Fitness & Exercise

30-day plank challenge

Whether you’re perfecting your plank or learning to hold one for the first time, here’s your guide to toning your middle and boosting your balance and posture in just four weeks.

For years, crunches were a workout mainstay, but now the plank is every expert’s must-do move. What’s so great about this exercise? It helps you do everything better.

“Planks mimic how your body moves in everyday life,” says David Otey, a personal trainer based in West Orange, New Jersey, and chief content officer of Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification. “When you’re carrying something heavy or walking, you’re not crunching—you’re bracing the muscles of your core to maintain your posture.” During a plank, your midsection muscles perform the same action. As your core strengthens, it boosts your body’s ability to balance and move more efficiently.

Planks can have belly-flattening benefits, too. They tone your rectus abdominis (the “six-pack muscles” on the front of your belly); the transverse abdominis, a muscle that runs horizontally, deep in your belly; as well as your internal and external obliques, the muscles that run up the sides of your midsection. “These muscles give you the little lines we envy in all those Instagram #transformationtuesday shots, but they’re actually holding in your waist,” says exercise physiologist Michele Olson, PhD, an adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. “When strengthened, these muscles pull your entire midsection in like a corset.”

Ready to strengthen your core with this powerful move? A 30-day plank challenge is a motivating way to do it! You’ll find everything you need to get started here.

What is a 30-day plank challenge?

A plank challenge is a plan that strengthens the core muscles and improves your posture. Each day for a month, you’ll gradually increase the time, difficulty, or amount of planks you do. By the end of week 4, you’ll be able to hold different plank variations for at least 60 seconds. 

How to do a 30-day plank challenge

This doable plan only takes a few minutes a day and it starts with a basic plank. (Can’t do a full plank? Start on your knees instead of your toes.) You’ll add to the challenge each week by lengthening the time you hold the position and performing different plank variations. “There is a purposeful progression,” Otey says. “Progress happens in bite-sized pieces.”

Begin with the basics

Before you start your 30-day challenge, take a minute to master how to do a plank. You’ll perform two basic variations: a forearm and high plank. 

How to do a forearm plank:How to do a forearm plank with face up

  • Get on all fours and place your forearms on the floor, elbows bent and aligned under your shoulders. Clasp your hands together.
  • Extend your legs behind you, so your head, hips, and ankles form a line (shown). Hold this position.

To make it easier: Place your knees on the floor. 


How to do a high plank:How to do a yoga plank

  • Get on all fours with your hands on the floor, wrists aligned under shoulders.
  • Extend your legs behind you, so your head, hips, and ankles form a line (shown). Hold this position.

To make it easier: Place your knees on the floor. 

Keep safety in mind

Good plank form will ensure you strengthen your muscles instead of straining them. Here are three tips for perfecting your plank position.

  • Watch your back: If your lower back aches during a plank, it may be taking on too much of the workload. A form fix: “Lift your hips a little higher, tighten your core, and squeeze your glutes to help support you,” Otey says.
  • Check your arms: To prevent wrist strain, be sure your elbows (if you’re doing a forearm plank) or wrists (in a high plank) are directly under your shoulders. 
  • Go for time, not difficulty: If you can’t hold the plank position with good form for the suggested time, modify your position. It’s better to drop to your knees than give up. 

     


Plank challenge week 1

It’s time to get started! Six days a week, perform the plank listed for the suggested amount of time and sets, resting 30 seconds between each set. (On Sundays, there’s no challenge to give your core a rest.) Remember: Lower your knees to the floor if necessary—focus on maintaining good form for the total time.

Monday

  • Challenge: Forearm plank 
  • Duration: 3 sets of 20 seconds

Tuesday

  • Challenge: Forearm plank 
  • Duration: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Wednesday 

  • Challenge: High plank 
  • Duration: 3 sets of 20 seconds

Thursday

  • Challenge: High plank 
  • Duration: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Friday

  • Challenge: Forearm plank 
  • Duration: 3 sets of 45 seconds

Saturday

  • Challenge: High plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 45 seconds

Plank challenge week 2

You’re getting stronger every day! This week you’ll take things up a notch with side planks, a variation that homes in on the muscles on the sides of your waist. Perform it for the suggested time and sets, resting 30 seconds between each set.

Monday and Tuesday

  • Challenge: Side plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 20 seconds (each side)

How to do a side plank:

  • Lie on your left side with your legs extended, right foot stacked on top of left. 
  • Place your left forearm on the floor with elbow under your left shoulder, and palm on the floor in front of it.
  • Lift your hips so your body forms a line from your left shoulder to your left ankle. Hold this position, then repeat on the opposite side to complete 1 set.

To make it easier: Bend your left knee, so your lower leg is on the floor.

How to do a side plank

Wednesday and Thursday 

  • Challenge: Side plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 30 seconds (each side)

Friday and Saturday

  • Challenge: Side plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 45 seconds (each side)

Plank challenge week 3

This week you’ll push your muscles even harder with a plank walk-up: continuously moving from a forearm to a high-plank position. Perform the move for each day’s challenge, resting 30 seconds between each set. You can do this!

Monday and Tuesday

  • Challenge: Plank walk-up
  • Duration: 3 sets of 30 seconds

How to do a plank walk-up:

  • Start in a forearm plank (shown) with hands flat on the floor.
  • Keep your body aligned from your head to your heels as you slowly extend your right arm, followed by your left arm, coming up into a high plank position (shown). 
  • Reverse the motion, bending right arm and then left arm, to return to a forearm plank. Continue for the duration of the set.

To make it easier: Place your knees on the floor. 

Plank walk-up position a:

image

Plank walk-up position b:

How to do a yoga plank

Wednesday and Thursday

  • Challenge: Plank walk-up
  • Duration: 3 sets of 45 seconds

Friday and Saturday

  • Challenge: Plank walk-up
  • Duration: 2 sets of 60 seconds

Plank challenge week 4

During this final week, you’ll do every plank from weeks 1 through 3. For each set, hold each of the plank variations for the suggested amount of time; rest for up to 30 seconds between each set. Finish strong!

Monday 

  • Challenge: Forearm plank, side plank 
  • Duration: 3 sets of 30 seconds (each side for the side plank)

Tuesday

  • Challenge: Forearm plank, side plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 45 seconds (each side for the side plank)

Wednesday 

  • Challenge: High plank, side plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 30 seconds (each side for the side plank)

Thursday

  • Challenge: High plank, side plank
  • Duration: 3 sets of 45 seconds (each side for the side plank)

Friday

  • Challenge: Forearm plank, side plank, plank walk-up
  • Duration: 2 sets of 60 seconds (each side for the side plank)

Saturday

  • Challenge: High plank, side plank, plank walk-up
  • Duration: 2 sets of 60 seconds (each side for the side plank)

Benefits of a plank challenge

Yes, you’ll earn bragging rights—but completing a 30-day plank challenge will score you these perks too: 

1. A strong core

The muscles of your torso—from your shoulders to your hips—are your body’s foundation for nearly every movement. Planks effectively strengthen all these core muscles, according to a 2016 study. Plus, researchers found that performing different plank variations (like you do during a 30-plank challenge) fires up more muscle fibers, boosting your results. 

2. Less back pain

Planks improve spine stability, which can help reduce backaches. Research shows that performing core stabilization exercises, including plank and side plank, significantly reduces low back pain.

3. Mental strength 

Holding a plank position for a minute isn’t easy, and that’s a positive when it comes to your mindset. “Once you know you can push through discomfort, it makes other challenging things seem doable,” Otey says. 

4. Better posture

Planks target your abs, back, and shoulders—all the muscle groups that help you stand tall. Improving your posture can help you look and feel better.
 

Post 30-day plank challenge

Once you complete this challenge, don’t stop working your core muscles. Keep strengthening your midsection by doing a plank variation every day—or as part of every sweat session. Try challenging yourself to hold the position for as long as you can, and see if you can beat your best time.

Want to try a new core exercise? Consider a loaded carry, Otey says. To do it: Stand, holding a weight in each hand with your arms extended at your sides, and walk forward 10 steps; then turn around and walk back, continuing for a minute or more. “This is essentially a dynamic plank,” Otey says. 

So, are you up for the plank challenge?

If you want to improve the way you move and feel—while cinching up your midsection—a 30-day plank challenge is for you. In only four weeks, you’ll boost your balance and posture while firming your entire core. (Don’t forget to check with your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise plan.)

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Amy Schlinger is a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer. She has more than 11 years of experience writing about health, fitness, wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. 

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