Perfect Squat Challenge

After the first of year eeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvveryone is trying to get back into shape and all sorts of challenges start popping to build on peoples’ motivation and enthusiasm. Its tradition to sign up for a 5k to build up your endurance, start an office weight loss contest to tighten up your eating habits, or maybe you seen the “Squat Challenge,”  that has popped up on the social network circuits recently.  If you haven’t, they look something like this…


 or like this…..


Go ahead and google it, yourself. You will get 228,000 hits in less than .5 seconds or KEEP READING AND YOU WILL FIND THE ONLY ONE THAT YOU NEED.

My Problem with Exercise

Its not the sweating. It isn’t the burning of your muscles or gasping for air as your heart feels as if it will burst from your chest (maybe a little the last one! OK, a lot the last one!!) No, it isn’t even that it takes so much of your time and dedication. No, what I absolutely hate is when I physically can’t do it. What I mean, and what has influenced this blog, is that I HATE IT when what I do in gym begins to not only hurt in the wrong way when I exercise, but when I eat, sleep, sit in a car, play with my baby and just be me…..I HATE THAT! Here’s the truth, as a paraphrase from Katy Bowman…

Natural movement (all the things you would see Tarzan do. ie run, climb, crawl, jump, etc.) is like our veggies, whereas fitness is like the dessert. You absolutely have to eat your veggies, dessert should be just something that want for joy. With that being said there really isn’t anything that we do in life for joy, that doesn’t come with conditions and trade-offs.  Case in point, you know better than to drive 150 mph everywhere that you go. Tickets, accidents, engine blowouts, etc. All kinds of negatives. Just do it.

My problem with exercise is that the very of nature of fitness success is we continually must ask ourselves to do more. More repetitions, more sets, more time, more, weight. The list just never stops. Being a student of the science of exercise and a former athlete, I appreciate the rewards of it all. What bothers me most as a trainer is when people just aren’t ready for the workload they are putting themselves up for.

I mean really, the average American watches four hours of tv a day. How in the world does the change of a calendar year from one day to the next, get you ready to trade that in for a couple of hours at the gym three or four nights a week? It doesn’t.

So Whats Wrong With a Little Squat Challenge?

I guess nothing, really. I mean, you will burn about 7 calories a minute squatting. Most people can knock out between 20 and 25 a minute, so at the most we are looking at about 15 minutes to do all 250.  Quick math will tell you that is about 100 calories. So, lets just say that during this challenge you spend a hundred extra calories a day, you would’ve spent about an extra pounds worth of body fat. Congrats!!! Yippppeeeee! Whoooop de dooo……..

Here’s the thing, though. Most musculoskeletal injuries that people sustain are a result of repetitive microtrauma. TRANSLATION: moving incorrectly over, and over again. Think about the squeak you hear coming from your brakes that turns into that shearing grind. Your body was built to move the correct way. We have let our habits determine our posture and as a result our bad posture have limited our movement abilities. Want proof,  try the overhead squat test.

Overhead Squat Test

squat test

The overhead squat is an excellent movement to  screen your readiness to start an exercise program and will be used as our measuring stick for your results. Here is how you do it (as adapted from the Functional Movement Systems). Follow the instructions exactly as they are read:

Assume a stance with your feet just outside of shoulder width and toes straight ahead. Rest a broomstick or dowel rod on the top of your head (elbows should be at a 90 degree angle).Next, fully extend the broom stick overhead so that the shoulders are fully flexed and the elbows lengthened. Keeping the stick overhead, descend fully into the deepest squat position, keeping the heels on the floor and head and chest forward. Your knees should stay lined up with your feet the whole time. If you got all that and you were perfect, the bottom of your squat should look like this.


Chances are likely that your squat doesn’t look like this, and that’s ok but I need you to really honest with yourself. Check the following:

  • Is your chest vertical?
  • Is your thigh below horizontal?
  • Are your knees aligned over the feet?
  • Is the stick aligned over your feet?

If you answered “no,” to any of those…IT’S OK, but we need to retest. We will follow the same procedure, except we will raise your heels by placing a couple of books under your heels (really anything that is about 2 inches thick should do the trick.)  Now ask yourself the same questions.

  • Is your chest vertical?
  • Is your thigh below horizontal?
  • Are your knees aligned over the feet?
  • Is the stick aligned over your feet?

If you answered “no,” to any of the questions this time around, than the squat challenge really isn’t something you should be doing. Unfortunately, it is kind of like the squeaking brakes example. Your body will find away to grind out the movement, it just wont do it the ideal way and injury, plus pain loom. Fortunate for YOU, that you took this test.  By in answering “no,” to any of the questions you just determined areas of your body that you NEED to address.

Time for Massage

The overhead squat demonstrates full body coordination and mobility of all extremities. The shoulders, hips, knees and ankles each have to do their job or the squat will look funny.  Most people squat over and over each day and cant pass this test. Believe it or not it isn’t uncommon to see a professional athlete not pass. With that being said, the screen will high-light some common areas of inefficient mobility. Keep in mind, I am not there to watch but in general here are some things you can do with a foam roller:


spend a minute on each calf muscle, resting the belly of your calf on the roller.

hip flexor

rest hip flexor on foam roller for a minute for each side.

it band

lie on top of the foam roller such that the side of your leg is on the roller for at least one minute each side.

lie on the roller such that it is positioned just below your armpit for at least a minute

lie on the roller such that it is positioned just below your armpit for at least a minute

Again, I am not saying that you are going to crumble like a pile of bricks if had trouble passing this squat test. I am not saying that you couldn’t complete the challenge. I am also not saying that those four exercises are enough. I am simply implying, that our observation is such that for whatever number of reasons possible, you have developed some asymmetries and compensations in your body.  You have to remember that the parts of your body are linked together to make a whole and that your body will always find a way to complete its task. Do those four exercises daily and consistently test yourself to see improvement.

Heres Your Challenge!

Plain and simple….PERFECTION!! Lets loosely follow the outlined squat challenge calendars up above. You will follow a schedule of three days on and one day off. Rather than give you a goal number of squats to do, I am giving you a time to squat for each day.

days 1-6: 3 minutes

days 7-12: 6 minutes

days 13-18: 9 minutes

days 19-24: 12 minutes

days 25- 30: 15 minutes

You have to do this with either a friend or break out the iPhone and video what you do. I would like to record each squat that you and only give yourself a point for the squats that successfully performed as outlines in the overhead squat test. *note–you are performing this challenge only in the version of squats in which you passed the test.

The goal  FOR this challenge is to complete the most perfect over the next thirty days. So keep good records and be honest with yourself. The goal OF this challenge is to improve your movement quality.

Anyways, it will be interesting to see how this turns out.



Categories: better movement training

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