30 Day Plank Challenge
About the 30 Day Plank Challenge
If you want to build a strong core quickly, the plank is the single best exercise you can do. Do a lot of different kinds of planks for a month, and you will get significantly stronger. You might do other core exercises as well. However, you should focus on the plank because nothing will get you faster results. 30-day challenges work, and you may be amazed by what you accomplish if you stick with this challenge to the end. If you complete this challenge, you will see results. The only way to not end up with significantly stronger core muscles is if give up halfway through.
Why are planks a good exercise?
Planks are not only great for your core but can strengthen your arms and other muscles as well. It takes muscles all over your body to remain in the position for long enough. Your chest, quads, and glutes will also improve as long as you use proper form.
Planking also tests your willpower more than working out in general does. After completing this 30-day challenge, you might find other workout routines significantly easier. Just as you can build up your muscles by straining them, you can build up your willpower.
Why is core strength important?
Core strength makes you look better and is great for your health. The first thing that makes you look fit is a six-pack. To get that look, you need to have a strong core and low body fat. Your core muscles support your whole body. From a strenuous physical task to merely getting out of bed in the morning, nearly everything you do depends on your core muscles. People who train their muscles continue to remain functional even very late in life. The stronger you are when you are young and middle-aged, the less likely you are to be frail when you are older.
Learn perfect form before you try this challenge
Before you start this challenge, you should be strong enough to do regular planking with excellent form. You do not have to be in great shape to start, but you should be able to do an ordinary plank the right way. You won’t be able to do many of these variations otherwise.
Days 1-7: Regular planks, side planks, extended arm planks
On the first day, stick to regular low forearm planking. See how many planks you can do and for how long. Make sure you can do the basics properly before you move on to variations.
Make sure your form is as good as possible – don’t plank for any longer than you can without compromising on form. You might (depending on your skill level) try to minimize how much you rest between sets.
To do a regular plank the right way:
- Put your upper arms straight down from your shoulders, not on an angle.
- Pull your toes forward to lengthen your calf muscles.
- Keep your spine and your body straight.
Everyone’s fitness level is different, but planking for about 45 seconds is a reasonable goal. Do several sets of planks on the first day.
On the second to fifth days, combine regular planks with variations. Do a few sets of side planks as well as regular planks.
Side planks strengthen your obliques, which are the muscles on the sides of your stomach. Sometimes, you will be able to do side planks for 45 seconds or more the first time you try them. However, people tend to have weak, underused oblique muscles, so you might have to start with a shorter time.
You might also do some extended arm planks during the first five days. Hold yourself up with your arms extended to the floor, keeping your body straight as you do for regular planks.
You will probably need to take a few rest days in the middle If you don’t feel the need for rest days, you might not be training hard enough.
Some people respond well to training without rest days, but that is not the usual way to train. Something like four days of the month should be rest days, and you might need more. Try to tire yourself out enough that you feel like you need a rest day.
Days 7-14: Planks with single-arm extensions, knee taps
There is a second way to do extended arm planks. You can do an extended arm plank where you extend only one arm at a time and extend your arms parallel to the floor.
First, start in a regular plank position. Then, extend one of your two arms in front of you, putting your arm along the floor. After about five or ten seconds, bring your arm back to the regular plank position and remain there for five seconds.
Then, do this again with your other arm. Alternate back and forth. See how many reps you can do before you fall or can no longer maintain good form.
Now would be a good time to try planks with knee taps. While in a standard plank position, touch one knee to the ground at a time. Try to bring your knee down and back up again without moving the rest of your body.
There is another form of planks with knee taps, where you move both of your knees very close to the ground but don’t quite touch it. Start in a regular plank position, move your knees very near the ground, and return to the initial position again. You may be able to do several reps of this.
Days 15-22: Wide grip pushups, crouching panther planks, burpees
Start with wide grip pushups. These pushups are a challenge and work the same muscles as planks. Instead of keeping your arms shoulder-width, move your arms farther apart.
Don’t go too close to the ground when you move down. Instead, move your arms only to 90-degree angles. Three sets at 15 reps per set may be enough.
Next, you can try crouching panther planks. Kneel down on the ground and hold yourself up with your arms. Your hips should point straight down, and your arms should be right under your shoulders, at shoulder width.
Now, lift your knees just a few inches above the ground. Remain in that position for as long as possible. Don’t bob up and down; keep your knees up just a little for as long as you can.
Burpees are another great exercise to strengthen your core alongside planks. It is a combination of a pushup, a squat, and a jump. To do a burpee:
- Start out standing up. Your knees should be shoulder-width apart.
- Move into a squat position.
- Lean forward and put your hands on the ground.
- Move your feet back until you are in a pushup position
- Do one pushup.
- Pull your feet back towards you (a “frog kick”) and then stand up. Jump a little as you stand.
- After you land, move into a squat position and repeat the process.
Burpees should be done in a smooth, continuous motion. Use the momentum of standing up to jump, then use the momentum of landing to move into a squat.
Days 23-30: Side planks, hip dips, knees to elbows
Side planks will test your balance as well as your strength. They work somewhat different muscles from regular planks and will help you build a truly strong core. Your core is not truly strong if some of the muscles are still weak.
You can start with a forearm side plank. Start in a regular plank position, but then shift into a side plank position. You should be on your side, with your chest/back facing the walls, not the floor and ceiling.
Hold yourself up with one arm. This is not as hard as it sounds because the position is different. Raise your other arm straight up in the air.
A single set should involve 30-60 seconds on each arm. After you are finished with one arm, switch to the other before resting. You may be able to manage a few sets of these.
You can also try high side planks, where you hold yourself up with your arm extended out straight. Use your hand to hold yourself up, not your forearm. This is an excellent exercise that will strengthen your arms as well as your core.
Finally, try bringing your knees to your elbows while planking. This is not very difficult and involves a lot of movement. You should already be stronger than you were, so you will probably be able to do it fairly easily.
Start in a high plank position, with your arms extended down. Bring your left knee to your right elbow and then move it back.
Then, bring your right knee to your left elbow. This takes some flexibility to do properly. Do this fairly fast and repeat it for about a minute per set.
What are the biggest mistakes to avoid?
If you work out wrong, you won’t get much stronger and may injure yourself. You also need the right attitude. If you aren’t confident that you can get significantly stronger, you may give up.
Not using proper form
If you are trying hard to complete another few planks, you might compromise on form. This is “cheating” and won’t help you get in shape. Your last rep or plank should be the last rep or plank you can do the right way.
Training to failure isn’t that hard because training “to failure” means training until you cannot keep going with good form. When your form starts to suffer despite your effort, you have done that set to failure. Don’t do another few planks after you are too tired to do the exercise properly.
If you are lifting weights to strengthen your arms, try not to move your back around. Lift with your arms, not your back. If you put your back into it, you won’t strain your arm enough and won’t build muscle.
If you are exercising your legs, abs, or any other part of your body, the same standards apply. Use proper form to strain the muscles you are trying to strengthen. Good form when doing planks is at least as important as good form when doing any other exercise.
When you are training, your instinct will tell you to follow the path of least resistance. Good form is about not giving in to your instincts and not taking shortcuts. Good form can prevent injury.
Lack of optimism
While setting your expectations too high can be bad, setting your expectations too low can be even worse. If you don’t expect to achieve much, you will lose your motivation and won’t want to keep going.
If you merely expect to lose a bit of weight or get a bit stronger over a long time, you won’t make progress. Getting in very good shape with average genes is realistic. Just because you might never be in the top 1% doesn’t mean the top 10% is out of reach.
Setting your expectations too high usually involves expecting to get in great shape fast. You can’t get in great shape overnight and may lose your motivation if progress seems a bit slow at first.
Setting your expectations too low, on the other hand, involves not expecting to get in good shape at all. Don’t compare yourself to others and feel like your effort isn’t paying off as fast as theirs is. Stick with it, experiment with different techniques, and you will see results.
Doing long and slow workouts
If you are not currently in good shape, a long and slow workout might be a step in the right direction. However, long and slow exercises will not make you fit and athletic. They are not good for weight loss either.
To get in good shape, you need to do more intense exercises. Either focus on intense exercises or at least do a mix of intense and slower exercise sessions.
Don’t train for as long as possible and try to train for longer each time. Instead, see how quickly you can get through your list of exercises.
If you run on a treadmill rather than lift weights, don’t try to burn as many calories as possible. Instead, try to run a certain distance in a shorter and shorter time. This will get your muscles and metabolism into great shape.
Slowly walking or jogging on a treadmill for hours won’t burn that many calories. Burning calories with long and slow workouts won’t help you lose much weight.
If you lift weights and do sets of bodyweight exercises, try to do your current routine in a limited amount of time. See if you can do the same workout faster each time you try it.
When doing this 30-day plank challenge, you should increase how long you plank. However, you should not try to do more sets each week. Instead, reduce the amount of rest between sets to increase the difficulty.
Hard work and persistence will help you complete this challenge with ease. Don’t give up and you will see significant results and improvement within the first 30 days.