The plank is a highly effective isometric exercise that burns approximately two to five calories per minute, based on body weight. Isometric exercise involves contraction of a particular group of muscles in a static position.

What planks don’t provide through calorie burning they more than make up for by toning and strengthening your core, the area of the body which encompasses your:

  • abdominal muscles
  • lower back
  • glutes
  • pelvis
  • hips
  • diaphragm

Planks also target the muscles in your arms and legs.

The amount of calories you burn while planking depends on several factors. These include body weight, metabolism rate, and muscle-to-fat ratio.

The more repetitions you do, the more calories you will burn. If you have a high muscle-to-fat ratio, you will also burn more calories during rest periods between plank reps.

Weight Calories burned
110 lbs.2 calories per minute
150 lbs.3 to 4 calories per minute
175 lbs. or more4 to 5 calories per minute

Several plank variations are more challenging than the basic plank. These may burn more calories as well.

When done properly, the plank will activate all of your abdominal muscles, including the following:

  • rectus abdominis
  • transverse abdominis
  • internal obliques
  • external obliques

It’s important to maintain good form while doing a plank not only to get maximum results, but also to protect your lower back. Doing a 20-second plank while maintaining proper form is more effective for building muscle than doing a one-minute plank if your body is in the wrong position.

No equipment is needed for a plank, although you may be more comfortable working out on a mat rather than carpet or hard flooring. Here is a video followed by instructions for how to do a basic plank and several variations:

To do:

  1. Lie facedown on the mat.
  2. Raise your torso up so that you’re resting on your forearms, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your inner thighs and glutes together.
  4. Curl your toes under.
  5. Draw your belly button in and up to engage your core.
  6. Raise your knees, keeping your back flat and straight.
  7. Hold your entire body in a straight line, with your neck relaxed and the crown of your head stretching forward slightly, as if you’re pressing into an imaginary wall.
  8. Keep your gaze on the floor.
  9. Hold this position for as long as you can with a flat back for 20 to 30 seconds to start. Try to build up to holding this position for one minute or longer.
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If you feel your form slipping at any time, lower your body down to rest. Don’t let your lower back sag or your hips rise up.

To continue oxygenating your muscles, remember to keep breathing while holding the plank position, as well as during rest periods.

To increase the plank’s difficulty, effectiveness, and calorie-burning potential, try these variations:

Leg-raise plank

To do:

  1. Get into the basic plank position.
  2. Alternate raising your legs without bending your knees for one minute.
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Side plank

To do:

  1. Lay on your right side in a straight line.
  2. Keeping your right forearm on the floor, raise your entire body up, keeping your feet together.
  3. Lift your left arm up over your head in a straight line.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute.
  5. Repeat on the left side of your body.
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Resistance plank

To do:

  1. Place the ends of a resistance band around your wrists.
  2. Get into a basic plank position.
  3. Stretch out one wrist at a time, holding the position for several seconds to increase the muscle burn in your biceps and upper body.
  4. You can also do a resistance plank by placing the ends of a resistance band around your ankles and stretching out each ankle one at a time.
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In addition to tightening your abdominals, the plank has multiple benefits, including the following:

  • Increases metabolism. Muscle ups your metabolism rate and burns more calories than fat while you’re at rest. Because the plank helps you build muscle, you can expect to burn more calories during downtime.
  • Improves muscle-to-fat ratio. The better your muscle-to-fat ratio, the more likely you are to avoid obesity-related illnesses, such as:
  • Improves posture. The plank strengthens your back and the muscles surrounding your spine, including the rhomboid and trapezius muscles. This helps improve your posture, which may keep you safe from back injury and strain.

The plank is a good addition to an overall exercise regimen, which should also include cardio activities. Cardio exercise typically burns more calories during the activity than strength exercises.

Choose activities you enjoy so that you’ll stick with them. Things to try include:

  • running
  • power walking
  • swimming laps
  • water aerobics
  • zumba
  • cycling
  • rowing
  • cross-country skiing
  • jumping rope
  • kickboxing

Consulting with a fitness coach or personal trainer can help ensure you do planks and other exercises the right way. A pro can also work with you on setting realistic goals. You may want to see a personal trainer if you:

  • are an older adult
  • are significantly overweight
  • have medical concerns, such as arthritis
  • have a disability

Working with a trainer can provide a layer of safety. You can look for a trainer by ZIP code online.

The plank is a highly effective abdominal-strengthening exercise. For most people, it burns between two and five calories per minute.

Planks increase muscle and boost metabolism, so they help to sustain higher levels of caloric burn during rest. They are an excellent addition to a well-rounded exercise routine, which also includes cardio workouts.