30 Days to a 5 Minute Plank and Rock-Hard Abs

A Complete Abs Workout Program to Help You Get Ripped and Dramatically Improve Your Core Strength Using a Unique Twist on the Plank Exercise (for all skill levels)

male abs
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimwrigleyphoto/14314042781

note: make sure you read to the very bottom of this post because there’s a new advanced plank workout video along with an important announcement!

If you want to get six pack abs the right way – by building a strong core in all THREE dimensions instead of busting your butt over endless, repetitive crunches and situps in one or two dimensions – then you’ve come to the right place.

Below, you’ll find a complete abs workout program that you can use to accomplish the goal of building a strong core and a rockin’ set of abs. Not only that, but you’ll also increase your core strength in all three dimensions, improve your spinal stability, and maybe even eliminate back pain. Those are just a few of the perks of training to get six pack abs the right way using health-first fitness.

How I Achieved my First 5 Minute Plank and Got Six Pack Abs

Awhile back, one of my clients challenged me to hold a 5 minute plank. So, I put together a special program for myself and trained a variety of plank exercises to work my way up to this feat. I discovered that by making a couple of subtle changes to how you perform the plank, you can dramatically increase the difficulty and effectiveness of the exercise.

Now, a 5 minute plank may not seem like much now that we’ve got teenagers holding planks for over an hour, and Marine veterans lasting multiple hours at a time. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to spend tons of time doing planks to get rock-hard, and even six pack abs. You just have to train them right. And a few minutes of focused, challenging plank exercises that train your core in a variety of positions (that’s important!) and constantly push the edge of your skill and conditioning level can go a long way.

Now, I was pretty happy when I achieved my first 3 minute plank, but when I nailed the 5 minute test so easily, well, it was pretty cool. And let’s just say that the changes to my core were visible from all of the 3D-based core training I did leading up to it.

And I’m confident that anyone who is of average fitness and is otherwise healthy enough to exercise could rapidly increase their plank performance from just a few weeks of focused training. And today, I’m going to share a killer 3D plank workout to help you nail a 5 minute plank and get rock-hard abs – in 30 days or less.

The Hardcore Abs 3D Plank Workout

Below, you’ll find a high intensity core workout program that trains your body through all three dimensions using some unique variations of the standard plank exercise. You’ll notice that the standard front plank and side plank on your elbows and forearms are both included, but these are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many others that we can and should employ as well.

This program is broken up into 5 different levels of difficulty so that you can match it to your skill and conditioning level. It can be done anywhere, requires no equipment, won’t take very long, and can fit almost any schedule. Keep in mind that the plank and it’s many variations are not just ab exercises, they are total body exercises that focus on the entire core. Don’t forget that point because it’s one of the so-called secrets to getting strong, six pack abs.

Instructions: select the most appropriate workout based on your skill and conditioning level from the five levels below (i.e., Ultra-beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Mastery) and follow the instructions!

Note: to get the most out of these workouts, check out my detailed tutorial on how to do the plank exercise. I also have a side plank exercise tutorial, and a Q+A on the difference between the elbow plank and top-of-pushup-position plank for those who are curious. Carry on!

Ultra-Beginner Level 3D Plank Workout

  • Front Elbow Plank on knees to 75% of max effort
  • Side Elbow Plank on knees to 75% of max effort
  • Bird Dog to 75% of max effort (for reps)
  • One Hand Hip Twist Plank (w/ inside arm elevated) to 75% of max effort

ultra beginner level 3D plank workout for the abs and core

Special Instructions For Ultra-Beginners: Perform each exercise in a circuit fashion for 1-2 total rounds. Stop each exercise when you’ve reached approximately 75% of your maximum exertion, then immediately move on to the next one. Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. All exercises are held for time, except for the bird dog which is performed for reps. Make sure to perform the side elbow plank and the hip twist plank with both sides. This workout can be performed 2-3 times per week for 1 month.

Beginner Level 3D Plank Workout

  • Front Plank in top of pushup position to 75% of max effort
  • Side Elbow Plank on feet to 75% of max effort
  • Front Elbow Plank w/ one arm elevated to 75% of max effort
  • Two Hand Hip Twist Plank to 75% of max effort

beginner level 3D plank workout for the abs and core

Special Instructions For Beginners: Perform each exercise in a circuit fashion for 1-3 total rounds. Stop each exercise when you’ve reached approximately 75% of your maximum exertion, then immediately move on to the next one. Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. All exercises are held for time. Make sure to perform the side elbow plank, front elbow plank w/ arm up, and hip twist plank with both sides. This workout can be performed 2-3 times per week for 1 month.

Intermediate Level 3D Plank Workout

  • Front Plank on elbows and feet to 75% of max effort
  • Side Elbow Star Plank with arm and leg raised to 75% of max effort
  • Hammer Plank to 75% of max effort
  • Leg Thread Plank w/ foot elevated and inside arm elevated to 75% of max effort

intermediate level 3D plank workout for the abs and core

Special Instructions For Intermediates: Perform each exercise in a circuit fashion for 2-3 total rounds. Stop each exercise when you’ve reached approximately 75% of your maximum exertion, then immediately move on to the next one. Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. All exercises are held for time. Make sure to perform the side elbow plank, hammer plank, and leg thread plank with both sides. This workout can be performed 2-3 times per week for 1 month.

Advanced Level 3D Plank Workout

  • RKC Plank to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)
  • Side Star Plank on palm w/ arm and leg raised to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)
  • Bird Dog Plank 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)
  • 2-Hand Leg Thread Plank w/ foot elevated and both arms planted to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)

advanced 3D plank workout for the abs and core

Special Instructions For Advanced Trainees: Perform each exercise in a circuit fashion for 3 total rounds/circuits. The first circuit should be performed until 50% exertion is achieved, and the second until 75% exertion is achieved. The third and final circuit should be performed until 100% of exertion is achieved (i.e., when technical failure or muscle failure is reached). Rest 1-2 minutes between circuits. During the final circuit, rest for 30-60 seconds between each exercise. All exercises are held for time. Make sure to perform the side star plank, bird dog plank, and leg thread plank on both sides. This workout can be performed 3-5 times per week for 1 month.

Mastery Level 3D Plank Workout

  • RKC Plank w/ feet on wall to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)
  • Full Side Plank w/ knee bent and torso parallel with the ground to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)
  • Hammer Plank w/ opposite leg lift to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)
  • Leg Thread Plank w/ foot elevated and both elbows down (maximum rotation) to 50%, 75%, then 100% of max effort (ie rounds 1-3, respectively)

master 3D plank workout for the abs and core

Special Instructions For Mastery Level Trainees: Perform each exercise in a circuit fashion for 3 total rounds/circuits. The first circuit should be performed until 50% exertion is achieved, and the second until 75% exertion is achieved. The third and final circuit should be performed until 100% of exertion is achieved (i.e., when technical failure or muscle failure is reached). Rest 1-2 minutes between each circuit. During the final circuit, rest for 30-60 seconds between each exercise. All exercises are held for time. Make sure to perform the side plank, hammer plank, and leg thread plank on both sides. This workout can be performed 3-5 times per week for 1 month.

Notes

How long should you try to hold each plank for? Hold each plank for as long as you can maintain proper form and up until you reach the target intensity level (e.g. 50, 75, or 100% of maximum effort) for your designated set.

How you can progress in these workouts –  There are two primary ways you can progress using these workouts. First, you can try a harder workout, which will have more challenging exercises, more sets, and higher intensity levels (e.g. going from the beginner level workout to the intermediate level workout). Or, you can use the same workout over and over again, but increase the duration of each set every time you train (ie holding the planks for longer than you did last time). Here are some goal durations you can work towards for each plank exercise.

Newbies: 15-30 seconds ought to do the trick
Beginners: 30-60 seconds or so
Intermediates: 1-2 minutes should be enough
Advanced: 2-3 minutes will get you movin’ and a’shakin’
Masters: 3+ minutes and you’ll have my attention

Note: these are general standards for the purpose of giving you a goal to work towards and exceed. So, try not to over-analyze it. Just do the work.

Recommended Warmup – Perform the following joint mobility exercises for 30-60 seconds each: shoulder shrug circles, thoracic extension/collapse, hip circles, lumbar circles, spinal twists. Click Here for a sample routine.

Recommended Cooldown – Perform some basic Vibration Drills followed by these yoga poses for 30-60 seconds each: Sphinx, Cobra, Upward dog, Shoulder bridge, Tripod reach, Wheel, Side bend, Spinal twist.

A note on technique and discomfort/pain: Perform each set until the specified amount of effort has been reached or until your form can no longer be maintained. Also, if you experience discomfort or pain that exceeds a 3 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt), then stop the exercise immediately. If you have existing or past back problems, be especially careful with the twisting planks and any that involve raising one or more limbs. Don’t do anything that your doctor has not cleared you for. And please read the Medical Disclaimer if you haven’t already. Thanks!

A note on scaling the workout to your skill level: You may find that some of the planks are much easier than others. So, if one of the exercises is much easier than the others in your chosen workout, feel free to increase the difficulty level. If you can hold the position for a minute or longer, you’re more than ready to increase the difficulty level. And when in doubt on which level or exercises to start with, choose the easier exercise, even if it means you have to do it for longer.

The Bottom Line

If you follow the program above, then I guarantee that you will amaze yourself, as I did, with the results you can achieve with only a few weeks of focused plank training. You’ll strengthen your core, sculpt your midsection, and build confidence, among other things. Oh, you might even get six pack abs, too, but you probably don’t care about that, right?

If you’re ready to get started, and haven’t done so already, check out my detailed tutorial on how to do the plank exercise, which will teach you how to optimize your performance (and the results you experience from using this program). It’ll show you the subtle nuances of the exercise you won’t even find in an exercise textbook, and I can practically guarantee that you’ll never look at the plank exercise the same way again. And after a month on this program, you’ll never look at yourself the same way again either (figuratively and literally!).

Important Announcement

I’ve had an idea for a unique abs and core training product in the back of my mind for awhile now, and I’m conducting a survey to see if there’s enough interest to justify me working on it. If you liked this post, then you’ll love the new program I’ve got in mind. So, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can learn more about it at the link below.

But please be sure to like or share this post before you go – with those handy-dandy buttons below and in the slider to the left. Thanks for the support – it helps a lot! Plus, if I see a lot of shares, I know exactly what kind of content you’d like me to focus on more in the future. I’ve got a whole series of posts like this one that I’d love to put together for you, if there’s enough interest. So, let me know before you go!

Announcing John Sifferman’s Upcoming 3D Core Strength System (SURVEY) –
The Future of Six Pack Abs: The Next Evolution in Serious Core Training

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24 Responses

  1. Timothy James

    Great workout as always John… Thanks.

  2. U are hard core, great job . I will do my best :)

  3. I did 40 seconds of planks and now my lower back and my sides hurt on the scale of 1-10 a 3. Is that ok?

    • It’s hard to say anything for sure, Beth. If it’s just muscle soreness, then it should be fine and will subside with time. This article on how to prevent and heal muscle soreness may help: http://physicalliving.com/15-ways-to-prevent-and-heal-muscle-soreness/

      If it’s more of an acute pain, then something might be wrong and you may want to get it checked out. I hope that’s not the case!

      Any more questions, just let me know – happy to help.

      John

  4. I have a fairly flat stomach and I’m not over wieght but I really want to tone a tighten my stomach muscles for a clean and fit look will this work for that??? I’d perfer to flatin my stomach more anyway any tips???

    • It should do the job, Amelia, but I’d still recommend following a more comprehensive (i.e. full body) strength training program in addition to this and making sure that your diet is supportive of your goals, too. Any more questions, just let me know.

  5. I will follow those steps and hopfully i will be able to master the plank and do over 5 mins as well
    Ps: please contact me through my email

  6. I’m not familiar with the 1 and 2 hand hip twist planks. Are there any video tutorials for these positions?

  7. hello. Mr.John Sifferman.I just wanna get six pack or a solid body.I’m going to do the elbow plank and top-of-pushup position in 2 minutes per set and make it 5 set per day.Can i get six pack with my training way? If Mr.John Sifferman said ‘NO’.It’s that 5 minutes elbow plank and top-of-pushup position 5 round per day can give me six pack in 30 days?I need a truth answer because i really need to get a solid body .Please reply me as soon as possible.

    • I’m forgot to tell you thats how slim i have .I think you need a photo .Please find ‘Masonluke’ in facebook and you will see how slim i have so you can give me a truth answer .i will upload my photo in 2 hours after this messages done.

  8. A follow-up to Loren, is the fourth exercise dynamic or is it held like the others?

  9. Manisha

    Hi John,

    I learned few techniques of getting whole body connected while planking ( with no movement at all) and I could do 5 min. No moving .. It was on my palms as my elbows are hurt due to my 45 min of plank ( which was combination of side to side and my record of my fitness center)
    Is Elbow harder or Palm planking harder? any tips or tricks which i use to stay in plank postion without moving longer than 5-6 min on elbows?

  10. I originally thought I was at the beginner level, but when I looked at the times, the longest I’ve held the plank was for about a minute and twenty seconds(the regular elbow plank?), and that’s in the intermediate. Should I just go with the Beginner or Intermediate?

  11. Hi whenever I do planks my arms hurt a lot more than my core does. Often times I don’t even feel work in my core at all. People say there are no problems with my form. what do i do?

  12. This an absolutely amazing way for people to get started for people trying to improve there plank you should create e-book as I think this will be very informative to people learning to improve there core.

  13. Okay so I’m 14, I have a 6 pack by NO exercising and I can hold a plank for 10 minutes or longer?! Wtf

  14. thanks John. clear narrative, easy to understand, harder to do. the variety is helpful. also the goals give me some benchmarks.

  15. aniruddha pathak

    i did 3 min plank today and was googling to see how much one should plank till i landed on this article. i will try out this work out now

  16. I think this is awesome! I’m starting right now. I need to see some results in 80 days, is this possible at 3-4 times a week? I’m eating clean and drinking plenty of water. I just needed more of a challenge for my core and I found you! Thanks!

  17. Hi John

    I’m a 60 year old healthy female/ with a few lbs around the middle
    with that said, I take no medications yet and
    recently stopped working out with a trainer
    (for financial reasons)
    long story short: I am currently working out on my own doing planks with my regular work out.
    I add planks 4 days on and 1d day off throughout the month
    I began with a 1 minute plank and 5 reps and am now
    at 1:20 with 6 reps.
    I enjoyed reading and watching your techniques, anything
    to stay motivated.

  18. david willis

    holding a plank for hours , surely there are better things to do , life’s to shorty

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