What happens when you take an intense love for fitness and combine it with the incredible reach of social media in modern times?
Workout challenges galore – that’s what!
While I’m generally not all too keen on fad workouts or insanely unreasonable challenges that often do more harm than good – recently I was finally met with a challenge that actually piqued my interest a fair bit.
The whole premise was doing bodyweight squats for 3 months (90 calendar days) in a row, that’s it!
And the moment I laid eyes on this challenge, I was pretty much hooked (the same thing happened when I saw a challenge to stop eating sugar). I mean, just think about it … an exercise I can do at home, without having to put in all that much effort, use any sort of equipment, clear out any space, or even carve out a block of time for – sign me up!
So, X-amount of squats every day – “ok, simple enough” – I thought to myself, almost laughing at how obscenely vague and simple the challenge sounded.
But then again, while the comedian in me wanted to get off scot-free doing a single squat every day, I am actually pretty serious when it comes to my fitness.
Thus, I buckled up, set a pretty manageable goal for myself, and got to squatting every day. And I did the entire challenge with the single purpose of demystifying everything about the long-term effects of the all too popular daily squat workouts for you, my dear readers.
Here’s What We’ll Cover
Before we dive into the meat and bones of my observations, outtakes, and results from taking part in this challenge – I want to cover a few quick things.
Below, we’ll be going over the basic science behind squats, why performing squats daily may or may not be a good idea, and some of the basic benefits you can expect to see out of adding this sort of exercise to your everyday life.
Let’s do this!
The A-B-C’s Of Squats
First and foremost – it’s pretty obvious that squats work multiple muscle groups including your leg muscles and the glutes (the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus). But did you know that they’re actually a fantastic and highly effective full-body exercise and helps with functional movement too?
Squatting everyday not only helps you get stronger, you also get to build a strong foundation for compound exercise or when lifting heavier weights during strength training sessions.
What Muscles Do Squats Target?
Unbeknownst to most people, different squat variations use your upper and lower body (1) in unison, as well as your core muscles, legs and hip flexors. Yes, even loading boxes and picking them up can work these areas.
But you can still hit other muscle groups with good squat variations like the overhead variant, which helps target certain muscle groups in your back and shoulders.
What Are The Steps To Doing A Proper Squat?
Obviously enough, to avoid injury and make your squats as effective as possible, you’ll need to do them in proper form.
So, here are the steps to doing a basic “air” (bodyweight) squat:
- Get in position with your feet a shoulder-width apart and pointed slightly outwards.
- Tense your abs and stand get ready to squat.
- Sit back, making sure that you move backward with your butt and try your best to keep your knees in-line with your toes.
And voila – you’ve just done a nice and solid squat!
Now, here’s a couple of rookie mistakes to watch out for:
- Don’t start with your knees – this puts an awful lot of pressure on them, and makes for poor form, making squats tougher and less result-rich. Just think “sit back” and lead with your butt.
- Don’t let your knees cave – the deeper you go, you might feel your knees starting to buckle. Don’t go that far, as you’ll be putting even more stress on your knees, which can ultimately lead to injury. Instead, try to face your knees in the same direction as your toes are pointing by pushing them slightly outwards as you squat.
- Don’t arch your back – this is natural if you struggle with posture. Instead, to counteract the urge to arch, look ahead and relax your shoulders while opening up your chest.
- Don’t lift your heels – to stand up from a squat correctly, you’ll drive the power from your heels being planted to the floor. Being firmly planted also gives you good balance and the right form for good muscle activation.
My Tips For Safe & Effective Squats
Now that we’re a little more familiar with the basic science behind squats, let’s cover a few tips that you might find handy if you’re curious about taking this challenge for a spin.
Here are my top tips for the daily squat challenge:
- Stay within your comfort zone – don’t squat deeper than your pelvic floor should to avoid injuries, definitely don’t start by doing 1000 squats a day, I’ve been there it’s not nice.
- Get your form right – before you focus on doing 100 squats, get 10 down in perfect form, then 20, and so forth as you perfect your squat technique and increase your daily max.
- Face forward – to keep your neck and upper section of your body in a more natural position.
- Mind the weight – only lift the weight you can actually handle to avoid injuries, proper form through the full range of motion is everything, lifting more weight just leads to injury. You can even start with resistance band before upgrading to weights.
- Don’t forget those abs – tense your abs to get your core engaged before you squat and keep them activated with each round in order to get more out of the exercise you’re doing and strengthen your core.
The Benefits Of Doing Daily Squats – My Results & Outtakes
So, now that we’ve had a basic rundown on squats – let’s talk about my findings, results, and the lessons I’ve learned from doing heavy squats everyday for 90 consecutive days.
A Few Quick Notes About My Process & Form
First and foremost, I went into this challenge thinking I was on point with top-tier form.
Well, reality check – I definitely did not…
In fact, it was kind of silly having this pointed out to me by another friend in the fitness community after I sent him a quick DM on Instagram to get him into the challenge.
That being said, after the first two days of doing 2 sets of 50 improper squats daily, I decided to tone things down and do 2 sets of 20 proper squats until I could achieve good form.
Fun fact – this took me about a week!
So, with that out of the way, for the remainder of the month, I gradually scaled things up to 2 sets of 30, 40, and finally back to 50 (this time proper) squats.
Here’s What I Learned
Now, 3 months is a fair while. And sticking with this challenge for a whopping 90 days definitely bore some fruit, both in terms of knowledge and my fitness.
So, here are a few of my outtakes on what I learned, and the results I’ve gained from doing squats every single day for 3 months in a row.
It Really Doesn’t Take Much Time (Or Effort)
I honestly went into the entire challenge thinking that this was going to take up a fair chunk of my morning routine, or that I’d have to sacrifice my lunch break for marginally better health.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong…
In reality, doing both sets of 50 took me right about 3 minutes a set, and since I decided to split them up between the morning and afternoon workouts I’d do, that little sliver of time was pretty much negligible.
If anything it was great for my morning routine as I like to prepare my favorite protein shake, Kachava (you can read about it on this Kachava review) and then do my morning workout routine and I try my best to make it short and effective, and squats helped with that a lot.
In fact, it was so quick and easy that towards the end of the challenge, I actually started throwing in the occasional third set between meetings and desk work and switch things up here and there.
However, 50 squats a pop may not be a walk in the park for everyone. If so, I personally recommend that you start off doing 2 sets of 10 or 15 and work your way up in increments of 5 to feel out the right amount for you.
I Gained A Fair Bit Of Muscle
Despite the fact that I’m practically married to my foldable exercise bike, I’ve been punishing myself on my incline treadmill often, and occasionally spend a good bit of time on the elliptical – my butt and legs have really never been toned.
Well, I’m happy to report that after this challenge – that’s all well taken care of!
Doing 100 squats on a daily basis helped me pick up the right amount of bulk when it comes to building bigger quads, glutes, thighs, and calves. And over top of this, my back and abs got better definition too.
All in all, I’m thrilled at how much muscle I gained doing squats.
My Core Thanks Me
Following up on the fact that I gained a great deal of muscle growth and definition – I have better core strength now, that’s one of the differences between wall sits and squats, for example, other exercises that target your lower body won’t work your core as much with the same training volume.
Once I got my form down pat, I really started to feel the burn. And with time, as the days rolled by, I started noticing that I was able to pull off more reps doing my favorite core exercises (i.e. planks). If you’re stuck trying to get rid of belly fat, I’d say try either the planks or the squats (even variants like the back squat or split squats work wonders here), thank me later.
In fact, in the past, I’ve never been able to do proper planks or push-ups for over 4 minutes. What about after this challenge? Surprisingly enough, it’s barely a challenge – now I’m gunning for 6.
Oh yes, and how could we possibly forget about our beloved mutual enemy, the love handles? Well, if you’re geared to embark on this challenge – get ready to part ways with them for good!
If you want to focus on the core more, you can do regular crunches, double crunches, or sit-ups.
My Posture Is Better Than Ever
I’ve actually had a bit of a hard time with posture ever since I was a kid. And no matter what – whether it was standing against the wall, or trying to balance things on my head – nothing ever really remedied it.
As I became an adult, the problem didn’t really matter all too much anymore. I just didn’t pay it any mind really.
But at one point in the third month of the challenge, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and realizing that my posture is absolutely fantastic. For the first time in my life, it actually felt natural and comfortable to stand completely upright and tall.
As it turns out, the Journal of Physical Therapy Science ran a study in mid-2013 (2) that showcased the fact that squats provide better control of your body and improve posture due to how proper squatting form requires the core, upper body, and lower body to work in unison and balance. Another workout that improves the posture is the seated tricep press.
Take Your Exercise With You
One of my biggest pet peeves with most other fad workouts and fitness challenges lies in the fact that many of them require some sort of equipment, be it a set of budget adjustable dumbbell or a set of kettlebells to pull off.
This means you can effectively cross out doing it at the office, in the park, or just about anywhere else you might be outside of the gym or home.
In the case of squats, however – you can literally do them just about anywhere..
That’s what I also liked about the 100 jumping jacks a day challenge and another challenge I did before the 100 pushups, 100 situps, and 100 squats for 30 days challenge; both of these challenges didn’t require any equipment.
Sure, you might just catch an odd or questioning glance or two at the local park, but hey – who cares!
I took my daily squats to work, client meetings, picnics, and even as an interlude to warm up for my evening jog around the seawall at times. And this challenge is also a great way to measure your fitness level, if you can pull it off in different places and at different times of the day, you are fit in my opinion.
I Actually Lost Weight
While squatting every day generally help more people bulk up, get a more defined (bigger) butt, and simply keep fit on the go – I was seriously surprised to find out that I lost a good couple of pounds throughout the 90 days.
I mean I kinda knew that exercise increases metabolism as you can burn fat, hence burning more calories as you go. But still was surprised that just performing squats like regular squats and front squats was gonna result in significant burning of body fat and eventual weight lose.
And while I was a bit puzzled at first, my inner Sherlock made short work of this mystery.
You see, I’m a bit of a napper. After lunch, I’m typically dozing off to dreamland, and if I don’t raid the local snack cupboard (which obviously is a ticket to gain 2 pounds overnight), the last few hours of my working day feel like absolute hell on earth.
However, during this challenge – the squats forced me to stay active throughout lunch, forget about the snacking, and with a whole bunch of newfound energy for the day – I noticed a huge upswing in my productivity too.
Should You Be Doing Squats Every Day?
Okay, now that you’ve had a chance to take a peek at my results from the 90-day squat challenge – let’s talk about you.
Specifically – should you really be doing squats every day?
While with quite a few exercises the answer would be a resounding “NO!” – squats are a bit of a special case. You see, you’re actually already doing a whole bunch of squatting everyday as you go about your chores throughout the day.
Each time you sit down and stand back up again – that’s effectively one variant of a squat that you’re doing there.
Generally, according to Katrina Pilkington (NASM certified personal trainer), you can do air squats all day long if you so desire. But if you embrace progressive overload approach and start adding some weights to your training sessions, you’d better take a rest day between sessions in order to allow your muscles’ energy stores to reload.
This helps avoid overuse injuries, and not just for your squat routine, but also for all the exercises in your strength training regime like the bench press, olympic weightlifting as well as other lifts and high intensity bodyweight workouts .
Do I Think They’re Better Than Other Leg Workouts?
While a lot of leg workouts focus on different muscle groups throughout your legs, squats are one of the safest and most effective leg exercises by comparison. And not just legs, they also help build lower body strength by activating other lower body muscles like glutes.
And that’s not even touching on the fact that they provide a whole lot of benefit for your upper body, core, back, and even your shoulders too!
But with that being said, there’s nothing stopping you from building upon what you’re doing with squats once you get to the likes of sumo smith machine and weights in general.
You can use regular daily squats to set a foundation and stay fit and then hit the gym to really push that further to build serious muscle mass and overall strength with a strength and conditioning training routine.
Girls: Here Are My Best Tips To Build A Big Butt
It’s no secret that aside from making you feel like an absolute baller – squats are one of the best exercises to get that sweet big booty we all dream of.
So, without further ado – my closely guarded secrets:
- Squeeze girl – just like you’d activate your rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis to make sure your abs are in the game, activating your glutes, inner thighs and quads can help you make sure your booty plays a more active role throughout the squat.
- Don’t do squats after your workout – put simply, your legs will be worn out from all that cycling or jogging (or even worse, a strength and conditioning session) and you just won’t have enough energy to really go above (below) and beyond with squats.
- Drop it – if you really want to get the most out of each squat, you’ll want to make sure your thighs are going parallel with the floor, or maybe even lower than that before you get back up.
- Add some weights – while regular routine of air squats cut it for general fitness, building muscle (like a lot of muscle) requires a slightly more intense approach. You’ll want to gradually ramp up the level of resistance. Start squatting with dumbbells at first and stick to it for the first few weeks, and gradually move over to the squat rack with time.
- Get some rest – especially if weights are involved, you’ll need to give your muscles time to recuperate and regenerate to prevent injuries from overtraining. However, beyond just taking a rest day, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough sleep as well, as that’s when your body produces growth hormone (3) – helping your muscles regenerate and develop further.
So, How Can You Get Started With The 90-Day Squat Challenge?
I’ve got you all fired up, huh? If you’re ready to jump right into this challenge – I’ve got your back!
Thankfully, it’s one of the simplest routines to follow, and as such, it’s one of the easiest to get started and keep up with too.
First and foremost, you’ll need to learn how to squat properly. This is where YouTube comes in as your best friend, with a treasure trove of videos like this showing you how to do the squat correctly.
Once your form is down pat, you’ll want to find the right amount of squats that you’ll be doing daily.
I’d recommend starting with two sets of 10-15 reps, and gradually get in more sessions, adding 5-10 reps to each set to hit high frequency on a regular basis. until you find that perfect golden zone where it’s a decent challenge but not all too brutal.
Once all of this is done – mark off the remaining days on your calendar and squat away! Nice and simple, eh?
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