No doubt you have heard of planking – individuals who hold their bodies straight as a board while perched in precarious locations at the local mall, on the library steps or even while rolling down the hill on a skateboard. But what is the 28-day plank challenge that everyone is talking about? As fitness buffs know, it is an incredibly challenging isometric exercise regimen that combines push-ups and muscle control. You hold your body in the plank position (like doing a push up but holding the “up” part for a specific amount of time) and increase the duration you hold it over the course of the twenty-eight days of the challenge. Professionals and homebodies alike are getting caught up in the craze.
Who Could Benefit From Participating?
Sugary snacks, soft drinks, irregular meals and a lack of adequate sleep all can contribute to an accumulation of padding around the belly, back and sides. It can slow the metabolism and lower your energy level. This is especially a problem for women, but men suffer from the effects as well. If you have a little extra body in those jeans instead of a little extra room you might want to give this challenge a try. Anyone who wants a tighter backside, flatter, firmer abs and a stronger back, legs and arms, or just a stronger core could benefit from this challenge, especially those who sit for long periods of time working at a desk, driving a vehicle, or let’s be real – watching television. It is a bit harder than it looks, but no pain, no gain, right? With thousands of participants having had positive results and the Internet being flooded with recommendations, it’s hard to argue against giving this challenge a try.
In addition to toning your abs and belly, planking has also been shown to be very helpful with improving your posture. This happens as back and neck muscles are strengthened and your belly muscles – the real support for your spine and back muscles – become more toned. Planking is a good all-over exercise and helps work muscles all down the back of your body, muscles which normally may be ignored. Your shoulder blades and collarbone, hamstrings and arches, heels and even toes all gain strength and increased flexibility. People with chronic back pain may find some relief as the muscles in your upper back begin to carry some of the burden for your lower back muscles. However, there are certain conditions that actually can be quickly made worse by doing this exercise, such as diastasis recti. Therefore, be sure to check with your physician to make sure your body can benefit from performing planks.
How Is The 28-Day Plank Challenge Done?
Planking is the act of straightening your body in a prone position and holding it in that horizontal position. You will be raised up on your toes and your elbows while you hold the plank position for the prescribed time. It is a good idea to do some warm up exercises first, but don’t try to run a marathon or wear out the muscles you will be using to hold the plank to the point where you are too tired to do the planks. Drink plenty of water and wear loose or stretchy clothing so you are able to move freely.
Now let’s look at the challenge itself to learn whether it truly has benefits. You will need enough room to lie down on the floor on your stomach. Set your elbows squarely below your shoulders and your hands close together. (Beginners may need to move elbows slightly toward their stomachs for better support.) Now do as you would to do a push up, only use your elbows, not your hands for support. Press your buttocks upward and then level out until your body is straight and inclined slightly from your feet to your shoulders. Knees off the floor, hips level, and head in a neutral forward and down-facing position – raising or twisting your head may cause unnecessary strain on your neck and back. Don’t neglect your breathing. NOW you can start counting.
28-Day Planking Schedule: (Reps Shown Are For Beginner Level.)
- Day 1: Hold for 20 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 2: Hold for 20 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 3: Hold for 20 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 4: Hold for 30 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 5: Hold for 40 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 6: Rest from Planking
- Day 7: Hold for 45 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 8: Hold for 45 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 9: Hold for 60 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 10: Hold for 60 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 11: Hold for 60 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 12: Hold for 90 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 13: Rest from Planking
- Day 14: Hold for 90 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 15: Hold for 90 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 16: Hold for 150 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 17: Hold for 150 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 18: Hold for 150 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 19: Rest from Planking
- Day 20: Hold for 150 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 21: Hold for 150 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 22: Hold for 150 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 23: Hold for 180 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 24: Hold for 180 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 25: Rest from Planking
- Day 26: Hold for 210 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 27: Hold for 240 seconds, 2 reps
- Day 28: Hold until you can’t. Do it. Anymore.
Looking at the schedule above, you can see how your endurance and strength can grow over time. Some people may get over-exuberant and figure if some planking is good, then more must be better, and then try to plank every day. Don’t do it. Those rest days are there for a purpose. When we exercise, small tears are created in our muscles. We need to give muscles a day off to rest and to heal. If more reps are too difficult, scale it back down. Watch your form and breathe!
Once you have mastered the 28-day challenge, don’t give up. Continue planking to maintain the strength and flexibility you have gained. Try graduating from your elbows to supporting your weight with your hands; arms straightened and directly below your shoulders. There are actually over thirty different planking positions that rely on the support of your core, while at the same time strengthening it. Here are just a couple examples if you want to change it up.
Lying on your side, your feet stacked on one another, raise your sideways body up so you are supported on your elbow. Keep your body in as straight a line as possible, forming a triangle with your body, your arm and the floor.
For advanced-level planking, take your free arm and reach across your body down below and behind your raised hips as if reaching for something, then raise your arm straight up. Repeat for 30 seconds.
You could add a lightweight dumbbell in your free hand for an additional workout of your upper arm and shoulder. Don’t concentrate so hard on the arm-work that you forget to breathe or to hold that plank.
Why Does The 28-Day Plank Challenge Really Work?
There are several reasons why those who follow the plan seem to lose weight and get more toned. Having a goal is the first step to success. Knowing that, by the 28th day, you intend to hold a plank position for a full four minutes, for four reps, is good motivation to jump in with dedication. Having a schedule is a big key to success as well. With daily markers holding you to a specific schedule, the decision-making is done for you. Just follow the schedule.
Although there is not a formal diet plan that goes along with the plank challenge, limiting sugar and carbohydrates, getting plenty of healthy protein, drinking adequate amounts of water and getting at least seven hours of sleep a night will certainly help your cause. Also planking has the added benefit of revving up your metabolism. If you drink two glasses of ice water when you first wake up, followed by planking, followed by a low-fat, high-protein breakfast, you will burn much more energy over the next several hours.
This challenge is literally a full body workout in just a few seconds. It doesn’t burn thousands of calories but literally every muscle group is involved in performing a plank so over time as you hold longer, the muscles get stronger.
Are you going to look like a movie star in a bikini when you complete this challenge? Who knows? Whether there is a little too much mom in your mom jeans, you want to get rid of that muffin top, or you are not in love with those love handles, you might want to give the 28-day plank challenge a try.