Most decent fitness information revolves around building good long-term diet and workout habits. This makes a lot of sense, as fitness and health should be life-long pursuits. Sadly, you cannot store fitness, and your strength and conditioning will soon decline if you stop working out or eating healthily.
There is a reason that ex-athletes often look so out of shape – they stopped training.
So, in most cases, long-term consistency will always beat short-term fitness fixes. That said, there is a time and a place for workouts and diets that are only meant to last a few weeks. Things like 30-day push-up challenges or 14-day diets can help restore lost momentum and bust through plateaus.
Short-term workout challenges and diets can also test and develop your willpower and intestinal fortitude, or guts. You’ll undoubtedly feel a sense of satisfaction on reaching the end of one of these challenges, which can be a reward in its own right.
This 30-day abs challenge will give you a hard, strong core and could even take you a few steps closer to developing a shredded six-pack.
Abs Anatomy Basics
So, what muscles will you be working during this 30-day abs challenge? Rather than focus just on those at the front of your abdomen, this workout is designed to work all the muscles that encircle your waist and make up your core:
- Rectus abdominis – located at the front of your abdomen, this is your six-pack muscle, although you’ll need to be pretty lean to see it. The functions of your rectus abdominis are flexion and lateral flexion of your spine. It also plays a part in compressing your abdominal contents.
- Obliques – there are two sets of oblique muscles: internal and external. They work together to laterally flex and rotate your spine. The obliques are basically your waist muscles.
- Transverse abdominis – encircling your midsection like a weightlifting belt, the TVA compresses your abdominal contents to produce intra-abdominal pressure, or IAP for short. This pressure helps stabilize your lumbar spine from within.
- Erector spinae – the erector spinae is a group of three muscles that run up either side of your back. Together they extend and stabilize your lower and upper spine.
30-Day Abs Challenge – Program Overview
This is an abs specialization program. That means you’ll be working your abs more frequently than usual and with more volume and intensity than you’re probably used to. However, you won’t be training your abs every day, which could lead to injury and overtraining. Instead, you’ll be hitting your abs four days a week for one month straight.
It’s up to you on which days you train, but it’s generally best to avoid doing all your abs workouts in a row. We don’t want you to work your abs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Instead, separate at least a few of your abs workouts with a different form of training or a rest day. For example:
- Monday – Abs Workout
- Tuesday – Cardio/Strength Training
- Wednesday – Abs Workout
- Thursday – Abs Workout
- Friday – Cardio/Strength Training
- Saturday – Abs Workout
- Sunday – Rest
Each workout contains four exercises so that you work all your core muscles equally. Each week involves different, more demanding exercises to ensure your core strength increases over the coming 30 days. The workouts themselves are also progressive, and the volume/intensity builds up over the course of the month.
In terms of equipment, you don’t need much to complete this 30-day abs challenge. In fact, you can do this challenge at home with a few items of basic workout gear.
However, you will need:
- Exercise mat
- Ab wheel or a barbell and weight plates
- Resistance bands
- Stability ball
- Pull-up bar/captain’s chair
- Medicine ball or dumbbell/kettlebell
Finally, this 30-day workout challenge is not designed for beginners. Instead, it’s aimed at intermediate or advanced exercisers looking to take their core conditioning to a new, higher level. Beginners should follow a less intense workout plan that focuses on building basic core strength.
30-Day Abs Challenge – Week One
Week one of our 30-day abs challenge starts with some fairly basic exercises and a moderate level of volume and intensity. Think of this as your warm-up week. Do three sets of each exercise, resting 60-90 seconds between efforts. However, regarding reps, continue each set until the target muscles start to fatigue. The reps quoted in the chart below are for guidance only.
|1||RKC plank||3||20-30 seconds||60-90 seconds|
|2||Stability ball crunch||3||15-20||60-90 seconds|
|3||Reverse crunch||3||15-20||60-90 seconds|
|4||Side plank||3||15-20||60-90 seconds|
1 – RKC Plank
Unlike regular planks, RKC (Russian kettlebell challenge) planks are designed to fatigue your abs as fast as possible. Brace and contract your core as hard as you can; seek failure, and don’t wait for failure to come to you! If you feel that you can go for more than 30 seconds, you weren’t bracing hard enough.
- Lie on the floor and rest on your elbows and forearms. Clasp your hands together if you wish. Brace your core and pull your shoulders back and down.
- Lift your hips up so your body is straight. Contract your hands, arms, chest, shoulders, legs, and glutes.
- Without holding your breath, contract your core as hard as possible.
- Hold for as long as you can but, if you can do more than 30 seconds, you weren’t bracing hard enough.
- Rest your elbows on a folded mat for comfort.
- Imagine you are trying to drag your toes toward your elbows to maximally engage your abs.
- Do not hold your breath, as doing so can cause your blood pressure to rise.
2 – Stability ball crunch
While floor crunches are fine, they have a short range of motion, so they’re too easy for fitter, more experienced exercisers. Using a stability ball makes crunches much more challenging, especially now your abs are tired from the RKC planks.
- Sit on your stability ball. Walk your feet forward and lean back until the ball fills the curve of your lower back. Place your hands on your temples and brace your abs.
- Press your lower back into the ball, curve your spine, and lift your upper back up to form a C shape.
- Lean back, get a good stretch in your abs, and repeat.
- Make this exercise harder by holding a weight behind your head or across your chest.
- Exhale as you lift your shoulders to maximally engage your abs.
- Pause at the top of each rep for a more effective workout.
3 – Reverse Crunch
There is no such thing as upper abs vs. lower abs. Instead, your rectus abdominis is one long, flat muscle. That said, it is possible to use your abs to lift your shoulders or lift your hips by engaging different groups of muscle fibers. Reverse crunches tend to emphasize the lower fibers of the rectus abdominis, but the upper fibers are working, too.
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet in the air. Place your hands on the floor next to your hips.
- Press your lower back into the floor and lift your hips off the floor. Pull your knees toward your shoulders.
- Lower your hips and legs back down and repeat.
- Avoid pressing with your arms, which takes work away from the target muscles.
- Exhale as you lift your legs to increase abs engagement.
- Pause at the top of each rep to make this exercise more challenging and effective.
4 – Side plank
Where regular planks emphasize your rectus abdominis, side planks hit your obliques more. Most people find side planks harder than front planks, which makes sense given that the obliques are much smaller than the rectus abdominis muscle.
- Lie on your side so your body is straight and your hips and shoulders are square. Rest on your lowermost forearm and elbow. Brace your core.
- Lift your hips and then hold them up for the required duration.
- On completion, lower your hips to the floor, roll over, and repeat on the opposite side.
- Do not hold your breath, as doing so can cause your blood pressure to increase.
- Lift your uppermost leg to make this exercise more challenging.
- You can also do side planks with your supporting arm straight, like this:
30-Day Abs Challenge – Week Two
Week two of our 30-day abs challenge builds on what you achieved in week one. The exercises are slightly more difficult, so you should be ready to work a little harder. Your interset rest periods are also a little shorter. As before, reps are quoted for illustrative purposes only. Do as many reps as it takes to fatigue the target muscles.
|1||Stability ball stir the pot||3||15-20||45-75 seconds|
|2||Serratus crunch||3||15-20||45-75 seconds|
|3||Hanging knee raises||3||15-20||45-75 seconds|
|4||Russian twist||3||15-20||45-75 seconds|
1 – Stability ball stir the pot
Planks on a stable surface are fine, but you’re probably ready for a more challenging abs workout. Stability ball stir the pot is a much more dynamic and challenging way to do planks. This is an exercise you’ll love to hate!
- Place your forearms on a stability ball and then walk your feet out and back so your body and legs are straight. Brace your core.
- Without dropping your hips, make small circles with your arms, alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Keep your body extended and your core braced throughout.
- The larger the ball, the less challenging this exercise becomes.
- Make larger circles to increase instability and make this exercise harder.
- Move your feet further apart to make stir the pots a little easier.
2 – Serratus crunch
The serratus crunch is so-called because, as well as working your rectus abdominis, it also hits your serratus anterior muscles. While not strictly part of your core, these small but visually impressive muscles can add a lot to your appearance. Needless to say, this exercise also overloads your abs.
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight in your hands (medicine ball, dumbbell, kettlebell) and extend your arms so they’re vertical. Press your lower back into the floor.
- Contract your abs and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Reach up with your arms as if you’re trying to touch the ceiling.
- Lie back down and repeat.
- Exhale as you lift your shoulders to fully engage your abs.
- You can also do this exercise with your legs raised.
- Don’t go too heavy too soon; this exercise works best when you focus on the movement rather than the load.
3 – Hanging knee raises
Like reverse crunches from last week’s program, hanging knee raises target the lower fibers of your rectus abdominis. However, lifting the entire weight of your legs makes this exercise much more challenging. On the downside, you will need a pull-up bar or captain’s chair to do this exercise.
- Hang from your pull-up bar with your arms straight. Alternatively, rest on your elbows on a captain’s chair station. Brace your abs.
- Without using momentum to help you raise your legs, bend your knees and lift them up until they’re higher than your hips.
- Lower your legs under control and repeat.
- Use lifting chalk or wrist straps if your grip fails before your abs.
- Do not swing your knees up. Instead, move slowly and deliberately to keep the tension on your abs.
- Too easy? Clamp a dumbbell between your feet to make this exercise more demanding:
4 – Russian Twist
It’s not really clear why Russian twists are so-called because they don’t have anything to do with Russia. Regardless, they’re a challenging and effective oblique and rectus abdominis exercise that most people love and hate in equal measure.
- Sit on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat.
- Lean back until your body is inclined to about 45 degrees.
- Extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
- Rotate your upper body as far as possible to the left and right. Do not lean back or lift your torso; keep the angle the same.
- Continue for the specified number of reps.
- Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell to make this exercise more challenging.
- Anchor your feet if necessary.
- Maintain a neutral spine throughout. Do not round your lower back.
30-Day Abs Challenge – Week Three
Week three sees an increase in training volume as you progress from doing three sets of each exercise to four. There is also a slight increase in exercise difficulty. Don’t worry – you can handle it. And congratulations on reaching the halfway stage of this four-week challenge!
|1||Ab wheel rollout||4||15-20||45-75 seconds|
|2||Bicycle crunch||4||15-20||45-75 seconds|
|3||Straight leg lifts||4||15-20||45-75 seconds|
|4||Resistance band Pallof press||4||15-20||45-75 seconds|
1 – Ab wheel rollout
Ab wheel rollouts are a sort of moving plank. With this exercise, you extend your arms out in front of you to create a long lever which puts a lot of tension through your abs. This is a challenging core exercise, but after two weeks of intense core training, you are ready for it!
- Kneel down and place your ab wheel on the floor in front of your knees. Hold the handle with an overhand grip, arms straight, and core braced.
- Push the ab roller away from you and lower your body toward the floor. Take care not to hyperextend your spine.
- Use your abs and lats to pull the roller back to your legs and repeat.
- Shorten your range of motion if you feel this exercise in your lower back.
- Kneel on a folded exercise mat or foam pad for comfort.
- You can also do this exercise from standing. However, this is MUCH more demanding:
2 – Bicycle crunch
The bicycle crunch is a tough but popular abs exercise. It involves all your significant core muscles, as well as your hip flexors. Done slowly and through a full range of motion, this exercise will challenge even the strongest exerciser.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight and your hands on your temples. Press your lower back into the floor and lift your feet a few inches off the floor. Keep them up for the duration of your set.
- Lift your head and shoulders and bend one leg. Twist and touch one knee to the opposite elbow.
- Return to the starting position and then repeat on the opposite side.
- Continue alternating for the duration of your set.
- Start with legs bent and feet on the floor to make this exercise more manageable.
- Take care not to pull on your neck, which could lead to injury.
- Try to touch the outside of your elbow to the outside of your knee to hit your obliques harder.
3 – Straight leg lifts
Straight leg lifts are a low-tech but high-effect abs exercise. Like hanging knee raises, they target the lower fibers of your abs and hip flexors. Doing straight leg raises after bicycle crunches will be a special kind of core-training hell!
- Lie down and press your lower back into the floor. Lift your feet a few inches off the floor. Rest your arms on the floor next to your hips.
- Without using your arms for assistance, raise your legs up until they’re vertical.
- Lower your legs down until your feet are a few inches above the floor and repeat.
- Keep your lower back pressed into the floor throughout. Do NOT allow your back to arch.
- If necessary, place your hands under your butt to help keep your back flat.
- Bend your legs to shorten the lever and make this exercise easier. You can also try raising one leg at a time.
4 – Resistance band Pallof press
The Pallof press is an anti-core exercise, meaning it works your muscles without involving any movement. Don’t let this put you off; the Pallof press is still a great way to work your abs, especially your obliques.
- Attach a resistance band to a chest-high anchor.
- Grip the end of the band and stand sideways onto your anchor point. Hold your hands in front of your chest.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Extend your arms in front of you, noting how the tension on your core increases. Do NOT allow your torso to twist.
- Bring your arms back in and repeat.
- Do the same number of reps on both sides.
- Stand further away from your anchor point to put more tension on the band and make this exercise harder.
- You can also do this exercise with a cable machine.
- You can also do this exercise in a half-kneeling position for variety:
30-Day Abs Challenge – Week Four
Week four is graduation week, and we’re going to finish strong! As well as introducing another four new core exercises, you’ll also get shorter rests between sets, turning the intensity up to the max. Keep pushing hard all the way to the end, and keep reminding yourself it’s the final week of workouts.
|1||Renegade row||4||15-20||30-60 seconds|
|3||Flutter kick||4||15-20||30-60 seconds|
|4||Saxon side bend||4||15-20||30-60 seconds|
1 – Renegade row
Renegade rows were invented by NFL strength and conditioning expert John Davies. It is a plank variation that also involves an anti-rotation element. It’s a challenging exercise, so don’t go too heavy too soon!
- Adopt the push-up position with a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms, legs, and body should be straight. Brace your core, and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Keeping your body tight and still, bend one arm and row the dumbbell off the floor and into your lower ribs.
- Place the dumbbell back on the floor, swap sides, and repeat.
- Alternate arms for the duration of your set.
- Use hex-shaped dumbbells if available, as they tend to be more stable.
- You can also do this exercise with kettlebells.
- Bend your legs and rest on your knees to make this exercise easier.
2 – V-sit
The V-sit is an old-school abs strength and conditioning exercise. This is a tough move, but after three weeks of prep work, you’re ready for it. The V-sit is so-called because your body makes a V-shape at the midpoint of each rep.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms above your head. Press your lower back into the floor and brace your abs.
- Lift your legs and upper body simultaneously and reach up toward your toes. At this point, you should be balancing on your butt, body making a V-shape.
- Lie back down and repeat.
- Place a folded matt under your lower back for comfort.
- Make this exercise harder by holding a medicine ball and touching it to your feet.
- Bend your legs and pull your knees into your chest to make this exercise easier.
3 – Flutter kick
Flutter kicks are a favorite abs exercise in the military. You’ll often see this exercise done by Navy SEALs, usually as they lie on a beach with waves breaking over them. Part punishment, part core strengthener, this challenging exercise will hammer the lower fibers of your rectus abdominis.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight, hands together, and under your butt.
- Press your lower back into the floor and lift your feet a few inches off the floor.
- Lift your head and shoulders a few inches off the floor.
- Keeping your legs straight, kick your legs up and down like you are swimming. Four kicks equal one rep.
- Continue for the prescribed number of reps.
- Stop your set if your lower back starts to lift off the floor.
- The slower the tempo, the more challenging this exercise becomes.
- Bend your knees slightly to shorten the levers and make this exercise easier.
4 – Saxon side bend
Saxon sidebands are named after old-school strongman and bodybuilder Arthur Saxon. Performing with his brothers, Saxon was known for his incredible feats of strength, which included lifting horses and pressing several times his body weight overhead. The Saxon side bend was one of his favorite abs exercises.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Brace your core.
- Raise and hold a weight (dumbbell, medicine ball) overhead.
- Keeping your arms extended, lean to the left and then to the right for the prescribed number of reps. Only lean sideways, and not forward or backward.
- Take care not to twist your shoulders or hips.
- Bend your arms and lower the weight to your head to make this exercise a little easier.
- Because of the long levers involved, this is a challenging exercise, so don’t go too heavy too soon.
Do you have a question about our 30-day abs challenge or core training in general? No sweat Boba Fett, because we’ve got the answers!
1. Will this challenge give me a six-pack?
Getting a six-pack is as much about your diet as it is your workout program. This 30-day abs challenge will definitely strengthen and harden your abs, but you won’t be able to see them unless you carve your body fat down to under ten percent for men and less than 15 percent for women.
Because of this, it’s often said that abs are built in the kitchen, although the saying should really be that abs are revealed in the kitchen.
Getting leaner invariably means eating less and exercising more to create a calorie deficit, so your body has no option but to burn stored body fat for fuel.
2. Can I change the exercises in the 30-day abs challenge workouts?
If there are any exercises that you cannot do or that cause pain, feel free to do something else instead. However, try and use similar exercises so that you stay true to the spirit of the program. For example, you could do cable crunches instead of stability ball crunches, as they are basically the same movement. However, sit-ups and hanging leg raises are too dissimilar to be interchangeable.
If you are thinking of changing an exercise because you find it hard – don’t! This is a CHALLENGE, and it’s the hard exercises that will deliver the best results. Even if you can only do a few reps, stick with the hard moves. Your efforts will be rewarded in the end.
3. XYZ exercise hurts my back – what should I do?
If any of the exercises cause back pain, you should stop immediately and revisit your technique. Make sure you are doing the movement correctly. If it still causes pain, replace that exercise with something similar that doesn’t cause you problems. While exercise is good for everybody’s body, some movements may not suit your body type or fitness level.
4. How do I know if I’ve done enough reps?
One of the reasons that prescribing a rep range for a workout is so hard is that we have no way of knowing how strong you are. For some, 15 reps of leg raises will be too easy, but for others, it’ll be way too hard. If we tell you how many reps to do, we’d just be guessing.
So, instead, do as many reps as you can, stopping 2-3 short of failure. At this point, you should feel your muscles working (love that burn!), and your movements will probably noticeably slow down.
Push yourself close to failure, and your muscles will respond by getting stronger. But stop too soon, and your workout won’t be as effective as it could have been.
That said, try to do more reps workout by workout. This is called progressive overload, which is one of the cornerstones of effective training.
5. Will doing abs exercises help me lose belly fat?
Many people believe that doing exercises for a particular body part will melt fat from that area. This is called spot reduction. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that spot reduction happens, so it’s probably best to forget about this much-loved myth. The same is true for “sweating off fat” – that’s impossible, too.
Your body stores and burns fat globally, i.e., all over. While exercising, healthy eating and a calorie deficit will force your body to burn fat for fuel, you cannot influence from where that fat will come. It MAY be your abs, but it could also be your arms, butt, or chest.
So, while you can lose belly fat, we cannot guarantee that abs exercises will help give you a slimmer stomach. Forget about spot reduction, and focus on your entire body for the best fat-loss results.
30-Day Abs Challenge – Closing Thoughts
Sometimes, the best way past a fitness plateau is to smash through it! Sticking with your regular workout program is not the answer. Instead, you need to push the volume and intensity up a notch and get Hulk-mad, going beyond your normal limits.
This 30-day abs challenge might not give you a six-pack, but after four weeks, your core will be harder and stronger than ever before. Dial in your diet, and, who knows, you may even start to see your abs.
And the best part? You can do these workouts at home, so it’s virtually excuse-free.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started today!