Does Planking Burn Fat? (Everything You Should Know)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 9, 2023
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Plank exercise is an excellent strength workout because it engages multiple muscles at once and strengthens your whole body – your core, shoulders, and legs, too.

But does planking burn belly fat and help shed some pounds?

I spent hours researching journals and reliable articles to know whether planking helps lose fat. Here’s everything to know.

Quick Summary

  • Planks alone cannot burn fat, but can promote weight loss when combined with other workout routines.
  • Incorporating planks into your exercises improves your body posture, increases muscle strength, and strengthens your bones.
  • When doing planks, hold for at least 60 seconds to burn about 2-5 calories per minute. If you can’t hold a plank for 10 seconds, there might be a back issue or a weak core problem.
  • Based on my coaching experience, planks are a cornerstone exercise that, although not a quick fix for fat loss, is essential for long-term health and fitness.

Planks Don’t Burn Belly Fat, And Here’s Why

asian man in a plank position on a yoga mat

In my experience as a Health and Performance Coach, I've seen that planks alone might not be the ultimate solution for clients specifically targeting belly fat loss.

Planks Are Only Strength Exercises

Planks only help to build strength; specifically, core strength. Strength workouts don’t burn many calories compared to other exercises such as cardio workouts.

No Such Thing as Spot-Reduction Exercises

Planking aids in calorie burning, but it's important to understand that spot reduction doesn't work for fat loss. Instead, overall body fat reduction, achieved through a calorie deficit, is key.

Planks, while not directly targeting belly fat, strengthen the core and improve posture, making them a crucial part of a balanced fitness routine that should also include cardio workouts and a healthy diet for effective fat loss.

This holistic approach will create a calorie deficit and promote overall fat loss, including belly fat.

What Planks Do & The Calories They Burn

woman flexing her ab muscles

Planks enhance core strength, posture, and stability, engaging not just the abdominal muscles like rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis, but also the upper body, back, legs, and glutes, leading to improved efficiency in both gym performance and daily activities.

Several of my clients have reported feeling more focused and less stressed after incorporating regular planking into their routines, highlighting the mental health benefits of this exercise.

Not only that, planks can also tone and shape the muscles in the abdomen area, so you can have ripped abs once the belly fat dissolves.

How Many Calories Do Planks Burn?

Planks burn 2-5 calories per minute on average. However, this depends on a person’s body weight, metabolic rate, and other factors. Other challenging variations of planking could burn more calories.

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What Loses Belly Fat?

woman doing planks with a trainer

If you want to speed up your weight loss progress, here are some of the calorie-burning exercises and healthy diet tips for you.

Do planks correctly to strengthen the core muscles

Though plank burns fewer calories than cardio exercises and plank alone cannot burn belly fat, it's still beneficial.  Here are some tips when doing plank:

  1. Try to perform at least three sets of 60-second basic plank. If you’re a beginner, start with a short set until you develop endurance and work up to 60 seconds.
  2. Do plank correctly to reap the best results of the exercise. When you do a plank, make sure your body is in the proper form – in a straight line from head to toe.

“If you can’t hold a plank for 10 seconds, there might be a back issue or a weak core problem. Holding a plank for one minute or so shows you have a strong core.

- Bryan O’Conner, Personal Trainer of Candiac, Que

Include Aerobic Exercises

leg view of a woman doing running exercises

In my professional experience, I've found that combining cardio exercises with strength training like planks offers the best results for losing belly fat.

Here are aerobic exercises you may try:

  • Walking or hiking
  • Cycling
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming
  • Rowing

Start Strength Training

Cardio workouts increase calorie burn, but adding strength training, such as weight lifting, enhances weight loss by building muscle mass and triggering the afterburn effect, which continues burning calories post-workout.

Some of the excellent strength training exercises for losing weight include: 

  • Circuit training
  • Squat
  • Push-ups
  • Dumbbell row
  • Bench step ups
  • Lunge
  • Incline dumbbell press

Try HIIT Exercises

leg view of a man using a bicycle outdoors

If you aim to burn body fat and build lean muscle mass, high-intensity interval training should be on your list.

High-intensity interval training refers to workouts that alternate between quick and intense bursts of cardio exercises and less-intense exercises or short rest periods.

It's as simple as pedaling a bike as fast as you can for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of slow and easy cycling. You typically need to complete 4-6 rounds of the workout.

HIIT is also a great choice if you have a tight schedule and you want to drop off pounds as quickly as possible. One study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that people trained in high-intensity interval training three times a week for 12 weeks at 20 minutes each session lost an average of 4.4 pounds and showed a significant decrease in their waistline [1].

Maintain A Healthy Diet

In my practice as a Health & Performance Coach, I emphasize to my clients that about 75% of weight loss is diet-related.

Complementing your routine with nutritional aspects specifically tailored to enhance the effects of planking can offer a more comprehensive approach to fat loss. Some of the ways you can try to reduce your calorie intake are:

  • Eating more lean protein and soluble fiber
  • Cutting back refined carbs and processed foods
  • Consuming more low-carb green vegetables
  • Consuming healthy fats
  • Increasing your water intake

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FAQs

Is a 1-Minute Plank Good?

Holding a plank position for a minute is already enough and can already give you excellent results. As experts say, planking for more than a minute is not recommended because there are no added benefits.

What Happens If You Do a Plank for 30 Days?

Doing a plank for 30 days could correct your posture, decrease back pain, and improve your balance and stability.

Are Planks Cardio or Strength?

Plank workout is a strength exercise; it helps strengthen your core, shoulders, chest, back, and legs. But other plank variations, such as moving plank, can get your heart rate up, so you are sneaking in some cardio exercise into your core-strength workout.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22720138
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