Members of the UPMC marketing department do the plank challenge

Here at the UPMC marketing office, we found that reaching for an extra cup of coffee isn’t the only way to put a boost of energy into our work day.

What started as a “what-if?” conversation between team members of the marketing department has since turned into a daily, 90-second plank challenge we have been practicing for more than three months.

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How We Got Started Planking

A few people in the office happened to read the same article one September morning, about someone who did a daily plank challenge at their workplace. It sounded interesting enough that we decided to take up the plank challenge here at US Steel Tower.

We decided on planking before lunchtime and holding the plank for 90 seconds. To put our plan in action, we scheduled a two-minute meeting on all our calendars, once a day, every day. At 11:45 a.m., we receive a pop-up notification from Microsoft Outlook that simply states, “90-second plank!” with the location listed as “in your cube,” and drop down into plank position as a team.

How to Plank, UPMC Style

What’s a plank, you ask? Imagine putting yourself in the push-up position on the ground, but instead of placing your hands on the floor, you put your weight on your elbows and forearms.

Planks strengthen the abdominal muscles when held over a period of time. Try it for a minute or two, for example.

For a proper plank, follow these tips:

  • Make sure your elbows sit directly under your shoulders
  • Focus on keeping a straight spine
  • Don’t forget to breathe
  • Last but not least, tighten your core to get the best results for your plank

At first, we thought it might be embarrassing to drop down and plank in front of others who might walk by our desks, as working (and planking) inside of cubicles lacks privacy. That feeling, however, quickly faded. Our work area has become known to all surrounding teams as the “planking row.”

People who walk by usually stop over to ask what we’re doing, root us on, or chit-chat about a similar challenge they can do with their own team. A select few have even dropped down and started to plank alongside us.

Benefits of Planking

Planking has been found to be a better core workout than sit-ups, as it gives you strength and stability in your core to help you complete other exercises more easily. Doing regular planks, along with other core exercises, such as side props and bridges, can also help your posture.

The Results of the UPMC Plank Challenge

Do we all have rock-hard abs after 14 weeks of daily planking? Perhaps not, but the habit has certainly disciplined us in other ways.

More than ever before, most of us are practicing healthier habits in the office by walking and taking the stairs more often, drinking more water, and sharing new workout ideas with the rest of the team. There have even been a few instances when we’d drop down for a second plank after a gluttonous afternoon of treating ourselves to cookies and cupcakes.

We know that doing 90-second office planks is not the only thing we should do in order to lead a healthy lifestyle, but it sure does serve as a reminder and a quick energy-boosting activity that we can do during our busy work days. Plus, there’s nothing like the feeling of counting down from those final 10 seconds to zero, knowing that we get to go eat our lunches after we’re done with our plank.

We’re hopeful we can extend our plank from 90 seconds to two minutes sometime in the new year, and that you’ll find inspiration to begin your own plank challenge at your office.

Interested in trying it out? Grab a friend or coworker at the office for accountability, put it in your calendars as a recurring event (a time slot before lunch is optimal), and make a point of planking every day.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.