The U.S. Army recently revised its Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to include a plank among its six events as the sole test for core strength. The option to do a leg tuck instead is gone, which means that if you want to pass the ACFT, you’ll need to master the plank.
If you’re training for the ACFT, or if you want to master the plank to U.S. Army levels, then read on to discover the Army-approved plank position, how to train to hold it longer, and how long you have to hold it to pass in the ACFT.
How to Plank
The plank is a straightforward move. Here’s how to plank:
- Step 1: Get into position
- Step 2: Stay there as long as you can
That’s just two steps, but both are challenging. The plank works your body from head to toe, and staying in the proper plank position for a minute or more is tough.
Let’s look at each step in turn.
How to Get the Proper Plank Position
The ACFT requires a forearm plank, which is what we’ll focus on here. (There are many other kinds of planks, including the high plank and the side plank.) Here’s how to get into the proper plank for the ACFT1:
- Start by lying face-down on the floor.
- Put your hands on the floor, either flat or in fists, close together, in front of your face. Your hands should form one corner of a triangle with your elbows. Your fingers may not be laced together.
- Keep your feet close together. Flex your ankles so your toes are on the floor.
- Lift up into plank position by pushing your body up on your forearms, bringing your trunk, hips, and knees up and into a straight line with your head. Balance on the toes and balls of your feet. Keep your head level with your eyes looking down toward the floor.
- For the duration of the plank, keep your body in a straight line from head to feet. Keep your feet, forearms, and hands in contact with the floor. The plank is over when the proper plank position is lost.
Here’s what the plank looks like in the ACFT:
The proper form is crucial for passing the ACFT. It requires hands close together, “no more than the grader’s fist-width apart,” and feet close together, no further than “the grader’s boot width apart.”
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How to Train to Plank for as Long as You Can
Staying in the proper plank position for a few minutes requires strong muscles in the core, upper body, and lower body. Build up those muscles so it’s easier for your body to stay in the plank position longer.
Here are some things you can do to train to hold a forearm plank longer:
- Work your way up to the Army-approved position described above by modifying the forearm plank or practicing another plank:
- Start with a knee plank3
- Do the forearm plank with hands and feet further apart
- Add exercises to your workout routine that strengthen the muscles most used in a plank:
- Abdominals (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis)
- Back muscles
- Arms and shoulders (traps, rhomboids, delts, pecs)
- Lower body (glutes, quads)
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1-Minute Plank Is Equivalent to How Many Push-Ups?
It’s difficult to say exactly how many push-ups equal a single one-minute
plank; the answer seems to be anywhere from 30 to 200 push-ups.
One study led by Dr. Stuart McGill of the Department of Kinesiology of
the University of Waterloo concluded that a one-minute plank was equivalent to
approximately 40 push-ups4.
Whatever the exact number, the takeaway is clear: the plank, while it looks easy, is a challenging exercise that works the body.
How Long Do You Have to Plank for the ACFT?
There is no official minimum time required to hold a plank for the ACFT; you’re simply instructed to “Maintain a proper plank position for as long as possible.”
To pass, you must score at least 60 points out of 100. Scores are based on how long an individual holds the plank and their age. According to the U.S. Army’s scoring scale5, the minimum time in minutes for a man or woman to hold the plank in order to pass with a minimum score of 60 is:
- 1:30 for ages 17-21
- 1:25 for ages 22-26
- 1:20 for ages 27-31
- 1:15 for ages 32-26
- 1:10 for ages 37 and up
What if you’re aiming for a maximum score of 100 instead of a minimum of 60? In that case, you’ll need to hold the plank:
- 3:40 for ages 17-21
- 3:35 for ages 22-26
- 3:30 for ages 27-31
- 3:25 for ages 32-26
- 3:20 for ages 37 and up
PRO TIP: Want to see how the ACFT is scored? Here’s the score chart.
What if you want to really challenge yourself? Then try beating the Guinness World Record time for holding a plank – 8 hours and 15 minutes6. George Hood set the record in early 2020. He was 62 years old at the time. And, as it turns out, he’s a military man – a former U.S. Marine.