Why the 30 Day Squat Challenge is Stupid

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, which would give the ‘challenge’ a little more credence. 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.

With these points in mind let me try to give some possible improvements to this ‘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.

Alternatively, if you’d like me to make a real 30 day challenge that will get results and improve your overall fitness then I will make one* if this post can get 30 likes/Shares on Facebook or Favorites/Retweets on Twitter (@GGreenFitness if you want to follow me) or Likes/Rebloggs on WordPress. Thanks for reading.

As Promised: 30 Days of Health and Fitness http://greenhealthandfitness.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/the-30-day-fitness-challenge/

*It won’t contain a picture of my butt in the middle like this one does.

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21 responses to “Why the 30 Day Squat Challenge is Stupid

  1. Pingback: 30 Day Squat Challenge? - 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet Weight Loss Community Exercise!

    • Thanks very much for all of the shares. I am in the middle of writing up my 30 day FITNESS challenge. I am trying to make it challenging enough for most people but also possible for people new to exercise. I’d also like to get it up on a single page so it looks similar to the format of the original but I am finding it difficult to fit it all in as some days require explanations. Anyway, fingers crossed I will at least have a post up this weekend with the challenge.

  2. Hey thanks for initiating to create a squat challenge with more emphasis on the actual technique and the explanation of the overall challenge. I’m glad to have come across your blog post, as it saved me from being blinded by that shallow one all over the internet. I’m eagerly waiting for your programme to be finalized :)

    Thanks a bunch!

    • I’m glad I could help Mia and I’m glad you understood the point I was making. Hopefully You will join in my own 30 Day Challenge where I hope to get people into the best shape of their lives (that’s the superficial part – I also hope to improve all other aspects of their health with it). Anyways, come back in next few days and I will have something up for people to start.

    • I’m in the process of doing this. Unfortunately I’m not that familiar with wordpress so the format of the challenge looks very amateur at the moment and I don’t want to publish it as it stands. I have actually written the challenge now, just a case of improving my wordpress skills.

  3. I’m interested in learning whether training the same muscle groups everyday is healthy and effective. Don’t trainers typically advise rest days between large muscle group workouts? Is this different because they will be body weight squats?

    • It totally depends on the individual; how well trained somebody is and what type of exercise you are doing. For somebody who never does exercise 50 body weight squats may well cause DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in which case resting, stretching and some other forms of muscle recovery would be advised. However, for someone who regularly trains their legs, 50 body weight squats is probably going to be more of a very light aerobic exercise.

      You’re totally correct in thinking we’d not typically work large muscle groups without adequate recovery time, but there may be exceptional reasons why somebody does do this.

      A situation that comes to mind would be somebody running multiple marathons in quick succession (I think Eddie Izzard did this). Would you usually do a big run one day, then run while fatigued the next day? No, unless you were trying to get your body to adapt to running fatigued.

      Most of us however are not ultra athletes and we just want to be fit and healthy, so a more balanced full body approach would be much more successful.

      A bit long winded but I hope I helped.

      • Up this weekend I promise. I’ve been trying bits myself and recording results. The delay is because I’ve been busy with some exercise class launches and also I am not very good at Formatting on WordPress.

  4. I had an injury last year, and started working out again this month. I’m not horribly out of shape, but I’m not where I should be. I’m doing the 30-squat challenge, but I’m also doing the push-up and sit-up challenge at the same time. All three challenges have rest days built in for recovery. I also vary the intensity and position of each exercise. I do all 3 as a complete work-out so I hit all the large muscle groups. Thanks for the advice.

    • That’s great Shelly, I’m glad you see that the ‘squat challenge’ should just be a small part of a bigger workout. Take it easy to begin with and good luck getting back to full fitness :)

  5. I just had a baby and really don’t have time for much of a work out so I’m just sticking to the squat challenge and warming up by dancing/moving around for around 10 minutes first…. it’s all stuff I can do in front of the baby but I don’t have time for much else. I learnt how to do them in a gym though so I’m pretty sure I have the technique right. You think an evening walk will suffice for other exercise?

    • Congratulations on the newborn. Any form of light cardio vascular work (where your heart rate is elevated above the norm) will do you the world of good. It’s good for the heart and the mind. An evening walk as well as your 10 minutes of dancing is enough if you are doing it most days.

      Take it easy for the first few months as your core will be a little weaker than normal after just having a baby. The good news is squats are a good way to increasing core strength, particularly squats where you hold a weight (obviously start very light). Pilates can also be helpful.

      Keep up with the work and good luck with the little one.

  6. This 30-day squat challenge is sort of ridiculous. Thank you for writing about it’s flaws.

    Now how about a 30 day squat RACK challenge! lol, Load up the plates!!

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