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What is 75 Hard? This 'mental toughness' program is helping people get in shape

If you miss one of the five daily tasks in 75 Hard, 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

If you've stumbled across a before-and-after photo from someone who has completed the 75 Hard program, the first thing you'll likely notice is significant weight loss and chiseled, toned muscles.

But the first thing creator Andy Frisella says about his program is that it's not a fitness or weight-loss plan.

Instead, the entrepreneur and host of the "Real AF" podcast calls the plan he created a "mental toughness" program that is like "an Ironman for your brain."

"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 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. After seeing people around him start and quit coaching programs and fitness plans, the 37-year-old 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 6 rules of the 75 Hard program

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 cant 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.

Frisella isn't alone in completing 75 Hard. There are more than 970,000 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."

But what do experts say about 75 Hard?

Kelley Kitley is a licensed clinical social worker and women's mental health expert who says there are pros and cons to programs like 75 Hard.

"This model could be helpful for people who are trying to create major behavior changes," Kitley told TODAY Health. "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."

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."

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," said 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 added. "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."