Although many people do planks with the goal of sculpting a set of six-pack abs, there are actually a number of other benefits from this exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, building core strength improves body balance and posture and helps you perform everyday activities, such as bending, with more ease. In addition, planking can help alleviate back pain and reduce stress by lowering your cortisol levels.
To get the most benefit from a plank, it's essential to use proper form, so be sure to follow the advice of your personal trainer or fitness instructor. For example, you should aim to hold a basic plank for 30 seconds at first, and then gradually build up to one minute. You can also add in other variations to target different muscle groups, such as an arm or leg lift plank.
While doing a plank, it's important to remember that this is an isometric exercise, so you're not burning calories. However, that doesn't mean the exercise isn't effective. According to a recent article in Self, planking burns about as much as 20 sit-ups, which are an isometric exercise that can also challenge your muscles.
The main difference between a plank and a traditional pushup is that the former targets the chest, triceps and shoulders, while the latter targets core muscles. As such, a one-minute plank will strengthen the same muscles as a few dozen regular pushups. Moreover, if you're unable to do a full plank for one minute, try breaking the exercise up into shorter sets, which will still provide your muscles with the same strengthening benefits.