Pay no attention to fitness headlines claiming that planks can burn belly fat – because they can’t. Never.

Planks will not flatten your stomach, either.

Come on, think about it: If an exercise as simple and as relatively short-lived as a plank could shear off belly fat, why are so many people walking around with overhanging bellies?

During a plank, the small stabilizer muscles in your abdomen are in a continuous state of contraction; they are under continuous tension.

Though there’s no bending, folding or “curling” in a plank, those little muscles are still working – being activated to maintain the ruler-straight plank position.

Now if you have a thick layer of fat between your abdominal muscles and your belly skin, you should take note that the plank does NOT require any raiding of those fat stores to keep the little stabilizer muscles working.

That’s because the plank is a relatively easy exercise, isolating a small, naturally weak muscle group whose job is stabilization rather than force production.

“Wait a Minute – I Struggle to Do Planks!”

Planks are very difficult – for out-of-shape people. The difficulty is more reflective of the person’s lack of fitness than some inherent factor of the exercise itself.

If an out-of-shape individual practices planking, it won’t be long before this exercise becomes quite easy.

So don’t let the increasing “burn” in your abdomen, as you continue holding a plank, trick you into thinking you’re shearing off fat where you feel the burn.

I’ve told my personal training clients that “struggling begets results,” but this mantra needs context.

Struggling to hold a plank does not burn belly fat. However, the struggle to push through a set of grueling dumbbell squats straight into overhead presses is the type of struggle I’m referring to.

Same with the struggle to dash up a hill as fast as possible or bang out eight deadlifts with good form.

Little Motor Bike vs. 18-Wheeler Truck

Planks are great for strengthening and toning the core. And that’s all they do. So here’s the question if you still think that planks will flatten your stomach:

Which burns (or requires) more fuel: a little motor bike or an 18-wheeler truck?

Of course, the truck does. Think of the muscles involved in planking as a little motor bike, and your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, back and chest muscles as the 18-wheelers.

If you want to shear off belly fat, you must provoke the 18-wheeler muscles into requiring heaps of fuel.

That fuel will come from all over your body including your belly. This is why you never see a man or woman with ripped sculpted legs, shoulders and arms, but then a big overhanging soft belly.

I’ve had clients experience waistline shrinkage from a program of barbell squats plus back and chest routines, without any planks, sit-ups or crunches.

“But I Keep Seeing Articles About How Planks Can Burn Belly Fat!”

The author is often not a fitness professional, and has managed to get a personal trainer to provide some quotes about planks that the author cleverly works into the article.

By the time you’re done reading the article, you realize that the message doesn’t quite fit the click-bait headline.

Usually, these articles, with titles such as, “How Long You Must Hold a Plank to Flatten Your Belly,” explain a few other things you absolutely must do to bust up belly fat – namely, strength training the entire body with compound (multi-joint) exercises and reducing food intake.

If such an article is written by a fitness professional, and that individual claims that you can trim down your stomach just by doing planks, that person in lying his or her head off.

Planks are an excellent core strengthening movement. Keep doing them.

But for Pete’s sake, it’s time to accept the grim truth: Simply supporting yourself on your forearms and feet for a few minutes every day is NOT going to strip inches off your middle. Never.

Deep down inside, you just have to know it can’t be this easy. The fantasy is over.

If you want to get rid of the excess fat in your gut, you must create a daily caloric deficit – created by increasing your resting metabolic rate via compound strength training and smart food choices.

Planks will tone the abdominal muscles by strengthening them, but this response to the stimulus does NOT require much fuel!

Recommended Exercises for Ridding Belly Fat

• Squat
• Deadlift
• Weighted lunge
• Sled work
• Tire flip
• Barbell press
• Machine back exercises
• Kettlebell squat to overhead press
High intensity interval training

Deadlift

 

Weighted Walking Lunge

 

Sled Push

 

Tire Flip

 

Bench Press

 

Lat Pull-Down

 

Dumbbell Squat. Credit: Sergio Pedemonte with Your House Fitness

 

Back Squat

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
.
Top image credit: Bengt Nyman from Vaxholm, Sweden