I just tried this 7-minute plank challenge — here’s my verdict

a photo of a woman doing a plank
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Planks are one of the best exercises you can do to build strength, endurance, and stability in your core — just roll out a mat, get into position, and you’ll instantly put all of your major abdominal muscles to the test. 

Most of us start out with modest plank goals of 30 or 45 seconds, but once your abs get stronger and more conditioned, holding a plank for a minute or two may not seem so daunting anymore. I was looking for a way to up my plank game recently, and I stumbled upon popular YouTuber Pamela Reif’s 7-minute plank challenge. Right away, I was intrigued — certainly she couldn’t mean holding in a plank position for a full 7 minutes, could she? Ready for the formidable task ahead, I got down onto the floor and pressed play. Here’s what I thought of the 7-minute plank challenge. 

How to do a plank

Most of the 7-minute plank challenge involves variations on the basic plank, so you’ll want to make sure your basic plank is solid before you attempt this workout. Let’s review the proper form.

  • To perform the plank, come to all fours on the floor or mat.
  • Align your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees directly underneath your hips. Step both of your feet behind you, about hip-width apart.
  • Come down onto your elbows, making sure they stay aligned directly under the shoulders. Keep your spine neutral and your torso parallel to the floor, avoiding any excessive arching through the lower back.
  • Don’t allow your hips to rise into the air or sink towards the floor — keep them in line with the spine.
  • Engage your core. Hold in this position until your form fails or you reach muscle fatigue.

Basic planks work your transverse abdominis (or TVA), rectus abdominis (or “six-pack”), internal and external obliques, and even your shoulders and glutes. 

Read more about the 19 different plank variations to try to build core strength.

I just tried this 7-minute plank challenge — here’s my verdict

Don’t let the short duration fool you — this plank-based workout is incredibly challenging and definitely not for beginners. There are no repeated moves, no modifications offered, and no built-in breaks. If you can’t hold a basic plank for about five minutes straight with good form, chances are you won’t be able to make it through the challenge without stopping.   

Trainer Pamela Reif packs 13 plank variations into a brutal 7 minutes, with a few plyometric moves like jacks and mountain climbers sprinkled in along the way. Each of the 13 exercises are done for 30 seconds straight before moving directly to the next exercise. The only (very minor) pause you’ll get is when you switch positions for a side plank bicycle. 

It’s inspiring to watch Pamela move from plank variation to plank variation with total ease, not breaking a sweat or showing any signs of fatigue. But the fact of the matter is that very few people would be able to do this workout without pausing a few times, and I doubt that many novice exercisers would be able to do it all. While I get that different YouTube workouts will be geared toward different fitness abilities, I still think that a certain level of accessibility is important. Even if Pamela didn’t want to include any time for breaks, she could make a short statement in the video’s description that indicates the workout’s advanced nature and suggests pausing between exercises if needed. You don’t need her permission to do that anyway, however, the optics of such a statement would provide some helpful context. 

Woman in a grey studio performing a forearm plank

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

I also think Pamela would be wise to show modifications for some of the exercises. I had to modify a few of them on my own, but as a personal trainer, I already know how to do that properly. Most people wouldn’t, and having some sort of quick 2 or 3-second visual reference to follow would open up this workout to a lot more fitness levels (while also remaining appropriately challenging for the plank experts).

What I liked about this workout was its efficiency. Pamela wastes no time with any introductory chatter – as soon as you start the video, you’re on the mat in your first plank variation. She also doesn’t pipe in with any banter during the workout, allowing a catchy, high-energy soundtrack to motivate you instead. And impressively, her form stays pretty decent throughout.

I also think that this workout can act as a marker for strength improvements. You might only get through the first 3 or 4 exercises without stopping on your first try, but after some practice and consistency, you may find you’re able to make it to the halfway point and eventually through the entire challenge. 

The bottom line? If your planks max out at 2 minutes or less, be forewarned that you probably won’t make it through this entire 7-minute challenge on your first go around. And if you’ve just begun a consistent exercise routine, I’d suggest revisiting the challenge once you’ve built up some strength (and even then, be prepared to pause a few times). For the plank aficionados out there, this 7-minute challenge is a fun way to test your endurance and add a little variety to your core work.

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Jennifer Rizzuto

Jennifer Rizzuto is a freelance writer and certified personal trainer based in Long Island, NY. She covers various fitness-related topics and reviews for Tom's Guide. She also writes sketch comedy and short films, and performs frequently as an actor, singer, and improviser. When she's not writing, working out, or performing, you'll find her trying to convince her husband to get a dog.