Courtesy of Rachel Kurtenbach
In 2018, Mike Harrington saw a YouTube video of an 80-something-year-old doing what he said was a world-record plank of eight minutes. At that point, Harrington was 80 and had already set records in powerlifting—which he took up at age 77. As the world’s third-best active powerlifter over 80 in his weight class, he squats 160 pounds and deadlifts 281.
“I wanted to do something daily that would be habitually beneficial for my health,” he says. And when he saw that video, he decided to try planking. Unless you work your core muscles, they’re going to deteriorate as you age—sitting in a chair most of your life does nothing to keep them strong. You need core strength all the time, but the older you are, the more you need the foundation of stability that it gives you. As a lifter, he already had a head start on stronger core muscles over many people in their 80s. “I did a 34-second plank on January 1, 2019. By December 31 of that year, I could plank for 15:03,” he says. What helped him get there and stay strong now:
- “I have a good trainer—Chris Treanor—and a good plan that I executed 100 percent of the time. I never, ever cheated myself,” says Harrington. One of his last workouts before the 15:03 was four seven-minute planks with 90 seconds of rest. “Midway, your body is telling you to quit. When you start the last set of seven minutes, your body is screaming, ‘Quit!’ The pain is huge, but if you quit, you are cheating.”
- “I wear a weighted vest for planks to cut down on training time,” he says. He’s aiming to break the national records for his weight class in powerlifting now, so he’s spending more time on those moves. “At my age, I can only train so much,” he says. But if someone comes along and planks longer, “I’ll begin my quest to regain my record as the longest planker over 80—or 85, for that matter.”
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