Whether you’re a newbie or a regular gym bunny, this 30 day squat challenge will teach you to do the perfect squat. It’s an essential first-step before you get onto doing more complex exercises.
While you might be a whizz at how to do a perfect press up, a squat requires good form every time to get the most out of the movement and avoid injury. “A squat is a compound exercise that works several muscle groups and joints at the same time,” explains personal trainer Jade Hansle. “It’s a great exercise that pretty much works the whole lower body as it targets your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves, while also strengthening the smaller stabiliser muscles and ligaments that support your leg muscles.”
But it’s not only your legs that get a good workout when it comes to the famous squat, you also “increase mobility in your ankles and hips, which is great for strength and preventing injuries. Your core gets a good workout too as it’s a key stabiliser in the movement.”
So, how do you work your way up to doing the best squat ever? “30 days of squats in all different variations will turn you into a squatting goddess or god by the end of the month,” Jade says.
30-day squat challenge
For this challenge you will need:
A space big enough to move freely – this could be at home or in a gym.
Day 1 to 8 – finding the perfect form
Complete 30 squats per day using bodyweight only.
For the first week of the challenge, you’ll be focusing on perfecting your squat form. Without this, you won’t be able to progress successfully onto adding resistance bands or weight.
“Begin by standing with your feet just wider than hip-width apart. Hold your arms out in front of you or have your hands together, or down by your sides,” Jade says.
“Exhale and engage your core (scroll the bottom to see how to to do this), slowly push your hips to the back of the room and lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Imagine you’re sitting on an invisible chair.”
“Drive through your heels as you come up to a standing position.
Don’t forget to stretch afterwards – scroll down for Jade’s stretching routine.
Day 9 to 12 – adding resistance
25-30 squats per day using resistance bands.
While bodyweight squats are great for nailing your technique and are a useful compound movement to add into any HIIT workout you might be doing, you’ll start really feeling the burn when you add resistance.
“Now that you’ve mastered the basics, time to add some resistance,” Jade says. “Resistance bands are a great way to make your squat more challenging. They also encourage your glutes to really kick in as your hip abductor muscle has to work to push the band out so your knees don’t cave in.”
To use a resistance band in a squat, step into the band and move it up your legs until it’s just above your knees.
“Perform the squat as you’ve previously done, ensuring that you are pushing your knees out against the band.”
Day 13 to 19 – levelling up with dumbells
25 – 30 squats with dumbbells
Buns of steel here we come! You’ve mastered bodyweight squats and squatting with a resistance band so now it’s time to up the intensity.
“Grab some dumbbell weights if you have some. If not, bottles of water or cans of food make good replacements until you can get your hands on them,” Jade says. “Bring the weights up to your shoulders and get squatting. Remember, shoulders back, chest up, tighten that core and drive through your heels.”
Day 20 to 29 – countdown to the end
This is the final push. Once you’ve got the hang of this, you can start bringing your weight up and going for fewer reps.
“For the last section of the challenge, we’re going for squats and weights and a resistance band. It may sound like a lot – but stay with me! Follow all the above steps and squat your way to super strong legs and bum,” Jade says.
Day 30 – stretch it off
You’ve made it – the 30-day squat challenge is now complete.
Throughout the last month, you’ve probably woken up once or twice with sore, achy muscles. That’s completely normal, Jade explains. “The body produces lactic acid whenever you exercise, which contributes to those aching muscles.
So instead of amping yourself up for another quad burner, take the last day of the challenge for some extra stretching time.
How to stretch for squats
Follow Jade’s routine for stretching in three simple steps:
Try to hold each position for 30 seconds and don’t forget to switch legs.
“Stretching can help to reduce the accumulation of lactic acid throughout the body. It’s proven to ease and relax the muscles after exercise as otherwise they’d stay tight. Loosening up your muscles after a workout will definitely reduce your chance of injury.”
How to engage your core
Many people say that engaging your core is the position you’d make if someone went to punch you in the stomach. While helpful for some, that doesn’t really explain what it is you have to do exactly.
So, this is how to engage your core the right way:
Start by lying face-up on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your arms flat beside your body with your hands facing palm-side down on the ground.
Press your tailbone into the ground so your lower back comes up slightly.
Breathe in deeply – this is essential. Once your stomach is full of air, tighten your ab muscles while keeping your tailbone pressed into the ground.
Use your ab muscles to pull your stomach up and inward.
As you engage your core, it’s important that you continue to breathe but don’t let the air out of your stomach.
Take three to five breaths while your core is engaged to see how it should feel, relax and try the exercise standing up. This is what you will need to do when you take your squat position.
Why do you have to engage your core during a squat?
Making sure that your core stays tight means that you’ll have the stability to execute your squat safely as the entire trunk of your body, i.e. your ab muscles, pelvic floor, diaphragm and spinal erectors, stays engaged. Bracing your core also protects your spine when lifting heavier weight. And if you want to go onto other functional movements like the traditional deadlift, for example, you’ll need to know how to do this from the off.
Video of the week:
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