Squat Challenge…Bring It!

I know the title sounds a little over confident considering we all know how well my plank challenge worked out a few months ago. Epic fail!  But, I have two reasons for feeling confident this time.  First, I’m using mind over matter.  If I don’t go in feeling like I can accomplish the challenge, then I won’t.  So I’m going in with confidence and determination.  Second, I should have known better than to make my first challenge something core related, like planks.  That is my weakest area. My mistake.  Legs on the other hand….that’s my strongest area.  For these two reasons, I say “Bring on the squat challenge!”Squat Challenge

Seems like just in the last year or so you can find a fitness challenge of any kind on the internet.  This is no different.  I found this 30 day challenge on the internet as well.  It will take me from 50 a day to 250 a day. Lofty goals. And if I didn’t have to do them all at once, it wouldn’t be any problem at all to do 250 squats in a day.  But, I do have to do them all at once.  Today is day one, 50 squats.  I invite you to join me and let’s support each other through the challenge.  Comment or post about your progress or if you need an encouraging word or just a kick in the ass.

One thing to keep in mind with this or any other challenge is the importance of proper form when doing the exercise.  For squats, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle. I am typically a little more than “slightly” wider. Lower yourself by reaching back with your butt while maintaining a strong lower back. Keep your knees aligned with your toes. Keeping your weight in your heels will help automatically keep you in this position. Sometimes I even lift my toes up a little bit to be sure my weight is on my heels. Chest up, belly button pulled in toward your back for a tighter core, upper back tight, eyes looking forward and slightly down, head in a neutral position. Maintain a nice cohesive line along your spine. Go just below parallel, so that your butt drops below your knees. Come back up by pushing through the heel and add a little butt clinch at the top. These pictures try to help demonstrate the form.  You can’t tell from the pictures, but right before these were taken I had just finished a 45 minute spin class. Legs felt like Jello. Glad it wasn’t a video or you would see them shaking. Squat- front view Squats- side view

If you’re wondering why you should even care about squats, the vain answer (and let’s face it, the one we all really care about) is that squats are the best exercise to give you a nice, round, firm, “take a bite out of this”, BUTT!

There are many other great benefits of doing squats as well.

  • Tones the Legs: Squat exercises thoroughly engage the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles, which helps to tone and strengthen the legs. Slowing the motion down makes the workout that much more intense.
  • Strengthens the Core: Squats engage the core muscles of the body. Abdominal and back muscles are needed to keep balance during the movement. The result is a tighter, flatter abdomen and a stronger lower back. Make a conscious effort to hold in your abdominal muscles while squatting down to increase this effect. This is the hardest part for me. Sometimes it is a choice between holding in my abs and simply breathing.  I tend to choose breathing. Call me crazy.
  • Increases Flexibility: Doing squats increases joint flexibility. The ankles, knees, hips and lower back are all utilized in the squatting motion. Be sure to maintain proper form to avoid injury. If you feel any pain in these areas, stop doing the exercises until the pain is gone. And let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger and if we can keep our joints from creaking and cracking when we stand up, I’m all for it.
  • Upper Body Workout: Adding weights to your squat routine engages the muscles of the upper body, essentially giving you a full body workout in one exercise. You can accomplish this with the use of a barbell, dumbbells or a weighted vest. When adding weights to your routine, start with lighter ones and build as your strength increases. I wouldn’t recommend this for the challenge. However, I do suggest you add weights to your regular workouts when doing squats.  You can even hold a kettlebell in front of you for extra weight it that is all you have.
  • Lifts the Butt: As previously mentioned, just in a more colorful way, doing squats gives the glutes a powerful workout, helping to tighten and lift the butt. To increase this effect, give your glutes an extra squeeze when returning to a standing position.

It’s also important to note that if you have any physical limitations or health issues that might be affected by doing this challenge, talk with a professional to make sure it is okay to do it. I have back and neck issues. So, I checked with my trainer and my chiropractor.  Micah, my trainer, told me to just be diligent in keeping good form, listen to my body and if it starts to hurt my back, stop!  My chiropractor basically said the same thing.  But recently he has been more concerned with things that would affect my neck than my back.  Seems like the more activity I do, the better my back. We are both a little surprised by that. But, I’m not complaining.  With both their blessings, it’s all systems GO!

Again, I invite you to join me in this squat challenge. Comment and post your progress. Together we are going to not only kick ass, but firm and tighten it too!

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