[UPDATED May 2021]

Remember the 100 push-ups a day challenge that you saw some of your friends post about everyday on Facebook? Or the 100 days of running? Or the 30 day plank challenge? The goal of the latter is to build up to a 5 minute plank. Planks are a great exercise, without question. But is a 5 minute plank really a good thing? It definitely isn’t if you’re letting your core hang limply off your back. And really, who has the patience for a 5 minute plank? No thank you. And let’s not forget that the plank only addresses one aspect of the core.

The 100 push-ups and 100 days of running challenges always bothered me. I love push-ups, but a focus solely on push ups – an exercise that works primarily your front side, without also doing an equivalent exercise to work your backside, is not ideal in a society where most of us already spend far too much time with shortened pecs pulling our shoulders forward. I could get behind a 100 rows challenge, but I guess that’s not as sexy. Although it really is – strengthen your back and your posture will improve, allowing you to show off your boobs or your manly pecs.

A couple years ago I listened to a friend complaining about the hip pain she was enduring, but she refused to take a day off from running because she was doing the 100 days of running challenge. Really? So you’re going to further damage your body because you’re committed to a random challenge? Most people probably shouldn’t run for 100 days in a row, but I guess the “Run 80 days out of 100” doesn’t sound as cool.

Enter the 30 day The Core is the Core(TM) challenge!

If you are up for it, the challenge is as follows:

Every day for the next 30 days, you will do 4 exercises, one each for:

  1. Anterior (front) core
  2. Lateral/rotary (side) core
  3. Posterior (butt!) core
  4. Core plus – an exercise that is big on core but also works something else

Anyone see what I did there? Balance! When I think of core, I think of the many great trainers and educators whom I have learned from over the years. Virtually all of them advocate a strong core, but their definition of core goes far beyond “the six pack muscles”. We got obliques, we got transverse abdominus, we got glutes, we got multifidus, we got QL…There’s a whole lotta muscles in your core, and all are important in maintaining a happy, healthy, and high-performing body.

What are the challenge specifics?

  • Rule #1: Pick an exercise from each category every day.
  • Rule #2: You don’t have to pick the same exercise every day, but you can. If you don’t want to pick the exercises yourself, we will provide recommendations each day.
  • Rule #3: If something hurts, stop doing it. If you finish the exercise even though it was painful, that’s an automatic disqualification from the challenge. Take that! Now keep in mind, “pushing through while the muscles feel like they are working” does not constitute pain. But things like pain in the shoulder joint while side-planking, or pain in the low back while planking do count as pain. If you find the exercise you’ve chosen causes pain, pick another one instead (also consider seeing your doctor or manual therapist, especially if it’s a recurring thing)! Hopefully you can find another exercise in that category that doesn’t hurt. If you can’t skip that category for the day.
  • Rule #4: Be your awesome self. This means that if your best side plank is 30 seconds, be proud of the 30 second planks that you do. Aim to increase it over the 30 days, but remember that you don’t have to increase it every day, and if you aren’t able to increase it, but you still do it, and feel your core working while you do, that’s worthy of celebration. You rock because you’re doing this, not because of the numbers you reach.

Next challenge Starts…the day after you sign up!

It should only take about 5 minutes per day. And you don’t have to do it all together, although you may find that works. Just get ‘er done. I’ll start you off with some suggestions for each of the categories, and we’ve got a few extra special bonuses since the first round:

– Accountability! Via The Core Is The Core 30 day challenge form. That’s right. We’ve got a form! First step: sign-up. Don’t worry – we’re very respectful of your personal info. The day after you sign-up, you’ll start receiving the program emails: 

  • You receive a Daily Core email to remind you to do your exercises, and also provides a picture, and either a description or a video of a core exercise. You’ll get a different exercise each day.
  • You’ll receive a recommended set of exercises to do and how long/how many to do. AND we’ll provide an advanced and beginner challenge level. Pick a level and try to do the specific exercises for that day. Or if you prefer to do your own thing, that works too. Just pick one anterior core, one lateral/rotary core, one posterior core, and one core plus exercise every day of the challenge.
  • If you have any questions throughout the challenge, pop over to The Custom Strength Facebook page and either post it there or shoot me a message there

Here are some of the exercises you’ll learn and “enjoy” during the Core is the Core challenge:

Anterior (front) core

  • Plank (time is dependent on your ability. Set the standard on day 1)
  • Bench plank
  • McGill curl-ups (not to be confused with crunches, which I don’t encourage)
  • Leg lowering progression
  • Stability ball roll out
  • Ab wheel roll out


Lateral/rotary (side) core

  • Side plank
  • Bird dog
  • Stir the pot
  • Shoulder taps
  • Half-kneeling kettlebell halo
  • Bench side plank


Posterior (butt!) core

  • Glute bridges (try it with a hold)
  • Single leg glute bridges (also try it with a hold – don’t let the other hip drop!)
  • Band hip extensions and abductions
  • Sidelying clams
  • Shoulder and feet elevated hip lifts (1 or 2 legs)


Core plus

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Single leg Romanian deadlift (hold the weight on the opposite side to the stance leg)
  • One arm DB row

Wondering about the exercises above? join the challenge and you’ll get to do them.

Who’s in?

Once you’ve registered, you’ll get a link to the program challenge form, so you can keep track of how you’re doing, either by printing it and writing it in (for fridge door bragging rights?), or you can enter your progress and save it to your device. 
Elsbeth Vaino, CSCS, is a personal trainer and exercise nerd, but don’t worry, the nerd part isn’t contagious.


  1. Touche. Aim for an amount that’s doable for you. I’m about to post what I’ve been doing since I started (I got a 5 day head start) so hopefully that will give some ideas. But the idea is that it should be challenging but not so challenging that you’re dying or that you start to wish you weren’t doing it.

  2. Sweet! I’ll be posting what I’ve been doing, so check back if you want ideas – and I’d love to see what you are doing too!

  3. Almost as easy as twitter! 😉

    Any suggestions for the number of reps for things like push-ups, squats, etc.?

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