Take a quick scroll through the Fitness section on TikTok – or FitTok as it's often called – and you’ll not only see a lot of people with six-packs but also enter a world of #workoutchallenge videos instantly. Think not only plank, press-up and squat challenges, but also stuff like the #75HardChallenge, which encourages you to work out twice a day for a minimum of 45 minutes each time. Every day. For two and a half months straight.
Dedicated as I might be to fitness, I couldn't commit to doing workouts one and a half hours a day, regardless of how inspiring the videos looked. But really, some videos are seriously inspiring, featuring almost unattainable displays of superhuman strength that will either motivate you to train harder or make you feel pathetic in comparison. Others feature clumsy, sometimes disastrous attempts to replicate those said displays of physical prowess.
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TikTok plank challenge: not your ordinary workout challenge
After considering my options and watching hundreds of short workout clips on FitTok, I found the perfect candidate to help me get a six-pack and test my fitness capabilities: the plank challenge. Let’s get one thing straight here right off the bat. We’re not talking about watching a few friends competing to see who can hold a basic plank for the longest amount of time.
No, we’re talking about highly choreographed performances all set to the beat of a catchy chart-topper featuring a multitude of plank variations, from full planks, side planks, walking planks and forearm planks to Spiderman planks, plank jacks, hip dips and mountain climbers. And that’s before you throw in a bunch of shoulder taps, leg raises and a clapping press up or two.
Believe it or not, something like the short and sweet video below isn’t too taxing on either the body or the brain (if you exclude the killer triceps push-ups) with its slow, controlled movements and fairly easy choreography.
However, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge, so I searched for something a bit harder, longer and more complicated. I found it in the form of a routine set to Megan Trainor’s Dear Future Husband, which has been doing the rounds for a while but still inspires fresh attempts daily thanks to its fast pace and advanced moves seen below or in this YouTube compilation.
As you can see, this plank challenge is certainly... upbeat. Some might even say it's too fast for an average human being and if that's the case for you, fear not, as there is a more accessible version available, also done by the same person:
So, what did I learn from taking it on this particular plank challenge?
Brace your core
You need a strong core. I’m not saying I can bounce a medicine ball off my abs or anything, but my core’s always been pretty solid, and I found this routine exhausting after clocking up many failed attempts. Beginners will be faceplanting the floor in seconds.
Cardio, cardio, cardio
Good cardio fitness, including endurance and explosive power, are essential. Because the key to successfully nailing this fast, frenzied routine involves practising it over and over - and over again! - to get it spot on. Anything less than perfection just won’t do. And that requires stamina.
Burpees are a great cardio exercise when you're stuck indoors (learn how to do burpees here), or if you prefer exercising outdoors, running and cycling can help you build stamina. You might need running shoes or a road bike for those, though.
Keep your mind sharp
A good memory and a knack for picking up choreography is an absolute must. If you’ve always struggled in aerobics classes or you flee the dancefloor every time the DJ busts out the Cha Cha Slide or Whigfield’s Saturday Night do not attempt this challenge. It will only end in misery.
Take it slow
Don’t make my mistake of trying to learn the routine while doing the moves at the same time. Instead, study the video multiple times and practice the routine from the comfort of your sofa before getting down onto the floor.
Because when you’re focusing on perfecting the choreography, you might not be focusing on your form, and form is essential when planking – a fact I temporarily forgot when doing the plank jacks that nearly resulted in a trip to A&E.
Don't forget the ZZZZs
Get in a good night’s sleep before taking it on. Because I promise you, listening to a video with a purposefully catchy tune again and again will result in a permanent earworm that will keep you awake for days. You have been warned!