The 30 day plank challenge: How to tone up without any gym equipment

Follow our 30-day plank challenge for just a few minutes every day to tone up without any equipment.

Fitness trainer demonstrating 30 day plank challenge position

Follow our 30-day plank challenge for just a few minutes every day to tone up without any equipment.

The plank is an abdominal exercise that will strengthen core muscles and tone the stomach. The idea is to stay in the plank position for as long as possible to see the maximum benefit. In addition to helping you strengthen your core, the plank also strengthens your arms, shoulders, chest, and legs. It’s a great full-body exercise that’s beneficial for improving overall fitness, as well as posture.  

Overseen by fitness expert Jade Hansle, the 30-day plank challenge will also help you stay focused and motivated as you gradually manage to hold the positions for longer periods of time. The plank is a great way to still your mind whilst exercising, you’ll have to concentrate while holding the plank in the correct position.

One of the best things about the plank is that it’s absolutely free to do because you don’t need exercise equipment – but, it is important you follow our expert advice below to get your technique right. Jade explains, “Making sure your form is correct is super important during exercise.  Perfecting form will boost performance, conserve energy and overall reduce the risk of injury”

30-day plank challenge

The 30-day plank challenge takes the concept of the classic plank and ramps it up with several variations and progressions to isolate your side muscles (obliques). Beginning with 3 x 20sec holds for the classic plank, you’ll gradually build up to 3 x 60secs hold for the classic plank, as well as the extended arm plank, and up and down planks. In the video and photos below, fitness expert Jade Hansle shows you exactly how you can perform each plank exercise at home – no personal trainers or equipment needed.

Within the 30-day plank challenge, you’re also encouraged to give your body a rest every six days to enable your muscles to recover. Jade explains, "If you continue to use the same muscle group day in, day out they are in a constant state of effort. This can lead to exhaustion, imbalances and also mean you are more prone to injuries. A rest day gives the tissue the time they need to repair, grow and get stronger."

30 day plank challenge with GoodtoMove - PDF

Credit: Future

DOWNLOAD your 30-day plank challenge pdf (opens in new tab)

The fitness challenge is easily set out in our downloadable pdf so you can see exactly which exercise you need to do each day of the month. To start your 30-day plank challenge all you need to do is download the plan below, print it out, and stick it somewhere that will remind you every day to do your planks. Alternatively, you could just save it to your phone, so it's always handy when you have a few minutes to spare.

30-day plank challenge exercises

Video: How to do the plank

Static plank position

  • Lying on your front, bring your elbows underneath your shoulders
  • Engage your core and lift yourself up onto your toes and elbows
  • Ensure that your hips aren't too low or high, also ensure your lower back isn’t arched, scoop your pelvis to the front to stop this from happening. 
  • Draw your shoulder blades back to ensure your back isn't too round.
  • Hold this ‘plank’ position for at least 20secs ensuring the tummy muscle stay engaged throughout  

Although the plank is a basic exercise, there may be some instances where your core isn't quite strong enough yet. I.e recovering from childbirth or injury etc. 

If you find this too challenging, to begin with, you could start with your knees on the floor, 

Start by kneeling down and bringing yourself into an all-fours position, resting on your knees and palms. Keep your arms straight, directly under your shoulders, and also shoulder-width apart. Lean forward slightly so your body is at a slight 45-degree angle. Engage your core and hold this position. 

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating the static plank position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Static plank

Modified plank

Although the plank is a basic exercise, there may be some instances where your core isn't quite strong enough yet - if you’re recovering from childbirth or injury, for example. If you find the classic position too challenging, to begin with, you could start with your knees on the floor in this modified plank position.

  • Start by kneeling down and bringing yourself into an all-fours position, resting on your knees and palms.
  • Keep your arms straight, directly under your shoulders, and also shoulder-width apart.
  • Lean forward slightly so your body is at a slight 45-degree angle.
  • Cross your legs at the ankle
  • Engage your core and hold this position.

Modified plank position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Modified plank position

One arm plank position

This variation to the classic static plank on elbows simply requires you to adopt the same body position but with one arm behind your back, so you’re balancing on one hand and toes.

  • Lying on your front, bring your arms underneath your shoulders
  • Pulling your tummy muscles in and lifting yourself up onto your toes and elbows
  • Keep the tummy muscles pulled in (belly button to spine) throughout the exercise
  • Place one hand behind your back and hold.
  • Ensure your chest remains over your hands, otherwise, your shoulders will get tired before your core

“The one-arm plank position changes the angle and demand on your core muscles”, says Jade. “As well as adding another dimension of stability challenge to your shoulders and arms.

Fitness expert demonstrating the plank with arm behind the back

Credit: Jade Hansle | One arm plank position

Side plank position 

  • Lying on your side, place your forearm on the floor ensuring your elbow is parallel with your shoulder
  • Stack your legs and feet on top of each other and steady your balance. 
  • Pull your tummy muscles in then lift your hip off the floor, pushing it up towards the ceiling
  • Raise your other arm towards the ceiling, keeping your head in line with your spine

“This variation places an emphasis on your obliques (side abs) and will help to strengthen your shoulders”, says Jade. “The side plank can be a bit trickier as it involves balance and using your stabilizer muscles.”

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating the side plank position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Side plank position

Modified side plank

If you’re not strong enough for the full side plank, start with this modified position. In this move, you’ll need to bend one leg underneath your hips and balance on one knee - rather than stacking your legs on top of each other.

  • Lying on your side, place your forearm on the floor ensuring your elbow is parallel with your shoulder
  • Rather than stack your legs and feet on top of each other, bend one leg underneath your hips and balance on one knee
  • Pull your tummy muscles in then lift your hip off the floor, pushing it up towards the ceiling
  • Raise your other arm towards the ceiling, keeping your head in line with your spine

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating a side plank with bent leg

Credit: Jade Hansle | Modified plank position

Up and down plank

This advanced core and upper body exercise starts with the original static plank position and ends in the extended arm plank position. The challenge lies in moving the body from one position to the other.

  • Lift one arm and take the hand of the arm to where your elbow was.
  • Then push through that hand and use your core while you repeat the same movement with the other arm.

Jade Hansle told us, "It is crucial that you keep your tummy tight throughout, and the distance you place your feet apart hugely affects the difficulty level, so the wider the feet means the easier the movement (as you have increased stability)."

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating the static plank position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Up and down plank - starting position

Jade Hansle demonstrates the up and down plank

Credit: Jade Hansle | Up and down plank - extended position

Back, chest, and core stretches

It’s really important to stretch the body after exercises. Trainer Jade Hasle explains, “The body produces lactic acid whenever you exercise, which contributes to sore, achy muscles. Stretching after these exercises can help reduce the accumulation of lactic acid throughout the body. It also eases and relaxes the muscles. Muscles that stay tight after a workout are more prone to injury. Loosening up your muscles will reduce your chance of injury.”

Cat cow

  • Begin on your hands and knees in tan all fours position.
  • As you inhale and move into cow pose, press your chest forward and allow your belly to fall towards the floor
  • Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.
  • As you exhale, come into cat pose while rounding your spine outward, tucking in your tailbone, and drawing your pubic bone forward, arching your back towards the ceiling.
  • Repeat

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating the cat cow stretch starting position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Cat cow stretch

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating the cat cow stretch position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Cat cow stretch

Cobra

  • Lie on your front, toes tucked under.
  • Place your hands palms down on the ground beneath your shoulders.
  • Lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms and pushing into the ground
  • Gaze towards the ceiling and feel the stretch in your lower back

Fitness expert Jade Hansle demonstrating the cobra stretch position

Credit: Jade Hansle | Cobra stretch

Thread the needle

  • Start in a neutral position on all fours, keeping your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Open up your chest to the right as you raise your right arm toward the ceiling. Direct your eyes toward your raised hand.
  • Then move your right arm under your chest toward the mat. Threading your arm through the space between your torso and the other arm, Your torso should naturally shift to face downward.
  • Keep both knees and your left arm grounded for support.
  • Continue to slide your right arm onto the mat, allowing your right shoulder to rest on the mat.
  • Extend your left arm straight in front of you so your fingertips touch the mat, and rest the right side of your head on the mat.
  • Continue shifting your right fingertips to the left until you feel a stretch across your back and shoulder.
  • Hold the pose and repeat on the other side.

Thread the needle

Credit: Jade Hansle | Thread needle stretch

How long should a beginner hold a plank?

The world record for holding a plank is 4 hours, but luckily we won’t be advising you to start with this. Fitness trainer Jade Hansle told us, "For a complete newbie to exercise 15/20 seconds to start with will still be a great way to build up strength in your core. Slowly increase this by 10/15 seconds at a time until you have built up to around 1 min. Sets of 1 min planks is a perfect duration to challenge yourself and build up your strength."

When will I start to see results? 

Building strength and muscle doesn't happen overnight. During the first weeks of strength training, your brain responds to exercise by recruiting more motor units with each muscle contraction. "This means you have more muscle fibers working and this increases the force you can generate, thus meaning your strength increases", says Jade. "So although you may not notice muscles popping just yet you will definitely notice you are a lot stronger within a few weeks.

Anna Bailey is the editor of GoodTo. She joined the team in June 2018 but has been a lifestyle writer and online editor for more than 14 years. Career highlights include Lifestyle Editor at ITV.com, Features Editor at MSN UK and Digital Lifestyle Editor for UKTV. Anna has always loved attending weddings and big family occasions. She combined this interest with her passion for interviewing people about the subjects that matter to them most to become a wedding and baby naming celebrant, fully accredited by Humanists UK.