If you’ve spent much time in a gym, or played sports when you were growing up, you’re likely familiar with squats and how to properly do one. A surprising number of runners avoid doing squats, either because they have never actually learned how to do a squat or feel daunted by the exercise’s reputation of being a killer move on a leg day workout.
However, squats are arguably the most important foundational movement pattern for strength training exercises. Nearly every total-body or lower-body resistance training workout will include at least some sort of variety or modification of a basic squat.
Mastering squats is simple enough; keeping up with them and actually doing them regularly is harder, which is why we’ve created a 30-day squat challenge. This 30-day squat challenge will help motivate you to get your squats in and create consistency with strength training exercises that augment your normal training schedule.
Whether you are a fit runner who just needs a bit of a push to get in your weight training or you’re currently sedentary and want to build up your fitness, join our 30-day squat challenge and start strengthening your body one squat at a time.
In this guide, we will cover:
- What is the Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge for Beginners?
- The Benefits of Squats for Runners
- How to Do a Squat
- The Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge
- Exercise Instructions for the Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge
Ready for stronger legs? Let’s get fired up!
What is the Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge for Beginners?
The Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge for Beginners is a 30-day program that encourages runners, other athletes, and currently, inactive people alike to embrace the squat and build strength and stamina with squats such that you can complete 200 bodyweight squats in a row by the end.
The Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge will not only improve your squat technique, leg strength, and muscular endurance—all of which can improve your running—but will help you build the habit or routine of fitting squats and other foundational strength training exercises into your daily routine.
Benefits of Squats for Runners
There are numerous and significant benefits of squats for runners, meriting their designation as a key strengthening exercise. Benefits of squats for runners include the following:
Squats Can Improve Cardiovascular Fitness
When performed quickly or in a circuit, squats can improve cardiovascular fitness and heart health, much like running. They activate most of the major muscles in your body, so they increase your heart rate and respiration rate.
Squats Strengthen Your Legs
Squats strengthen your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, all of which are essential for power, core stability, and efficient forward propulsion when running, walking, jumping, and skipping.
A lot of runners struggle with activating their glutes, and squats can be a great way to not only increase the strength of your glutes but also develop the neuromuscular connection to help you consciously activate your glutes more easily.
Properly using your glutes can reduce undue stress and strain on your hamstrings and low back muscles.
Squats Strengthen Your Core
While squats may primarily target the muscles in your legs, they also require core activation, working your abs, obliques, back extensors, and hip muscles. In fact, studies investigating the muscle activation of various exercises demonstrated that squats actually require more core involvement than planks.
Having a strong core not only helps protect against injuries to the low back and hips but can also improve your running form, especially in the final miles of a race or hard workout when your body is fatigued.
Squats Increase Your Explosive Power
The strength you’ll develop in your glutes, calves, and hamstrings from squats will help power a more explosive, impressive jumping ability. This can translate to better uphill running and faster sprinting.
Squats Can Increase Your Bone Density
As with running, loading your bones during squats can signal the body to increase the mineralization of your bones. It also turns on key hormones that build bone rather than break it down.
Bone density is particularly important as we age, so it’s certainly worth focusing on squats to delay bone loss.
Squats Improve Your Mobility
Many runners suffer from tight ankles and hips. Reduced range of motion is not only uncomfortable but can also limit your running efficiency and comprise your stride.
Squats can increase the mobility and flexibility in your ankles, hips, and knees, which can help you feel more limber and can reduce the risk of injuries.
Squats Burn Calories
Like any exercise, performing squats—especially weighted squats—burns calories, but even more importantly, building lean muscle mass through exercises like squats increases your overall metabolic rate. This means that spending time in the gym getting your squats in will help you burn more calories the rest of the day (and night!) as well.
Squats Improve Your Posture
The core strengthening work—particularly along the erector spinae of the spine—from squats helps improve posture. Poor posture is associated with back pain, neck pain, sleep disturbances, and even a slower metabolism.
Squats Can Be Performed Anywhere
While you might not be able to do heavy front-loaded squats at home without a squat rack, bodyweight squats can be performed anywhere.
Whether you’re traveling and have only a small hotel room, or want to get in some strength training at home after your run, you can power through this 30-day squat challenge with a few weights (or your body weight alone).
After seeing all of these awesome benefits, surely you’re convinced to take on our 30-day squat challenge!
How to Do a Squat
Here are the steps to perform a basic bodyweight squat:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing forward, your core engaged, and your chest up and proud.
- Inhale, bending your knees and pushing your hips backward as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair and keeping your back straight and chest up. Your arms can come forward in front of your body to act as a counterweight.
- Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are flexed to 90 degrees.
- Exhale, pressing through your heels to return to the starting position.
Note that you can add resistance to your squats to increase the intensity by holding dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or other weights or wearing a weighted vest.
If you struggle to achieve adequate squat depth (thighs parallel to the floor and knees bent to 90 degrees), you can place a weight plate or heavy book under your heels to help compensate for tight ankles and inadequate pelvic rotation.
The Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge
(right click the image to save and print this Challenge, or scroll to the end of the article for a text version)
Exercise Instructions for the Marathon Handbook 30-Day Squat Challenge
This isometric hold will get your quads and glutes on fire. Keep breathing!
- Stand upright with good posture.
- Engage your core and descend into a squat, bringing your arms forwards in a counterbalance.
- When your thighs are parallel to the floor, stop and hold the position, breathing throughout.
Split squats transform bilateral squats into a unilateral exercise, which better mimics the demands of running.
- Stand upright with good posture and your hands on your hips.
- Take a big step forward with your right leg such that when you drop down into a lunge, both knees can bend to 90 degrees without your front knee (the right knee) going forward beyond your toes.
- Dropdown into your lunge, and pause momentarily.
- Power back up by engaging your quads and glutes.
- Keep your feet planted in this staggered split squat position and simply continue dropping down and up into a lunge.
Switch legs when your set is complete.
Jump squats turn regular squats into a plyometric exercise, helping you develop the power, speed, and force generation you need in your quads for running fast, climbing hills, and absorbing the loading forces on downhills.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged, chest up, back straight, and arms at your side.
- Perform a squat by bending your knees and sitting your butt back as if reaching to sit in a chair while driving your arms forward.
- Push through your heels and then your midfoot and toes to explode upward as high as you can jump, straightening your knees and hips and using your arms to power your body up as high as possible.
- As soon as you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
- Move quickly and powerfully from rep to rep, using your arms to drive your body upward.
There you have it! All of the instructions needed to complete this challenge. Let’s commit together. You’ve got this!
If you are looking for another challenge, we’ve got some good ones for you! Check them out:
Running one-mile-a-day challenge
|25 bodyweight squats||15 split squats per leg||15 jump squats||3 x 20 bodyweight squats with 30 seconds rest||Rest Day||2 x 25 bodyweight squats with 60 seconds rest||2 x 30 seconds squat hold|
|60 bodyweight squats||2 x 20 split squats per leg with 60 seconds rest||25 jump squats||3 x 30 bodyweight squats with 30 seconds rest||Rest Day||2 x 60 bodyweight squats with 60 seconds rest||60 seconds squat hold|
|100 bodyweight squats||3 x 25 split squats per leg||2 x 25 jump squats with 60 seconds rest||3 x 50 bodyweight squats with 30 seconds rest||Rest Day||2 x 80 bodyweight squats with 60 seconds rest||2 x 60 seconds squat hold|
|150 bodyweight squats||4 x 25 split squats per leg with 60 seconds rest||50 jump squats||3 x 60 bodyweight squats with 30 seconds rest||Rest Day||2 x100 bodyweight squats with 60 seconds rest||2 min squat hold|
|4 x 25 split squats per leg with 30 seconds rest||200 bodyweight squats|