It seems like planks are everywhere these days, finding their way into everybody’s workouts. Every time I look up a new workout regimen, I expect to see planks.
They’re ubiquitous at this point, but for some people, they’re not the easy exercise they are for others.
Some people wouldn’t even consider planks to be an exercise, thinking of them as more of a stretch, a warmup or cool down activity. If you are wondering why are planks so hard, you’re not alone.
A lot of people struggle with this exercise, and I want to dive into why that may be.
Planks are considered easy according to most exercise programs and fitness professionals. They are supposed to be like an introductory exercise or something that’s fit for beginners and people who aren’t necessarily physically fit.
If you’re struggling with planks, though, there could be a good reason why.
What Makes Planking So Hard?
Why are planks so hard for me? A plank is a holding pose. It’s usually an exercise you do on the ground, holding yourself up with your arms and feet. Depending on the position you’re in, a plank can require a decent amount of strength.
A lot of that strength is going to come from your shoulders and chest.
So, if these parts of your body are weak and underdeveloped, you’re going to have some difficulty holding the plank position.
If you’re struggling with planks, building up your upper body strength will help a lot. You may want to start with an easy version of planks to do that, called wall planks.
For this plank, you stand about an arms-length away from the wall and then lean forward, pressing your hands against the wall. In this position, your weight should be on your palms and your feet.
As you lean towards the wall, bend your elbows outward. Hold that position for a few seconds, and then push yourself back to the standing position.
This is a low intensity push up or planking exercise that can be substituted for the more strenuous versions. It’s a great way to build up your arm and shoulder strength. You can also use resistance bands to help build up those areas of the body.
Doing arm stretches while using resistance bands can help to strengthen your shoulders and forearms, giving you the strength you need to pull off planks easily.
Low Endurance Levels
Another reason why planks are so hard for some people is because they have very little endurance.
You might wonder how much endurance is really needed for something that’s only supposed to last for 10 or 20 seconds. However, for some people, that’s a long time to hold an exercise position and stay in the plank.
There are a number of reasons why you may have low endurance, and it could just be down to your age, or it could be due to underlying health conditions.
Some of these things aren’t necessarily something you can change, but there are some changes you can make that will help build up endurance.
Doing exercises like running or swimming that require you to work out for a long time can help. If these are too strenuous for you, you can work your way up to them by starting with walking.
You may also have low lung capacity. One of the more common reasons why that could be is because of a smoking habit. If you quit smoking, over time, your lung capacity will improve.
This won’t happen right away, though, but you’ll be on the road to recovery and be able to do planks more easily.
People who smoke frequently tend to have very poor endurance levels due to their low lung capacity.
Poor endurance could also come down to a poor sleep schedule or inadequate nutrition. In both of these cases, the problem is low energy. Nutritious food gives you the energy you need for your day, ensuring you get the vitamins and minerals your body requires for proper functioning.
Getting enough rest and staying on a regular sleep schedule normalizes your energy levels and keeps you from being tired all the time.
A Weak Core Can Make Planking Harder
“If you’re asking why are side planks so hard for me?” you should consider the muscles that are involved in this exercise. Of course, your feet, shoulders, and arms, are all engaged when you do planks. These are the parts of your body that are supporting you and keeping the rest of your body off the ground.
You’re also using your core, though. Your abdominal muscles are engaged when you perform a plank. If your core muscles are not very strong, it’s going to be tough to hold that plank for long. That limits your ability to support the middle of your body when you plank.
This means that your hips are going to sag as you try to make up for weak abdominal muscles. This gives you a poor form and puts a lot of pressure on your back. That’s not good for your back health, especially if you already have a bad back.
To help with your muscle weakness, you can do crunches, elevated planks, or the standing core press. All of these help to build up your abdominal muscles and strengthen your core. You need to have a balanced program that prepares your body for plank holds.
Elevated planks are a good place to start. They don’t require as much of your core, but they do strengthen your core. The angle you’re doing the planks at is much easier than the horizontal angle required for floor planks.
Once you can do those successfully, you may be able to transition down to the floor planks.
Why Are Planks So Hard – Powerlifting Tips
As you’re trying to build up your strength to do planks, you may want to do some weightlifting. Cardio exercises aren’t really where it’s at for strengthening your body for planks.
Cardio helps you become more athletic and it can definitely help you with your endurance, but as far as developing strength for holding that plank and strength for your arms and abs, powerlifting is what you want to go for.
If planks are hard for you, then powerlifting maybe a good way to ease into the planks. As with all the exercises I’ve recommended so far for this article, I suggest you start off easy.
Use weights that are small enough for you to handle but heavy enough that you’re going to make some gains. As you powerlift, you’ll build up strength in your upper arms and chest, and these are core muscle groups used in planks.
Weightlifting can help you identify some of your weak areas, if you feel pain in your chest after weightlifting or stretching in that area, that means it’s an area that needs some improvement.
If your arms are sore after weightlifting, this tells you that you could benefit from muscle development there.
I suggest alternating weightlifting and cardio from day to day. This way, you’re not exhausting yourself too much and wearing your muscles out. If you do one kind of exercise repeatedly for about five days in a row or so for the week, that can cause a lot of muscle soreness.
It can take you a long time to recover, and you may feel like you never fully recover from your workouts. This is why I suggest alternating days and changing up your exercise routine every so often.
Try doing cardio one day and then weightlifting the next day, and pretty soon you’ll be planking like a pro.
My name is Ellis Francis and I have been a personal fitness trainer, sports nutritionalist and health and fitness advisor for over 25 years. I am the lead health and fitness advisor at https://awellnessbody.com.