July's Fitness Challenge Is: Squats

Get ready for strong legs and a poppin' butt, because July's fitness challenge is squats! This is the classic lower body exercise for a reason: Squats build pretty much every muscle below the waist, and there are a ton of variations for all fitness levels.

Photo: Pam Loves Pie

Choose your favourite squat for the month, or mix 'em up. You can do weighted squats in a rack at the gym, or air squats while you brush your teeth. Maybe it's time to work toward your first pistol squat.

If you're not sure where to start, I like the chair squat: Stand in front of a chair, then slowly lower your butt as if you were going to sit down. But as soon as your butt touches the chair, stand back up instead.

By going down slowly, you have to keep your balance. And the chair (or, let's say, bench) provides a literal benchmark so you know when you've hit the bottom of the motion. Otherwise, a lot of us will do shallower and shallower squats as we get tired.

For the classic "thighs to parallel" motion, use a box or stool that's a little lower than a normal chair. Or try wall sits, where you press your back against a wall and pretend you're sitting in an invisible chair.

You may not be able to squat all the way down to parallel at first, but even shallow squats are still making you stronger. Keep going as low as you can, and you'll get there.

If you're new to squats, it's worth getting a trainer or experienced friend to help you learn the proper form. Definitely don't load up any weight until you know you're doing the motion safely. You can get a heck of a workout with just bodyweight squats and their variations.

So decide on a goal now, and get ready to follow through all July. And for inspiration, check out this video from Buzzfeed of three people who did 100 squats every day for a month.


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