy and your mood will fit that bill. The Best Workout for Every Age

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