STEP UP TO THE SCALE
Build your legs, lungs and heart with the king of lower-body moves
Try the bodyweight squat challenge
There’s one gym truth that stands out above all others: you can never really be good enough at squatting. This essential lower-body exercise can build muscle, burn fat, make you better on the fivea-side pitch and eliminate any chance of you ever wearing skinny jeans – basically it’s an exercise with no drawbacks. So it’s time to improve it. The aim of this month’s challenge is simple: load your own bodyweight on the bar, step out of the rack and squat it as many times as you can. As a bonus, there’s no chance of losing your spot to any lurking squat-rack curlers.
Warm up with unweighted squats to get your form right: heels planted on the floor, chest up. Do eight sets of 20 seconds of squatting and ten seconds of rest. Don’t go crazy trying to get as many reps as possible – this is just to get your legs nice and warm.
First, nail your form. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out – experience will teach you the best distance and angle. To do the squat, sit down and back, keeping your weight on your heels, until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor, then push up. Keep your back as upright as possible and remember, the bar should be above your heels at all times for maximum efficiency.
The challenge starts when you take the bar out of the rack and ends when you put it back. ‘You can basically always do one more rep,’ says strength coach Dan John, ‘and that’s the nasty part – your lungs are going to give out before your legs do.’ Your strategy will depend on your strength but a good call is to take one deep breath between each rep, then two or three per rep as you hit the 20-rep mark. This could get nasty, so use the plan in the table below to build up to a great score in just five weeks.