Plank exercises and workouts - your 4 week plank challenge

Build on your strength to master a new plank each week and strengthen your core.
Published 8 November 2016 | Updated 21 December 2023

What’s so great about planks? While crunches tone the top layer of abs, planks go deeper and tone more of your core. That means more benefits to everyday life. Consider that a tree would crack or snap in half when the wind blew if its trunk weren’t strong. Your core is the same way. When you strengthen it, it helps you become better at everything you do, including improving your balance and posture. Plus, training your whole core hits your six-pack muscles as well as your internal and external obliques—the muscles that run up the sides of your midsection from your ribs to your pelvis.

Plank challenge

How to start

This doable 4-week plan starts with a basic plank that gets the key muscle groups working together in your core. (Can’t do a plank? Start by doing it on your knees, not your toes). Then, you’ll add to the challenge by recruiting more core muscles each week and lengthening the time you’re toning the muscles.

Tips for keeping safe during your plank

1. Check yourself to be sure you’re not slipping out of form. The most common slips: letting your hips sag to the ground, hiking your butt in the air, and hunching your shoulders forward. When your body starts to shake and you feel like you want to quit, this is when you’ll know change is happening. Power through your reps and you’ll see progress every day.

2. If you can’t hold the plank with good form for the whole time, modify your position. It’s better to switch from your toes to your knees and stick with the time frame than give up completely and cheat on time.

4 week plank challengeNote: If week 1 is too easy, skip to week 2. That said if you feel you're not ready to move on, repeat a week. It's about making it work for you.

1. Modified plank

Lie face-down on a mat, keeping your forearms and knees on the ground. Lift your chest and torso off the ground, and lower your bottom so your back is straight. Exhale and bring your belly button in towards your spine.woman doing modified plank on knees

2. Standard plank

Lie tummy-down on a mat and keep your forearms on the floor. Curl your toes under and lift your chest, torso and legs off the floor, keeping your back straight and bottom flat. Engage your core by, drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Keep your breathing regular as you hold the position.Standard plank

3. Heel lift plank

Get into standard plank but keep your hands on the mat and, your arms straight. Engage your core and slowly lift your left leg up so your heel is level with your pelvis. Keep your legs straight and pelvis square to the floor. Pause then slowly lower your leg. Repeat on your right leg.woman doing heel lift plank

4. Side plank

Get into a plank on your right side, with your right foot and forearm on the mat. Keep your right elbow in line with your shoulder and your hips stacked. Engage your core and hold. To challenge yourself: raise your left arm up, then bring it down and wrap it around your stomach towards your back, twisting your upper body. Hold for a count, then bring your arm back up. Repeat on the left side.woman doing side plank