Squat challenges have been trending on social media recently. While they are a good way to work your lower body, they do have some limitations. It is important that you consider what you hope to achieve and whether the challenge is the best way of reaching this goal.

There is no hard and fast rule as to how to complete a squat challenge. Don't be afraid to vary it up, so it meets your personal needs.

What is a Squat?

Squats are an exercise that is designed to strengthen, tone, and build muscle in the lower body. They work the quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, and hip flexors in particular while improving core stability.

There are a number of squat variations, but they all derive from the basic squat. To begin, a person stands with their feet shoulder-distance apart, then lowers with the knees coming forward and the seat going back until the thighs are parallel with the floor (or to the end of their range of motion). The second part of the squat involves reversing this movement to stand upright again. The spine remains straight as the torso leans forward slightly, and the neck should remain in line with the rest of the spine.


Short-Term Benefits of Squats

Squats have a number of short-term benefits, including helping increase calorie burn. As a high-intensity compound movement, a squat has the potential to burn a similar number of calories as aerobic exercises, such as cycling or running. One study found a person weighing 155 pounds can burn approximately 223 calories by doing an exercise such as squats for 30 minutes. (It's important to note, however, that focusing on calories burned during the workout is not a great way to measure the usefulness of an exercise!)

As squats can be completed anywhere with no need for gym equipment, they are accessible to everyone. Exercise in general has been shown to make people feel more positive about themselves and happier due to the release of endorphins.


Long-Term Benefits of Squats

The primary outcome of squats is increased core strength and stability. This conveys some major long-term health benefits. Good core strength is important as we age as it improves balance and stability, which is key in preventing falls and serious injury.

Squats also help to maintain flexibility. The long-term benefit of flexibility is the ongoing ability to carry out the tasks associated with everyday living, which can decline as a person ages. Staying active increases the likelihood of maintaining independence longer.


What is a Squat Challenge?

There are a number of variations of the squat challenge, but the general theme is doing an increasing number of squats each day for thirty days or more.

As a mechanism for getting you up off the couch and moving, it is great, but while squats are an excellent exercise, this challenge alone won't allow someone to reach any advanced fitness goals.


Preparing for a Squat Challenge

A squat challenge should not be taken lightly, especially if you are out of shape. If this is the case, most experts will recommend a quick medical check first.

Given a squat challenge focuses on only one area of the body, the potential of an injury in the lower back region is increased. To avoid this it is important that you warm up the muscles before starting the exercise each day.


Types of Squat Challenges

There is a whole range of different squat challenges to choose from. These challenges have different numbers of squats required, go for different time periods, and incorporate additional exercises. It is worthwhile to think about your reasons for the challenge and then look for a squat challenge that meets those needs.

Also keep in mind that there are other exercises — specifically lunges — that can be easier for beginners or those who need to modify for other reasons. The point is usually to get moving more, so it doesn't really matter which exercise you decide to do to achieve this!


Improving Your Squats

The most important thing to remember when completing your squats and the best way to avoid injury is to concentrate on your form. Watch some instructional videos to ensure you're doing the exercise safely and correctly. Don't arch or curve the spine, and keep your head level and eyes straight ahead.


Squats on the Go

Although the idea of a squat challenge is to add to the number of squats completed each day, this is not always a good idea, especially for those who have been inactive for a long period or have previously injured their lower back.

Instead of adding to the number of squats each day, you can vary the challenge so that it best fits your needs. One idea could be to complete the squats in a different location each day. You'll increase your fitness simply by walking more — maybe you choose a slightly further location every day.


Social Squats

One of the things that makes squats so appealing is they can be done anytime, anywhere, and — in most cases — by anyone. Doing the challenge with a friend is a great way to mix socializing and working out. The bonus is that both can positively impact on mental health, decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression.


Add Other Exercises

Squat challenges are limited in what they offer because you are exercising the same part of your body in the same way each day— this limits the scope and increases the chance of getting bored, which makes it hard to stick to any workout.

Most fitness professionals suggest including other exercises with the squats for a more complete workout and for variation.


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