The plank challenge is a 30-day program to strengthen the core and build up endurance. Each day of the challenge, you’ll gradually increase the amount of time that you hold a plank.

By day 12 of the program, the goal is to be able to hold a plank for 2 minutes. At the end of the 30 days, the goal is to hold one for up to 5 minutes at a time.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of the plank challenge, plus safety tips, and how to get started.

To get started, you’ll first want to make sure you can correctly perform a plank. You can follow the steps below to try a high, or straight arm, plank:

  1. Get into pushup position. For a high plank, your arms should be fully extended. If you’re a beginner, you can start by doing a plank on your knees. If you’re more advanced, you can try one on your forearms for more of a challenge.
  2. Keep your palms and toes firmly planted on the ground, your back straight, and your core tight.
  3. Make sure your body is in a straight line while you’re in plank position. Don’t let your back or head sag.
  4. Hold your plank for the predetermined time. If your form begins to go at any point, drop to your knees or stop until you’re ready to return to plank position.

Plank challenge schedule

To do the challenge, hold your plank for the time that corresponds to your day of the challenge. The time increases by 10 seconds each day, starting with 10 seconds for the first day.

Day 1: 10 secondsDay 2: 20 secondsDay 3: 30 secondsDay 4: 40 secondsDay 5: 50 seconds
Day 6: 1 minute! (60 seconds)Day 7: 70 secondsDay 8: 80 secondsDay 9: 90 secondsDay 10: 100 seconds
Day 11: 110 secondsDay 12: 2 minutes! (120 seconds)Day 13: 130 secondsDay 14: 140 secondsDay 15: 150 seconds
Day 16: 160 secondsDay 17: 170 secondsDay 18: 3 minutes! (180 seconds)Day 19: 190 secondsDay 20: 200 seconds
Day 21: 210 secondsDay 22: 220 secondsDay 23: 230 secondsDay 24: 4 minutes! (240 seconds)Day 25: 250 seconds
Day 26: 260 secondsDay 27: 270 secondsDay 28: 280 secondsDay 29: 290 secondsDay 30: 5 minutes! (300 seconds)

Performing the same exercise over and over can cause your body to plateau, or not get the same benefits, after long.

Although you can continue to challenge yourself by increasing the time each day, you may find that high planks are too easy for you. Or you may get bored from doing the same move every day.

If that is the case, you can try doing different plank variations every day for the time you’ve set aside for the plank challenge.

Planks are considered one of the most effective exercises for strengthening the core. Here’s a look at the benefits of planks.

Strengthen every core muscle, plus your back

Unlike crunches, plank and plank variations activate all the core muscles. That includes the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques. These exercises also activate the muscles in the hips, back, and shoulders.

One small 2013 study of 20 participants found that core exercises that engaged the distal trunk muscle, such as planks, were most effective for activating and strengthening the abdominal muscles.

They also were more effective than crunches for improving endurance, balance, and maintaining mobility.

Improve stability

A strong and stable core is important for everyday movements like bending over to pick something up.

Athletes rely on a stable core to perform movements like swinging a baseball bat or hitting a golf ball down the green.

Not only can planks help tone the core, but they can also improve your stability and balance.

Reduce back pain

Strengthening your core can help with proper spinal alignment and reduce your risk for lower back pain and injuries.

Planks may help if you live with existing back pain, too. A 2017 study involved 120 participants with nonspecific, chronic low back pain.

Researchers found that six weeks of core stabilization exercises were more effective than other physical therapy exercises for alleviating their low back pain. More research is needed on a larger scale to determine the relationship between a strong core and low back pain, though.

If you have existing back pain or an injury, be sure to talk to your doctor before trying the plank challenge.

Build up endurance

By increasing the amount of time you hold your plank each day, your body will build up endurance. Endurance is important for increasing physical stamina and strengthening and toning your muscles.

The plank challenge alone won’t give you a six-pack, though. Try to increase your exercise endurance in other ways, too.

Do cardiovascular exercises several times a week, like walking, running, swimming, and cycling. Also, try weight training and eating a healthy diet to meet your fitness goals.

Planks are generally considered a safe and effective exercise for building up core strength and even helping with low back pain.

Skip the plank challenge if you’re injured or pregnant. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Before starting the plank challenge, it’s important to make sure you’re performing the plank correctly. This can help prevent injuries.

If you’re new to planks, you can start by performing them on your knees. You can also ask a friend or certified personal trainer at your gym to watch your technique and confirm that your form is correct.

Here are some tips for safely doing a plank:

  • Engage your core during the entire movement to prevent your back from getting strained or injured.
  • Keep your body in a straight line, from your head to your heels. Your back should be flat, and your butt should be down, not piking upward.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. If your form starts to feel compromised, stop or drop to your knees to complete your time for the day.

Planks are just one exercise you can do to challenge and strengthen your core and add more definition to your midsection. You can also try the following exercises:

You can also do the following:

  • Improve posture by sitting up tall and tightening your abs throughout the day.
  • Cut out or reduce processed foods and sugary beverages from your diet.
  • Focus on eating a diet full of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains.

The plank challenge may be a good fit if you’re looking to strengthen your core and you enjoy following a set program. If you get bored easily and have trouble sticking to a daily schedule, it may not be right for you.

Remember, planks are just one part of the equation if you’re looking to add more definition to your core. You likely won’t get a six-pack if you only do planks. Cutting out processed foods and eating vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains can help you achieve your goals.

Avoid the plank challenge if you’re injured or pregnant. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.