Build your legs, lungs and heart with the king of lower-body moves

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

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.

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