Ahh the plank — a word that elicits a look of horror in the eyes of my clients when I explain that a 30-second plank awaits. As a personal trainer, I can tell you that a plank is an excellent core movement, however, to really up the ante, a wall plank is a great exercise to incorporate into your workout routine.
A wall plank, as the name suggests, involves a wall. Instead of feet resting on the ground, as they would in a regular plank, feet are pressed against a wall in line with your body.
Much like a plank, a wall plank really fires up and engages the core muscles. However, a wall plank works these muscles more than a regular plank as more effort and stability are required to hold your body in a straight line against the wall.
A strong core is far more than just an aesthetic goal — the core muscles, of which there are several, are essential for every movement we do in life. From getting out of bed, hitting our deadlift PRs, nailing good form when running, and ensuring our posture stays on point, the abs work to avoid pain and injuries in the back and shoulders.
A wall plank engages the core muscles, as well as muscles in the lower body for a full-body workout. Wall planks are an isometric exercise — this means they work muscles without any movement, as opposed to say, a squat. Muscles are under tension for the duration of the exercise, which from my experience, is one of the best ways to strengthen and grow muscles — read more about time under tension, and how it helps grow muscle here.
Oh, and if it’s a six-pack you’re after, then a wall plank can certainly help you on your way. I’d go so far as to say that they’re better at six-pack building than endless sit-ups. If done incorrectly, sit-ups can cause a lot of back and neck pain. That said, if visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on your body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters.
To find out more about the benefits of a wall plank, I decided to practice the exercise daily for a week. This was one of the most humbling challenges I have ever taken on, read on to find out more.
How to do a wall plank
Nail the perfect wall plank with these pointers:
- Get into a high plank position perpendicular to a wall. This means your shoulders should be stacked above your wrists with your back, glutes, and neck all aligned.
- Next, step up onto the wall. Your toes should point down and your legs should stay aligned with the rest of your body. Essentially, avoid stepping your feet too high up the wall — you should not be in a diagonal position.
- Press your feet against the wall, engage your core, and hold yourself in this plank position.
- Aim for 10 seconds to start, then over time, increase this time.
With other planks, there’s less pressure on muscles as feet are resting on the ground; with the wall plank, you must nail your form and actively focus on your core muscles keeping you upright.
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I did wall planks every day for a week — here's what happened
There’s no getting away with cheating a wall plank
I see it a lot; people dropping their hips during a plank to make it easier, or simply failing to engage their muscles to keep their body in a straight line. With a wall plank, there is no way of cheating. To keep your feet against the wall and your body upright in a line, every muscle needs to be engaged and fired up.
I could hold a wall plank for 30 seconds max
I was actually surprised at my lack of strength in holding a wall plank. It was humbling, to say the least. The longest wall plank I counted was 30 seconds, which compared to several minutes of holding a regular plank, is considerably different.
I noticed more definition in my stomach after a week
I know workouts aren’t all about aesthetics, but I have no shame in admitting that a big reason why I exercise is to keep my body looking lean. So, after one week of brutal wall planks, I certainly noticed my core muscles looking a little defined. I was also throwing in more ab workouts generally, incorporating leg raises, v-ups, and Russian twists into my workout, but the wall planks were a new move for me, and often new exercises can lead to fast results, at least initially.
I fell down several times
I think I’ve mentioned how difficult I found this exercise, but I’ll say it again — this one was challenging! If you don’t engage your muscles correctly, you will fall, it’s simply a matter of fact! Naturally, as my core started to tire, my body would give in, and I definitely belly-flopped to the ground a few times. Practice makes perfect, right?
My arms also worked hard
You might notice how your shoulders ache when holding a plank, but this was definitely increased during my wall planks! I was practically holding my body up on my arms and shoulders as my feet started to slip down the wall behind me. Evidently, a wall plank isn’t just a core challenge, it’s a shoulder challenge too!
Certain walls are best for wall planks
I learned a few knacks whilst wall-planking every day. Firstly, use a wall with a grip (essentially not a shiny, wooden gloss door for example) so your feet aren’t slipping and sliding around. I would also say that an outside wall is best, as trainers can scrape paint and potentially scratch walls. Alternatively, do your wall planks with bare feet (socks won’t have the grip you need) on an indoor wall to avoid ruining your paintwork.
Another useful tip is to keep looking down as you plank. This is a general rule of all planks, as the aim is to keep your body in a straight line to prevent any stress on the neck, but with a wall plank, this is even more important. Stress on the neck can lead to pain and injuries — with a wall plank, a lot more focus is needed to keep the body balanced and aligned, so please be sure to keep your neck in line with your spine.
In short, the wall plank is an excellent exercise for working the core muscles — I highly recommend it if you fancy upping your plank game, or simply want to challenge your core.
As a personal trainer, it’s not often I find bodyweight exercises that surprise me, but this is the most challenging bodyweight exercise I have ever come across. Just getting my feet up onto the wall was hard, never mind holding the wall plank for what felt like an eternity *cough* 20 seconds *cough*.
Find a wall and get planking. You won’t regret it. Meanwhile, I will continue to add wall planks to my workouts (perhaps not every day) so that my core gets a serious blasting.
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Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.