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What is 75 Hard? The 'mental toughness' program is delivering drastic results — but is it safe?

If you don't follow the six rules of the 75 Hard challenge every single day, you must start over at day one.
Illustration of woman lifting weights with a calendar behind her
Entrepreneur Andy Frisella created the 75 Hard program as a way to reach his own fitness goals. Now, he's sharing the rules for his own success with everyone.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Come holiday time, many people are looking toward the new year and setting goals for their diet and fitness routines. If you're one of them, and start to look for a program to help you see real change, you'll likely come across 75 Hard.

The #75HardChallenge hashtag has over 1 billion views on TikTok and the videos showcase some pretty drastic results. Some are physical — with before-and-after photos showing significant weight loss and muscle growth — but many also document a mental and emotional transformation.

After completing the 75-day program, TikToker Madison Jan said "I fell in love with myself and my life again" in a video that racked up 2.8 million likes.

So, what exactly is this program?

75 Hard is definitely not a diet plan — and it's not a fitness plan either, according to Andy Frisella, creator of 75 Hard and host of the "Real AF" podcast. Frisella calls the plan he created a "mental toughness" program that is like "an Ironman for your brain."

Here's everything you need to know about 75 Hard — and whether it's safe for you.

What is 75 Hard?

Frisella says his plan is less about building muscle or losing weight and more about exercising skills like determination, self-esteem, confidence and discipline — skills that are required for any type of success in life. 75 Hard, though, seems to be as intense for your body as it is for your brain — given all the photos of 75 Hard devotees with chiseled abs.

Over 1 million people from all over the world have completed 75 Hard, according to Frisella's website. "It's gaining a lot of momentum and a lot of steam, and the reason is that it works," Frisella said in a 2020 episode of his podcast, in which he outlines the six rules that must be followed daily to complete the 75 Hard plan. "What would it be worth for you to know when you said you were going to do something you were actually going to follow through?"

Frisella started the program after seeing people around him start and quit coaching programs and fitness plans. Before he sent 75 Hard out into the world, the 39-year-old entrepreneur wrote down the rules of his 75-day plan and attempted it himself.

The results were life-changing.

"If you complete it exactly ... I guarantee you after 75 days, you will look back and say, 'This is the greatest thing I ever did,'" Frisella said. "We're talking about how you can go out and fix your brain to a point where all of these other programs that you want to buy and learn how to do, will actually take care of themselves because you have the ability to execute consistently."

What would it be worth for you to know when you said you were going to do something you were actually going to follow through?

The 75 Hard Rules

Frisella says the rules of 75 Hard are simple, but that doesn't mean the plan is easy.

There are five daily tasks (plus one over-arching rule!) which much be executed consistently for the entire 75 days.

  1. If you skip a day, you must start over. If you miss a task, you must start over at day one. "You can't tweak the program to your liking ... it's supposed to be inconvenient and it's supposed to be hard," said Frisella. "In life, conditions are never going to be perfect; you're always going to have to do things that you don't want to do and the minute you start tweaking or compromising, that's what opens the door to quitting."
  2. Pick a diet to follow, with no alcohol or cheat meals. You must choose a diet based on your goals and stick to it. But there's a second caveat to the rule: No cheat meals and no alcohol. In a culture that depends on after-work drinks or wine once the kids are in bed, Frisella acknowledges the difficulty of this task. "Not a drop. Not a beer. Not a wine. Not a glass when you get home. Nothing for at least 75 days," he said. "There's a number of reasons for this: Empty calories, psychological addiction, physical addiction. Also, we’re talking about detoxing your body for 75 days ... You don’t understand how foggy you are because of this (alcohol-drinking) lifestyle."
  3. Drink a gallon of water daily. "Make sure you start early and be consistent throughout the day so that you're not chugging a gallon of water before you go to bed," Frisella said, which, he admits, he had to do a few times himself.
  4. Complete 2 daily workouts. One of the most time-consuming parts of 75 Hard is the workouts: Two 45-minute workouts of your choice must be completed per day and one of those workouts must be done outside, regardless of the weather. "This is the point of the program — conditions are never perfect," said Frisella. "And one of the reasons that most people can’t get through life in an effective way is because the minute conditions are tough, they throw the towel in on their plan."
  5. Read 10 pages per day of a non-fiction book. "This is not entertainment time, this is not 'Harry Potter' time, this is learn new stuff time," Frisella explained. "The book has to be a self-development book of some kind and it has to be for personal growth." He also stresses that it needs to be a physical book, not an e-book you read on your phone or tablet.
  6. Take a progress photo every day. "This is not just to show your physical transformation ... once you start getting some progress, fitness or business or anywhere else, you start to forget the little details as you go," said Frisella. These photos will help you remember the daily progress of your journey, he said. He also encourages people to take photos that show their body, recognizing that this may be difficult, but that these photos are for you only and don't need to be posted.

The intensity of the program seems to be attractive to people who are seeking dramatic change. Since Frisella created the program in 2019, there have been more than a million posts on Instagram using the #75Hard hashtag and TikTok is filled with videos of people documenting their daily routines and success stories.

Frisella says he's not surprised.

"If you follow the program exactly as it's laid out, you will be a completely different person," he said. "You will look different. You will talk different. You will f------ think different. You will be a different human completely."

Benefits of 75 Hard

Dr. Jordan Metzl is a sports medicine physician and author of "Dr. Jordan Metzl's Workout Prescription," and as a fan of mental and physical commitments, he can see the perks of a program like 75 Hard.

"In general, people have way more in their tank than they think they do," says Metzl. "I have found that different people respond to different concepts. Some like encouragement, others like a group, while others find that just belonging to a club helps tremendously."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults who are physically active are healthier, feel better and are less likely to develop chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Though you should always consult with a health care professional before starting a new diet or fitness program.

The organization recommends adults aim for at least 75-300 minutes of exercise per week depending on the intensity of each workout, adding that there are additional health benefits to reaching more than 300 minutes weekly.

Metzl said it's OK to attempt to reach higher amounts of active time.

"As long as you're paying attention to your body and making sure pain isn't changing the way you move, this should be fine," Metzl adds. "Obviously aches and pains that worsen need to be checked out, but this seems more of a commitment to commitment, which I think is a great thing to try."

Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical social worker and women's mental health expert, also sees pros to programs like 75 Hard.

"This model could be helpful for people who are trying to create major behavior changes," Kitley tells TODAY. "It's very structured and easy to follow as well as offers an accountability component with taking pictures to visually see progress made. And, as a cognitive behavioral therapist, I love the reading component to help keep yourself motivated and grounded."

Drawbacks of 75 Hard

Kitley says while an all-or-nothing mentality can be difficult to sustain long-term, she can see how the approach would benefit those wishing to kick-start their health journeys. That said, it's important to have a plan for what life will look like after completing a round of 75 Hard.

"Don't let the pendulum swing in the other direction," Kitley cautions. "Likely, you’ll be feeling incredible (if you successfully complete the program) and will want to keep up a healthy lifestyle and add some of those new behaviors into your daily living."

Other experts urge caution.

"The average person in today's society doesn't have the time to commit to that without sacrificing somewhere else in their life," Thomas Hildebrandt, a physician and director of The Center of Excellence in Eating and Weight Disorders at Mount Sinai in New York, tells after hearing the "rules" of 75 Hard.

Not only that, but Hildebrandt thinks that there may be psychological consequences for some people who attempt 75 Hard.

People with eating disorders, for example, may be triggered into relapse by the success-failure rollercoaster that 75 Hard is likely to create for them. Hildebrandt fears that, even for people with no history of disorder, the kind of failure experience built into 75 Hard may cause people to internalize their failure and therefore reduce motivation.

The bottom line: Is 75 hard safe?

If you're looking to get fit and 75 Hard is appealing to you, Hildebrandt recommends looking at your goals first. "Most people want a better life," says Hildebrandt, and most people don't actually need strict rules to get there. "At the end of the day, the best outcomes come from the things that you can truly enjoy and integrate into your life," he says.

Hildebrandt says that some people may enjoy the challenge of plans like 75 Hard. "There are people who are driven in that way," he says. But if the intense rules don't feel like fun to you, that's okay. Hildebrandt says that most of us don't need a mountain to climb — we just need more movement in our lives. "At the end of the day, it's just about moving."