One fitness fad I’ve seen recently is the 30 Day Squat Challenge. If you haven’t heard of this then there is an example of it below. Now I don’t know who the original author of this is, whether they were a fitness professional or just a regular exerciser. I also don’t know if this challenge was part of a wider, more complete exercise program that person had in mind. The best I could find was a post of it that advised a person doing it to ‘break it down into set of 25 if they wanted’, but still, even that is not very specific and doesn’t explain why you would want do that.
Let’s go off the most popular image, here it is in all of its glory:
Some the problems we have are:
1) Most of the people I know who don’t already squat, don’t know how to squat. Squatting once with bad technique is bad enough on your joints but in the last 6 days of this you will be doing more than 1,000 repetitions with bad form.
2) It mentions nothing at all about how many reps and how many sets you should do to make up the target figure. Day 1, should I do 5 sets of 10? or 2 sets of 25? or just one set of 50? What if the person can’t do 50 squats in a row? How much should they rest in between their sets? And what about someone doing this challenge who could already do 150+ bodyweight squats in a row? Surely this challenge is too easy for them?
3) Could I break these up throughout the day? Say wake up and do 10, eat breakfast, do another 10, get out the car, do 10 squats (or does standing up out the car count as one?).
4) It’s none specific about which energy system we are supposed to be training. This is a little more advanced that most gym goers care about, but as a personal trainer I always like to let my client know the goal of what we are doing, and the type of exercise and the expected results. Is this a Cardiovascular challenge or simply a muscular endurance challenge? I’d hate someone to feel we are doing something just for the sake of it.
5) Is this the entire program? Shouldn’t we include other exercises to work some of the other muscles in the body? I know it’s easy to see that this is not a complete program. There needs to be other types of exercise, upper body, stretching etc but the problem is most people I know who do this ‘challenge’ have been doing this, and nothing else.
How to improve the challenge:
1) Vary the resistance (weight lifted), rep ranges and rest periods – try a day of heavy weights, doing set of 8-10 reps with long 2-3 minutes rests until you hit your target number. Then try a day of medium-light weights doing sets of 12-15 reps and only 30-60 seconds rest in between sets. This will work different energy systems and muscle fibre types leading to better results.
2) Vary the type of squat you do – Jump squats are great for raising your heart rate and this type of plyometric exercise is known to increase muscle power and speed. Single leg squats are great for improving proprioception and balance, reducing the chances of injury while doing other exercises such as running.
3) Vary the speed of your squats – Slowing down an exercise can maximize time under tension for a muscle whereas speeding up an exercise can improve power. Focusing on slowing the eccentric (lowering phase of the squat) movement can help damage the muscle fibre (in a good way, they repair and get stronger). Careful though, this damage is what causes us to feel Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) the next day so doing slow negatives often can cause a need for longer rest periods.
Finally, although the squat is a great exercise that anyone who is looking to get fit should learn how to do properly, your exercise routine should contain a wide variety of exercises that work a variety of muscle groups in different ways. If you still want to do the 30 day squat challenge that’s fine, but don’t expect your ass to be like the one in the picture at the end or you might be quite disappointed. Always check with a professional before starting a new exercise routine.
Thanks for reading.