Fitness fads have risen and fallen in modern popular culture since, well, ever, basically. If you had cable television in the early to mid 00’s, you were bombarded with ads for the P90X program at some point or another. Heck, you could probably argue that the modern home gym industry was built on the back of Bowflex around the same time.
Most of these programs or pieces of equipment enjoy their 15 minutes of fame and then fade into obscurity. The rub comes with not knowing if what’s popular right now can stand the test of time or if it’s another flash in the pan.
The 75 Hard challenge is certainly having a moment online — you may have seen a few of your friends post about it on social media in the last few months. The premise of 75 Hard is almost too alluring:
Commit yourself to renovating your habits over the course of roughly two and a half months, and you’ll not only get in better shape, but will succeed throughout all aspects of your life as well. Sounds almost too good to be true. So is it? Here’s what you need to know before you decide to give 100 percent to 75 Hard.
Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.
What Is the 75 Hard Challenge?
First created in 2019, 75 Hard is the brainchild of entrepreneur and public speaker Andy Frisella. On his website, Frisella espouses the life-changing effects of 75 Hard, pitching that his program will “transform your life” and “unlock your true potential.”
Although the brand is hooked on “absolute zero payment,” the 75 Hard template itself is available through a mobile app which costs $6.99 on the App Store, or as an e-book purchased through Frisella’s website for $19.95.
75 Hard Challenge Rules
Despite being a two-month-plus challenge, the actual tasks set forth by 75 Hard are both simple and consistent. In fact, 75 Hard is more of a daily habit checklist than a progressive workout routine. Each day, participants must check all of the following boxes:
- Complete two 45-minute workouts, one of which must be outdoors.
- Read at least 10 pages of any book.
- Drink at least one gallon of water.
- Take one progress photo.
- Follow “a diet.”
- Abstain from “cheat meals” and alcohol.
That’s all there is to it, and the parameters don’t change day-to-day. Notably, Frisella remarks that strict adherence to the program is essential to success. If you fail to check all of the boxes on any given day, you have to start over from scratch.
Potential Benefits of the 75 Hard Challenge
If it didn’t have any associated benefits, 75 Hard probably wouldn’t have gone viral in the first place. The simplicity of its prescriptions, ironically, may be the most clever aspect of the plan overall.
Here are some of the benefits associated with the prescriptions laid out in 75 — note that there haven’t been any specific verified scientific studies on 75 Hard itself.
Gets You Outdoors
The challenge stipulates that one of your two daily workouts must be carried out outdoors. While you may initially regard this as a cumbersome limitation, it’s actually quite wise and comes with some legitimate scientific backing.
Evidence has repeatedly shown that physical activity carried out in natural environments confers a wide array of benefits, some you can’t get inside a climate-controlled gym. Some of the most potent effects seem to be that exercise in “green” environments reduces your rate of perceived exertion and can restore a positive mood or mindset. (1)
Encourages Physical Activity
One of the biggest selling points of 75 Hard is how strictly it requires participants to exercise on a daily basis. However, it doesn’t stipulate which type of exercise you perform. At first, you may think that, with a name like 75 Hard, you’d have to go hard in the gym each and every day with vigorous strength training or high-intensity interval training.
This isn’t the case; you can fill your movement quota with basically anything, as long as you do so for an hour and a half each day. Daily movement, particularly through maintaining a high step count, is strongly correlated with reducing all-cause mortality and incidences of chronic disease. (2)
Has Clearly-Defined Goals
Despite its somewhat harsh marketing — one lapse in adherence and you “fail” — the benchmarks of 75 Hard are mostly positive and soundly-presented. The daily goals of 75 Hard are mostly “approach” oriented, rather than being “avoidance” goals.
In plain language, most of what 75 Asks you to do involves starting to do something good, rather than stopping something it considers “bad,” with the exception of its ban on alcohol consumption.
Research has shown that “approach goals” put practitioners into a more positive mindset and increase both self-efficacy and adherence outcomes. (3) You may have more success with 75 Hard because it mostly forces you to begin good habits rather than shaming you to cease harmful ones.
Targets Multiple Aspects of Health
To Frisella’s credit, 75 Hard doesn’t put all of its eggs into the same basket and sell itself on the premise of “one weird trick” being enough to change your life. Its prescriptions, while vague, cover more than just physical fitness or hydration.
If you stick to 75 Hard from start to finish, you’ll have built yourself a robust collection of positive health behaviors that should carry forward after you conclude the regime. Regarding alcohol consumption specifically, some data has shown that strict abstinence for a defined period of time often results in a continuation of abstinence afterwards. (4)
Note, though, that the researchers here regard this approach as “imperfect.”
75 Hard affords you the freedom to pursue the health goals that are relevant to you specifically. If the program forced you into a distance running protocol and you’re someone who despises cardio, you might not stick with it.
The same applies to its “follow a diet” advice — it doesn’t constrain you to a specific diet like keto, the vertical diet, intermittent fasting, paleo, and so on. You can take the time to decide which type of diet suits your goals. As long as you stick with it, you’ve satisfied that portion of 75 Hard.
In a clinical setting, this approach is generally regarded as “flexible dietary restraint,” which has been shown to produce better results and outcomes than diet or health advice with more specific details. (5)
75 Hard is a daily routine. It contains few rules, but its chief requirement is that you maintain adherence to the protocol every single day without exception. There are certainly drawbacks to such a harsh approach, but it comes with benefits as well.
[Read More: What Are Workout Splits and Which Is the Best One?]
Research demonstrates that consistency is integral to habit-forming. The exact duration required to form a sustainable habit varies. Data indicates that some may need only a few weeks, while others may require months of diligence to “lock it in.” (6) The two-and-a-half-month duration of 75 Hard falls neatly in the middle.
Potential Drawbacks of the 75 Hard Challenge
Many of the tenets of 75 Hard are double-edged swords. What some participants find enjoyable about the program might be downright nightmarish for others. Further, its protocols aren’t necessarily steeped in sound science in all cases.
May Be Too Rigid
The defined “start now, stop in 75 days” parameters of 75 Hard may prove to be harmful in the long run for some people. Evidence indicates that habits or behaviors with definitive temporal parameters (that is, specific start and end dates) may encourage negative actions before or after. (7)
In short, if you decide to begin 75 Hard on a specific date in the future, you may be more likely to lapse even further in your health habits until that time. Completing the protocol also doesn’t guarantee that the changes you made will engrain themselves into your lifestyle permanently.
The black-and-white nature of 75 Hard’s criteria is also worth considering. Most adults lead consistent lives, but things happen from time to time. Events outside your control can derail your adherence to the program, which would constitute a “failure” and require you start over from the beginning. This can be more than a little demotivating. 75 Hard loses some points for its incompatibility with hectic lifestyles or schedules.
Potentially Too Vague
The 75 Hard program doesn’t go out of its way to lay a roadmap for you to follow from start to finish. It decrees that you exercise for a specific amount of time each day, but doesn’t specify what type of training you should do.
You need to “follow a diet,” but it doesn’t tell you which diet is best for you or your goals. If you’re not intimately familiar with fitness program design or various diets, this can do more harm than good.
Certain diets are incompatible with some exercise habits; if you prefer resistance training for hypertrophy, but choose to follow a vegan diet that is low in dietary protein, your actions may run afoul of each other.
Further, the lack of a specific, periodized exercise program isn’t nearly as effective as following a well-thought-out routine. (8) In short, the vague parameters of 75 Hard require you to have a decent amount of working knowledge to begin with, and may be too obscure for rank beginners.
Makes Lofty Promises
If you head over to Frisella’s website to learn about the 75 Hard challenge, you’re all but bombarded with marketing techniques. Frisella hardly takes a tempered approach to pitching 75 Hard: The plan makes a lot of very big claims about its efficacy.
“Think of this as an Ironman for your brain,” Frisella says, arguing that 75 Hard can adjust your character at its most basic level. It purports to “harden” you to the rigors of life through regular exercise and rigid adherence.
[Read More: Get Freakishly Strong With the 5×5 Workout Program]
While appeals to emotion are viscerally compelling, they don’t constitute a sound or logical argument for the efficacy of 75 Hard. As a rule of thumb, programs or products that make lofty promises tend to be more bark than bite.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that 75 Hard is all fluff and no substance, but you should exercise caution when reading up on the program and avoid getting caught up in the hype of its marketing.
Could Create Body Image Issues
One of the tasks within 75 Hard is to take a photo of your physique each day. Doing so will provide you with a collection of any visual changes you make to your physical appearance over the course of the program, but this behavior may come with a cost.
Several analyses have tracked the relationship between daily or weekly weighing and body image. While taking a photo of yourself isn’t the same thing as stepping on the scale, both behaviors serve as a means of monitoring acute fluctuations in your body.
Regarding daily assessment via weighing, it’s relatively clear that this type of observance may have a detrimental effect on your mental health, especially when compared against a more moderate approach like assessing yourself on a weekly basis. (9)
However, there are conflicting findings as well regarding daily weight monitoring. Some data shows little to no significant effect on mental health if you assess your body daily or weekly. (10) The harmful effects of checking your weight on the scale every day don’t automatically apply to snapping a progress pic.
That said, both habits are usually done for the same reason. If you’re prone to negative self-talk or have esteem issues related to your appearance, 75 Hard may not be the best course of action for you.
Incorporates Negative Reinforcement
Frisella’s rhetoric aligns with much of what you’ll hear from contemporary “lifestyle coaches.” Not only is 75 Hard sold as the secret sauce — the golden ticket to achieving the life you’ve always dreamed of, or whatever motivational jargon you prefer — but it also isn’t afraid to plainly state the consequences of not following the regime to the letter.
75 Hard isn’t shy about its strict pass-fail criteria, nor does it cushion the blow in any way if you, for whatever reason, can’t check your boxes on a given day. Have a personal emergency or family crisis that interferes with your schedule? Tough luck; start over. The app will, in some cases, outright shame you if you fail to check in, suggesting that your “inner bitch voice beat you.”
There’s little scientific basis behind the efficacy of shaming individuals who are trying to make changes to their health. If you want to make some changes to your health behaviors or fitness habits and would prefer a more delicate, personalized approach, you may want to forego 75 Hard in lieu of working with a reputable personal trainer or dietician for one-on-one care.
Who Should Do the 75 Hard Challenge
If you have 75 days to spare, the 75 Hard challenge might be right for you. However, any regime with parameters this strict will, by default, exclude some folks.
Undertaking 75 Hard may be unwise if you’re trying to kickstart your very first health plan, or have specific health or medical conditions that require a more personalized prescription. That said, consider giving it a go if you fall into one of the following camps:
If You Need To Get Back on the Wagon
75 Hard’s strict adherence parameters may make it an unwise decision for anyone not used to health and fitness being a central aspect of their day-to-day lives. On the other hand, those same parameters could serve as an effective means of getting back into the swing of things if you’ve taken a break from your exercise routine or normal dietary habits.
It could be particularly effective because it doesn’t get too specific about what type of exercise or which diet you need to commit to — you just need to commit to something. As such, 75 Hard might help you reacclimate yourself to committing to regular exercise sessions or maintaining a consistent meal plan if you know what those things feel like already.
If You Do Well With Structure
75 Hard forces you to commit to daily exercise, among other health-related behaviors such as alcohol abstinence and a high amount of water intake. Making these things ritual isn’t always as easy or straightforward as they sound.
If you’re the type to need something on your calendar to stick to it, or you value the satisfaction of checking off a box, 75 Hard’s daily checklists might be right up your alley. Beware, though, that the program doesn’t provide much in the way of specific exercise prescriptions and lays a lot of the decision making at your feet.
Andy Frisella all but guarantees that his 75 Hard challenge will kick your butt into gear and morph you into a more resilient, confident, and downright bad-to-the-bone individual. It’s meant to be a hardcore investment for hardcore folks.
If that approach to health & fitness appeals to you, the 75 Hard challenge can certainly work for you and many of its prescriptions are supported by legitimate science. However, it is absolutely not for everyone, and in some cases may cause more harm than good. The mandate of daily check-in photos specifically collides with what modern research has to say about body image dissatisfaction. (11)
Still scratching your head about the 75 Hard challenge? Here are some of the most common questions about it, answered.
What is the 75 day Hard challenge?
The 75 Hard challenge is the brainchild of entrepreneur and public speaker Andy Frisella. It’s a two-and-a-half-month regimen designed to reshape your lifestyle. The premise is simple; exercise, eat well, drink water, read, and abstain from alcohol every single day for 75 sequential days to complete the challenge.
Does walking count for the 75 Hard challenge?
Yes! The program doesn’t set out any specific parameters or limitations on what kind of exercise you perform (though the app and e-book do make suggestions). Walking is a great option for the outdoor session specifically, as well.
How much does the 75 Hard challenge cost?
The stipulations of the challenge itself — as in, what you have to do every day — are publicly available online, but access to supplementary information as well as the official app are paywalled.
The app is available on the iOS App Store for $6.99, and Frisella sells his e-book on his website for $19.95, which contains plenty of extra information about the challenge itself as well as some suggestions regarding diet and exercise.
- Gladwell VF, Brown DK, Wood C, Sandercock GR, Barton JL. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2013 Jan 3;2(1):3. doi: 10.1186/2046-7648-2-3. PMID: 23849478; PMCID: PMC3710158.
- Banach M, Lewek J, Surma S, Penson PE, Sahebkar A, Martin SS, Bajraktari G, Henein MY, Reiner Ž, Bielecka-Dąbrowa A, Bytyçi I. The association between daily step count and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: a meta-analysis. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2023 Aug 9:zwad229. doi: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwad229. Epub ahead of print. Erratum in: Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2023 Aug 18;: PMID: 37555441.
- Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, Rozental A. A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS One. 2020 Dec 9;15(12):e0234097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234097. PMID: 33296385; PMCID: PMC7725288.
- Field M, Puddephatt JA, Goodwin L, Owens L, Reaves D, Holmes J. Benefits of temporary alcohol restriction: a feasibility randomized trial. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2020 Jan 31;6:9. doi: 10.1186/s40814-020-0554-y. PMID: 32021698; PMCID: PMC6995140.
- Westenhoefer J, Engel D, Holst C, Lorenz J, Peacock M, Stubbs J, Whybrow S, Raats M. Cognitive and weight-related correlates of flexible and rigid restrained eating behaviour. Eat Behav. 2013 Jan;14(1):69-72. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.10.015. Epub 2012 Nov 13. PMID: 23265405.
- Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009.
- Minjung Koo, Hengchen Dai, Ke Michael Mai, Camilla Eunyoung Song, Anticipated temporal landmarks undermine motivation for continued goal pursuit, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 161, 2020, 142-157, ISSN 0749-5978.
- Williams TD, Tolusso DV, Fedewa MV, Esco MR. Comparison of Periodized and Non-Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2017 Oct;47(10):2083-2100. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0734-y. PMID: 28497285.
- Ogden, J. and Whyman, C. (1997), The Effect of Repeated Weighing on Psychological State. Eur. Eat. Disorders Rev., 5: 121-130.
- Linde JA. A randomised pilot and feasibility study examining body weight tracking frequency and psychosocial health indicators. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2014 Jul-Aug;8(4):e399-402. doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2014.06.003. Epub 2014 Jul 17. PMID: 25081808.
- Bennett, B. L., Wagner, A. F., & Latner, J. D. (2022). Body Checking and Body Image Avoidance as Partial Mediators of the Relationship between Internalized Weight Bias and Body Dissatisfaction. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(16), 9785.
Feature Image: LightField Studios / Shutterstock