Want more powerful legs, sturdier knees or a stronger butt? Drop it like a squat! The squat is one of the best exercises (if not the best) for all these goals and more.
That's why we've teamed up with trainers from Fhitting Room, a workout studio and streaming platform for HIIT and strength classes, for this month-long challenge. These experts, led by Ben Lauder-Dykes, will help you master proper squat form, introduce you to modifications and variations and motivate you to finish what you start.
Remember: Aim high, squat low!
How the 30-Day Squat Challenge Works
While you can start this challenge whenever inspiration strikes, we're kicking off the next official round on Friday, October 1, 2021. And even though you can do it on your own, we recommend joining our Challenge Facebook Group for support from our community.
Each day, you'll do the number of squats listed in the calendar below, resting every fourth day. (Your legs will need the break!) You'll start out with 50 squats on Day 1 and finish with 250 on Day 30. Most days in between, you'll add 5 squats to the previous day's total. But on the days after rest days, you'll ramp it up and add either 10 or 20.
Don't worry if that sounds like a lot: You can break your squats into as many sets as needed, try different variations to find what works for you or even start with fewer than 50 reps. What matters most is that you just get squatting.
Click here for a printer-friendly version of the challenge calendar!
How to Join the 30-Day Squat Challenge
Step 1: Keep Your Challenge Calendar Handy
Print out or save the 30-day calendar above and use it each day to help you stay on track. Do the number of reps listed, then check off each day as you complete them. Before you know it, it'll become habit!
Step 2: Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
Our community of more than 50,000 members is here to support and motivate you through this challenge. Share your progress by posting photos or videos of your squats or simply tell the group how the day's reps went.
Step 3: Master Your Squat Form
Before you start building up to lots and lots of reps, make sure you're nailing perfect squat form. Watch yourself in a mirror or have a workout buddy take a video for you.
How to Do a Proper Squat
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Turn your toes out to the sides slightly.
- Hinge at your hips and bend your knees (as if you were going to sit in a chair) while keeping your chest up.
- Either raise your arms out in front of you at shoulder height for balance or bring your hands up to your chest.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor, and don’t arch your lower back.
- Now check your knees: They should be pointing in the direction of your toes (not collapsing in or bowing out) and shouldn’t extend past your toes.
- Once you’ve lowered as far as you can go comfortably while maintaining proper form, squeeze your glutes and stand back up — and repeat!
Squats may seem like a simple, natural movement, but you always want to make sure your joints are aligned properly before you bust out 50 (or 250) in a row.
"The most common mistake I see with the squat is too much of a hip hinge without a bend in the knees," Lauder-Dykes says. "Other mistakes are shifting your weight either into the forefoot (which reaches the knees too far forward) or shifting of the weight back into the heel (which will limit the amount of ankle flexion that can occur)."
And you can always take each day’s total and break it into smaller sets. For example, on the first day, you might do 5 sets of 10 squats or 10 sets of 5 squats throughout the day. Try any combination that works for you; just make sure you do your best.
Step 4: Experiment With Squat Modifications
Squats are easily modifiable to match your fitness level. If you're a beginner or have knee issues, you have a few options.
"You can modify the squat by performing an isometric hold, also known as a 'wall sit,' so that you get some load through those muscle groups," Lauder-Dykes says. "You can also focus on only emphasizing the eccentric or lowering portion of the movement."
This creates more continuous tension to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your knees, which improves overall strength and can also help with knee pain, he says.
Modification 1: Isometric Hold (Wall Sit)
- Stand against a wall with your feet several inches away from the wall.
- Slide your back down the wall until your hips and knees form 90-degree angles.
- Keep your shoulders, upper back and head flat against the wall and distribute your weight evenly in both feet.
- Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Modification 2: Eccentric Squat
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge at your hips and bend your knees (as if you were going to sit in a chair). Lower down slowly to the count of 3.
- Squeeze your glutes and stand back up to the count of 1.
- Repeat, lowering for 3 counts and standing up for 1.
If anything really starts to hurt during your squats — even with modifications — stop and reassess. You might need to take it easy with some lighter exercises and stretches, like the figure four stretch or the clamshell.
Step 5: Throw in Some Squat Variations
Popular squat variations include sumo squats, where your feet are set much wider than hip-width apart, and squat jumps, where you explode off the ground once you reach the bottom of the squat.
Experienced athletes can also consider adding weight, either with dumbbells held at your shoulders or sides or a barbell across your chest or back. Just make sure that your form is flawless before attempting these progressions and that you don't add too much weight at once.
Step 6: Take Advantage of Your Rest Days
All work and no rest makes for some very sore and overworked quads and glutes. So, when you see "Rest Day" on your calendar, follow the schedule!
"Rest is important for two reasons," Lauder-Dykes says. "One is that rest helps us recover from fatigue so that when we work out again we can train at a high level. The other reason is that we need time for our bodies to go through the recovery stage to see adaptations."
Rest days are when your muscles actually get stronger. Working out causes micro tears in your muscle fibers, and taking time off allows them to repair and grow in the process.
On your off days, show your muscles some love by doing some glute stretches or foam rolling. And get your heart pumping with a little light cardio. Walking, hiking, swimming and biking are all great options.
Step 7: Keep It Up!
During this month-long challenge, you'll do lots of squats and probably try a few variations to target different parts of your legs and butt. It's only natural to want to harness that momentum and keep your progress going.
For a well-rounded butt (pun absolutely intended), try some other great glute exercises, as well.
"Glute bridges, lunges and some core movements like planks, dead bugs and bird dogs are great additions to a lower-body program," Lauder-Dykes says. "These exercises challenge similar muscle groups in slightly different ways."
Don't forget to celebrate making it to the end of the 30-Day Squat Challenge. Let us know how it went in our Challenge Facebook Group.
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