I’ll let you in on a secret — I absolutely hate walking planks. Sure, it’s a killer bodyweight exercise that can be done from just about anywhere and it works your core and arm muscles in one go, but that doesn’t make them any more enjoyable. Whenever I see these in a workout, I tend to imagine an injury and hold a static plank instead; that is, until now.
In order to really get to grips with the move (and in the name of good content), I opted to do 50 walking planks every day for a week. Is this move the secret to a stronger core, or would this be the fitness challenge that caused me to resign from my post as Fitness Editor at Tom's Guide? Read on to find out more.
Of course, what works for me and my body might not be right for you. If you’re recovering from an injury, or returning to exercise after a break, it’s worth checking your form with a personal trainer before doing 50 reps of anything. It’s also worth noting that walking planks might not be suitable for anyone who has recently given birth or previously suffered a wrist injury. If you are looking for post-natal ab exercises, here are 7 Diastasis Recti-safe abdominal exercises to try.
How to do a walking plank
Let's start with how to do a walking plank, which is also known as an up-down plank or a commando plank, with perfect form:
- Get into the plank position on an exercise mat (if you don’t have one, we’ve found the best yoga mats that double as exercise mats here).
- Keep your palms flat on the floor, with your arms straight. Think about keeping your hands beneath your shoulders.
- Brace your core as you drop your left elbow down to the ground, followed by your right. You should still be in a plank position, with your weight on your elbows. Don't let your pelvis rotate from side to side as you do this - think about keeping your belly button sucked into your spine.
- Pause here, then press your left palm into the floor, and rise back up to a high plank position.
Read more about how to do a walking plank, and the different modifications to try here.
I did 50 walking planks a day for a week — here’s what happened to my abs
This one wasn’t fun, and wasn’t pretty, but after a week of doing 50 reps of the exercise every single day, here’s what I learned.
The planks didn’t get easier
For most of these week-long challenges, by day four or five, I’m looking for ways to add intensity to the move to make things a little more challenging. This wasn’t the case with walking planks. I found it only took a few reps for my arms and core to burn. This could be because, as a runner, I don’t spend as much time on my upper body strength, but compared to my normal ab workouts, this definitely felt more like a full-body workout.
If up-down planks are too difficult right now, start by building your strength in a regular high plank. Once you have mastered that move, try to hold a plank for a minute, but after 30 seconds move from a high plank to an elbow plank — this will get you used to the movement. Of course, you can also start with fewer reps — aim for two up-and-down planks on each arm, and build up from there.
Looking for more plank inspiration to torch your core? We've found 19 of the best plank variations here.
My core and arms felt stronger
While this exercise didn’t feel any easier, after a week of doing 50 reps per day, my core and my arms did feel stronger. Throughout the reps, I thought about squeezing my belly button in towards my spine, helping me to keep my abs engaged throughout the move. I also had to think about keeping my pelvis still and parallel to the floor, rather than rocking from side to side as I moved from the low plank to the high plank.
As well as my core shaking after a few reps, my arms took a beating in this move. I found I often held my breath in an attempt to make the move easier. This is a common mistake people make with commando planks or any difficult exercise. When I asked a personal trainer friend to watch my form, she told me to try to use diaphragmatic breathing instead, which is an expansive breath rather than restrictive. Your abdominal muscles aid your diaphragm, and the dome-like muscle technically counts as part of your network of core muscles.
I had to resist the temptation to rush
On day one, I moved through the exercise as fast as humanly possible in an attempt to get my 50 reps over and done with as fast as possible. On day two, when I unrolled my exercise mat and started doing the same in the gym, a personal trainer stopped me and said “you do know you’ll get a lot more out of this exercise if you move slower?” He wasn’t wrong: When slowing the move down, my core had to work harder to stabilize my body, and my arms had to work harder pushing from the low plank into the high plank.
The key to this exercise is to move slowly and with control. I found doing five sets of 10 reps allowed me to move slower, taking a short break between each set. I’d also swap which arm I lead with after five reps to ensure I was working into each side equally.
I had to think of the muscle group I was working
As mentioned above, this is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups in the body. I found it helped me to really think about the different muscles I was working as I moved through my reps by creating a mental checklist from head to toe and gently squeezing each muscle group as I moved. Research has found this mind-body connection helps you improve your form, and work your muscles harder.
I’ll be adding it to my core routine in the future
350 reps of walking planks later, I’m still not a fan, but I’ll definitely be incorporating this ab and arm exercise into my home workout routines going forward, and hopefully, I won’t dread it as much. I found the key is to break the move down into shorter sets, and to really focus on the muscles you work as you go. That said, I’m looking forward to not having to do 50 reps of walking planks tomorrow.