I Did a 5-Minute Ab Workout Daily, and This Is the Crazy Thing That Happened to My Belly

The Cheat Sheet recently did a piece on a woman who had successfully done the 30-day plank challenge. The premise: Do a plank every day, working your way up to holding it for a whopping five minutes. The story was intriguing: Who the heck can go five minutes in a plank position and not collapse to the floor in pain?

Because I’m always down to try a new ab workout, I decided to give this bonkers challenge a go. Here’s what happened to my stomach — and the rest of my body — when I took on the task of holding a five-minute plank.

For starters: The countdown is brutal

three women doing plank exercise in fitness class

Have you tried this insane plank challenge? | Bojan89/iStock/Getty Images

I read this might be the case, but I didn’t realize how much the countdown would take its toll until I started the plank challenge. I’ve never hated my iPhone timer more than when it was counting down the seconds as I held a plank. I swear, it was counting down slower at certain points just to irk me and make my overworked core quiver even more.

Even as the planks got longer and a little easier — more on that on page 5 — I found myself cursing the timer for going so slowly.

Next: Then, I found a solution.

Tricks to distract the mind

Beautiful group of women practicing the side plank yoga pose

Putting on music can really help distract you from the plank pain. | Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

The best way for me to get through a long plank was to have music on in the background. At first, I just put on any old song. Then, I found a couple tracks whose tempo matched the speed of my phone timer. And listening to a song actually helped keep me from staring at the timer, focusing on the countdown.

Next: Another trick I learned

Timing is everything

Fit woman doing full plank core exercise

Get them done first thing in the morning, so you’re not tempted to skip. | iStock.com/undrey

At first, I didn’t set aside a time of day to do my planks. (Because I have the luxury of working from home most days of the week, I didn’t feel like I had to schedule it.) Then, I realized if I didn’t do my planks early in the day before sitting down to write, I had a harder time sticking to doing them every day. Plus, by mid-afternoon, the idea of dropping to the floor made me want to take a nap instead of work my abs.

Lesson learned: Scheduling a time to plank — no matter what time of day works best for you — is superior to doing them at random.

Next: Results I didn’t expect

The impact on my lower body

woman running up on mountain stairs

You’ll feel planks in your lower body, too. | iStock.com/lzf

I already knew the plank position can help add some tone to your lower body. But I wasn’t aware of how much of an impact it could have until I was a week into doing planks every day. I first noticed it when I went for my afternoon jog and realized my calves and quadriceps felt fatigued much quicker. Then, after a couple days, my legs began to feel stronger when I went out for a workout. (Plus they looked better in my workout leggings, which is always a good thing.)

Next: The reason I took on the challenge in the first place

My belly

woman trying to button her pants

Pair your planks with cardio to get the most bang for your buck. | Voyagerix/iStock/Getty Images

My midsection has been my problem area since I was about 14 years old. So really, I’m down to try just about anything that will keep it as trim as possible. I found pairing the plank with my cardio routine worked double to make my stomach stronger, flatter, and more toned. (Sure, I still have to battle with that bit of belly bulge, but that’s where mountain climbers and high-waisted jeans come in to save the day.) And every day I did the plank, it felt just a little bit easier and made my core feel a little bit stronger.

Next: The most shocking result of all

My posture

person doing work at a desk

Need help sitting up straight while working? Try a few planks daily. | Wutwhanfoto/iStock/Getty Images

I had read that doing planks regularly helped improve posture. But I still wasn’t prepared for just how much it would help me sit up straighter and walk taller. Whether I was sitting at my computer or at happy hour with friends, I became increasingly aware of when my shoulders would slump. This ended up being my favorite result of doing the plank challenge.

Next: To sum it all up …

Lessons learned

man doing planks while a woman times him

Try adding five seconds of time to your plank each day. | iStock.com

In the end, I still think working toward holding a plank for a whole five minutes is a bit insane. That being said, getting in the habit of doing a plank every day has had a positive impact on my stomach, as well as other parts of my body. I recommend that anyone wanting to work their way up to doing a long plank every day start by doing it for one minute at a time. And add time in five-second intervals as you get more comfortable.

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