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Meet the man with a heart of oak

If you’ve ever tried to hold your body in a straight line, perched only on your toes and forearms, for a couple of minutes, be prepared to be amazed – and perhaps a little demoralised. A 51-year old fitness instructor from Denmark with the core muscles of a Norse god, has set a new world record for holding a plank – for an astounding 4 hours and 28 minutes.

Tom Hoel’s epic feat of static endurance beat the previous record, set by a Beijing policeman, by two minutes. But it took nine months of structured training, careful eating, no boozing and good sleeping before Hoel braced his torso for the ordeal.

“I have never pushed myself that far,” he said. “I had a serious crisis for almost two hours. After mentally arguing with myself, I finally asked for the time at 3 hours and 41 minutes. I thought that I was still under three hours and was ready to quit but when I realised that I had beaten my former record (3 hours and 8 minutes) and the goal was within sight, I mobilised every resource in my mind and body.” In a challenge that was as much mental as physical, Hoel staved off boredom with the help of an iPad, while his abs, glutes, shoulders and arms did the hard work.

Yet all that suffering was just for a temporary triumph. As we went to press, news started to filter through of a new Guinness World Record for the longest abdominal plank with an official time of 5 hours 15 minutes and 15 seconds by former US Marine George E. Hood, 57.

Why the plank works

The plank is a great exercise for developing both your abdominal muscles and your stability through the torso, which will help to avoid injury. Unlike many circuit-training exercises that focus on the compound movement of several muscle groups, the plank prevents movement. It works on two levels, targeting your abs and tightening your deep core muscles around the spine.

Record breaking exercises

Press-ups

If you fancy holding the world record for the number of press-ups completed in an hour, you’ve got less than two seconds per rep. Top of the global leader board is Carlton Williams, a Brit, who managed a chest-expanding 1,874 press-ups in 60 minutes.

Pull-ups

How many times could you defy gravity in an hour? Stephen Hyland, from the UK, managed an arm-aching 1,009 pull-ups in 60 minutes. He set the record by completing the pull-ups as a series of repetitions: 91 sets of 8 reps, 20 sets of 7 reps, 6 sets of 9 reps, 4 sets of 4 reps, 3 sets of 6 reps, and 1 set each of 21, 12, 10, 5, 3 and 2 reps.

Wall sit

Skiers take note – if your quads burn on downhill runs, you need Dr. Thienna Ho’s training programme. She holds the record for a static wall sit, with back against the wall and knees at a right angle, at an amazing 11 hours 51 minutes and 14 seconds.

The perfect plank

1. Lie face down with your elbows on the ground and your arms out to your sides.

2. Lift your body into a straight line, with your weight evenly distributed between your toes and forearms. The wider your feet the more stable you’ll feel.

3. Keep your elbows bent at 90-degrees, and your shoulders relaxed, not rounded.

4. Make sure your back is straight and your hips raised. The ultimate goal is to maintain your body parallel to the ground.

You can find more great training advice in our training section