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What is the 30-day squat challenge and how effective is it?

By Sarah Finley

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  • The 30-day squat challenge requires you to complete a set number of squats each day for 30 days

  • The challenge can be done without any gym equipment

  • The 30-day squat challenge can help to tone the glutes, quads and core

  • The workout can be completed with different squat variations

There's a reason the squat is such a popular and widely performed move. It's a compound exercise which means that it engages more than one muscle group at a time. The 30-day squat challenge is a well-known fitness challenge that takes the exercise to the next level.

It requires you to complete a fixed number of squat repetitions over a 30-day period. The challenge can include a number of squat variations, and can be incorporated into any workout routine.

If you want to improve your squat, increase muscle strength or are just generally looking to complete a new fitness goal, this 30-day challenge could be for you. We look at how effective the challenge is, and we talk to a PT about the results you might expect from it.

What is the 30-day squat challenge?

As the title suggests, the 30-day squat challenge requires you to perform a number of squats over a 30-day period. It can be an effective full-body, strength-based workout, and engages a number of major muscle groups.

A quick Google search for the 30-day squat challenge will throw up a number of variations on the plan. Some ask that you just complete a set number of basic body weights squats per day, while others incorporate squat variations.

This plan includes the basic squat, squat pulses, squat jumps and narrow squats. The minimum number of squats you will complete in a day is 75, and the maximum is 200. This version of the challenge adds in goblet squats, which are to be performed with a kettlebell or dumbbell.

The original challenge is simply 30 days of bodyweight squats. However, I would recommend switching this up throughout the month by adding in some pulses or weights.

Single leg variations and lateral patterns are also a good idea to ensure you are balanced unilaterally. Split squats and lateral lunges count as well, and allow you to hit multiple muscle groups, while improving strength across different movement planes.

- Mitch Raynsford, Strength & Conditioning Coach at P3RFORM.

How to perform a basic squat

According to experts, the squat is one of the most effective moves for improving overall athletic performance. As a compound movement, it has the potential to maximise calorie burn, increase dynamic flexibility which in term may minimise your risk of injury, and improve your overall fitness level. It's also what's known as a functional movement, meaning that it will improve your functional range of motion. This comes in handy in day-to-day activities such as bending down to pick up shopping bags or lifting heavy boxes.

The starting position for the basic squat - also known as air squats - may vary slightly per the individual, but in general you should begin with your feet hip or shoulder distance apart. Some people find it more comfortable to have their toes very slightly pointing outwards. In your starting position, your spine should be neutral, your shoulders back and down and your chest open.

From here, bend your knees and push your hips back, like you would if you were about to sit down in a chair. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the floor, but depth of squat also varies person-to-person. Keep your chest lifted, and your back neutral. Your weight should predominantly be in your heels - you should be able to wriggle your toes while at the bottom of the movement.

Push through the heels to come back up, and squeeze your glutes as you return to your starting position. You should feel both your glutes and core engaged throughout the entirety of the movement. That is one full rep; repeat this as many times as required. This guide from Women's Health illustrates what the move should look like, and also highlights some of the signs you may be doing it wrong.

Some variations of the basic squat are as follows:

  • Pulse squats: This mimics the basic squat, however as you reach the bottom of the movement, add in a small pulse - or a set of pulses - before returning to standing.

  • Sumo squat: For this version, set your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and turn your toes out about 45 degrees. Bend your knees and push your hips back, as you would a classic squat, keeping the feet turned out and the chest high.

  • Squat jumps: This version adds in a cardio element and will work to raise your heart rate. Follow the basic squat movement but as you reach the bottom, use your glutes to propel you into the air, so that you jump up quickly, as opposed to standing up.

What muscles will the squat challenge engage?

The single exercise will challenge a number of different muscles in both the lower and upper body. The challenge was designed to target the glutes predominantly, but with proper form you should also be strength training the core, hamstrings, quads, calf muscles, adductors and hip flexors.

Is the challenge right for you?

The 30-day squat challenge is easily adaptable for all fitness abilities, is free and easy to follow, and can be performed anywhere without gym equipment. It can also be added as a fun accessory challenge to an existing workout routine. With that, it's a motivational and effective goal to aim for - no matter where you are in your fitness journey. If you are lacking inspiration in the gym, or are looking to incorporate strength training into your routine, why not give it a go?

Frequently asked questions

Will I tone up or lose weight doing the 30-day squat challenge?

"If your main goal is to lose weight, the challenge can contribute to your success. However, the challenge alone won't be enough - proper nutrition is also key for fat reduction," says Raynsford. “Exercise itself is a tool to facilitate fat loss, but this needs to be combined with a healthy diet and a calorie deficit. Often, if you increase your daily energy expenditure, your hunger increases which can offset the calories utilised from exercise," he says. Instead, Raynsford recommends that you combine a calorie-controlled diet, adequate protein and full-body gym workouts to ensure a much more effective weight loss journey.

How many squats should I perform a day?

If you’re new to the gym or squatting, don’t overexert yourself as you’ll wake up the next day with sore glutes - which isn’t great preparation for the challenge. One idea is to start with five sets of 10 reps, with a rest in between (50 in total per day), until you feel your muscles adjusting to the daily exercises. From there, start to increase the reps by 10 each day. The aim is to reach 250 squats a day - but don’t worry if you don’t make it to 250, you’ll still be toning your muscles however many you reach.

Is it smart to squat every day?

“Continually squatting without a rest day could lead to a number of overuse injuries, especially if you are new to working out; tendons in the knees don't react well to a sharp spike in training load,” explains Raynsford. Instead, he suggests aiming for three days a week of full body training, allowing 48 hours of recovery between sessions.

Can squatting help to tone the stomach as well as glutes?

The squat challenge can be an effective way to strengthen your core and add tone to the stomach area because the squat is a compound movement, which also engages the core. “It requires the core to be braced to ensure a safe movement pattern and is one of the best ways to strengthen and increase the muscle tone of your core. However, if your focus is on revealing six-pack abs, then you need to ensure you are in a calorie deficit in order to reduce fat too,' says Raynsford.