Monthly Archives: May 2014

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I've just got a quick, fun post for you all today.

Before we start this little quiz I'd like to explain why I decided to make this post.

If you spend much time on Facebook, especially if you follow extreme health 'purists', you'll find a lot of images like this scattered around:

Get it? The milk is blood. Because...blood is...bad?

Get it? The milk is blood. Because...blood is...bad?

Or this...

lolwat

For some reason, when we see images like those or articles explaining the points in finer detail, we tend to take it at face value.  Why would someone go through all the trouble to make that image or write that 1,000 word article unless it was true?

Unfortunately, that image is about as accurate as this quote, and not nearly as funny:

In this exercise I'm trying to drive this point home:

Just because it's in a book, on the internet, or got shared by a thousand people does not make it true.

Spotting Health Bullshit

Could you even recognize the truth if you saw it?  Let's find out.  In the pairs of images below, I edited the text in one of them with complete nonsense I came up with off the top of my head, or just made a completely new image.  (Photoshop skill handicap)

Can you find the fake? (I hope I did a decent enough job editing to make the answers not obvious...as well, you may need to click on the images to bring up a larger version to read the text)

#1 - Let's start with something easy.
ToF5

 

#2 - It's almost like the numbers were pulled out of a hat.

ToF4

#3 - Note that you must eat EXACTLY what's listed below...why?  Your guess is as good as mine.

ToF3

#4 - Ahhh a picture of something "natural" next to a laundry list of cures for very serious ailments that have been plaguing humans since the dawn of time.  Sounds legit.

ToF1

#5 - Yes, pure sugar in the form of honey or agave works wonders for your waistline.

ToF2

 

Answer Key

Let me take up some space here with some cuddly puppies so you don't accidentally spoil it for yourself:

#1 - Original on the left

#2 - Original on the right

#3 - Original on the right

#4 - Actually both of these are real.  TEN THOUSAND TIMES STRONGER THAN CHEMOTHERAPY!!!  KILL 10,000 TIMES THE CELLS!

#5 - Original on the left

How did you do?  Probably could have gotten a good score judging by not-quite-perfect font replacements, but hopefully they weren't too bad.

In any case, health bullshit around the internet is RAMPANT.  Everything cures cancer, everything causes cancer, everything is a harmful chemical, everything is an all-natural cure for HIV despite HIV itself being all-natural.

Be skeptical of what you see.

 

After announcing that I'd make a Facebook page by the end of April, I finally took the plunge.

Hey, I'm only a month late...

In any case, if you enjoy my articles and want to get a little more in the week between posts, go ahead and follow Making Sense of Modern Fitness on Facebook!  Click the link here or just click the little 'like' box on the sidebar to your right.

Nothing more for you guys today, sadly...unless you're following me on Facebook! But here's a cute puppy for you in the meantime:

SO FLUFFY!!!!

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You started seeing them pop up a few weeks ago.  It was probably slow at first - maybe just one Facebook advertisment or one little post on Pinterest:

21Days2

Abs everywhereeee

But now that Memorial Day and the end of the school year are getting closer and closer, you're reminded that your body is just so not ready for the beach more often than Hallmark reminded you to buy a card for Mother's Day:

21Days

Oh look, more faceless abs!

But let's get real here for a moment.

Yeah, it's nice to think that you can look like that model in 21 days, and the juxtaposition of her abs next to "21 Days" is 100% to make you feel like that's what you'll get...even though both you and the advertiser know you know better.

Unfortunately, deep down, your emotional brain doesn't give a damn what your logical brain has to say on the matter.  It wants to be sexually appealing and comfortable NOW dammit!

But as you've read in my Bullshit Detector ebook, you know it's my mission to give you the information to better arm your logical brain.  So let's ask the only actually relevant question about 21 day weight loss challenges:

How much can you really change in 21 days?

Is 21 days enough time to make any actual visual change?  Can you look better in your swimsuit in a mere three weeks?

Anecdotes won't help us here.  When you're trying to logically judge whether you should believe in a certain idea or purchase a product, the last place you want to get your information is from the person promoting it.

Think of it this way, have you ever applied to a job, and they ask you the question "what's your biggest weakness?"  Your answer and your parent's or former employer's answers are probably quite a bit different:

  • You: My biggest weakness is that I'm a perfectionist. (Nice 'humble-brag' answer, good job!)
  • Your Mom: Her biggest weakness is that she takes 3 hours to do her hair in the morning and always makes us late.
  • Former Employer: Her biggest weakness is that it takes her 3 weeks to do a project that should only take 3 days.

My biggest weakness is that I'm a workaholic. No, I mean that I just care too much about customers...actually it's that I have a hard time maintaining a good work / life balance because I work sooo hard. Or umm...actually it's that I have mild OCD when it comes to expense reports and logging my hours. IT'S ALL OF THE ABOVE!!

See how the message sounds quite a bit different depending on the perspectives and motivations of the person telling it?  This is one of many reasons you can't just Google "21 Day Weight Loss Challenge Results" and expect to get an unbiased opinion.

Where can you get an unbiased opinion?  Glad you asked!

Scientific Studies!!

So let's run the gamut of ways you could try to change your physique in 21 days by looking at studies on various diet plans, starting with the most drastic:

Complete Fasts

What better way to understand how much you can actually change yourself in 21 days than at its most extreme - abstaining from all food for 3 weeks?

There aren't a ton of studies done on normal, healthy people fasting for extended periods of time...it's probably not always the easiest to squeak by the ethics committee.

But, you'll most certainly lose a ton of weight.  How much depends on what size you start out at, but it's going to be a combination of:

  • Water
  • Muscle Tissue
  • Fat
  • Lack of anything solid in your system (aka no poop. Yeah, it registers on the scale)

But if you're a healthy, ~120-130 pound,  21-25 year old female, you might lose about 17 pounds of a combination of the above substances. (1)

A few studies (2, 3) seem to indicate that you can expect about half of weight loss to be due to water.  (As well, you can reasonably expect to gain all the weight back later. (4) )

At the same time, you run the risk of significantly increasing your cortisol levels, becoming emotionally distraught, and fairly irritable...so you'll maybe look a little better in a bikini but you won't give a crap.  On top of that, can you imagine how miserable and bloated you'd feel after breaking your 3-week fast on some chili cheese fries?!

Could look hot on outside, but feel miserable inside.

(To be fair, this study only had 5 subjects and most of them did just fine emotionally during the 3-week fast.  However, they were basically secluded during the research and not given options to consume food.  If you increased the sample size and tempted them with food at every turn - like the real world does - what would the outcome have been?) 

Alternate-Day Fasting

So let's say you want to do something more "reasonable", like say, only fast for 1 day at a time rather than 3 weeks all at once.

This is accomplished by people who do a particular version of "alternate-day fasting" where the idea is that you won't eat for 1 day, then you'll get to feast the next.  Most people don't eat quite double the amount of food on the feast day, so weight loss occurs.

In one study, patients participating in alternate-day fasting for 3 weeks:

  • Lost about 2% of their original bodyweight. (5) (So, if you were 130 pounds, about 2.6 pounds)
  • About 1.1% of that was fat.  (1.4 pounds for our 130 pound example)
  • Around 0.9% was muscle and/or water. (1.2 pounds)

I know, I know after 17 pounds lost in complete fasting, 2.6 pounds sounds measly.  But keep in mind that you'll

  • Have more energy for exercise and life in general
  • Won't lose as much muscle
  • Are still in a completely reasonable and good realm of weight loss.

...Unfortunately, some participants were still hangry and irritable on their fasting days.  Go figure! So this does not appear to be a diet that could be maintained for a significant period of time by yourself.

So how about you eat a little something everyday, but cut your intake by half?  That's like the best of both worlds, right?

Low Calorie Diets

Usually these kinds of interventions (along with their sibling, the VERY Low Calorie Diet) are reserved for the super-obese who need to lose about 50 pounds of pressure off their heart and lungs now, and are in a hospital setting.  But you need to look hot in a bikini.  So that's like, comparable in urgency, right?

Well, in an old but very well-known and interesting study, a group of men were put on a diet that involved 1/2 of their daily calories needs, and were also expected to walk 22 miles each week.  (6)

One of the study participants - during the Starvation Cycle on the left and going through the Recovery Phase on the right.

This study is so well-known because of the harrowing pictures of the men after 6 months of this and their extreme emotional duress and depression during the process.  One man had to be eliminated from the experiment after just a few weeks for emotional instability.

Just how few calories were these men on to induce such dramatic weight loss and mental problems - surely something crazy like 600 per day, right?

It was ~1,600 calories per day.

To be fair, this "diet" extended over 6 months time, much longer than any 21 Day Weight Loss Challenge.  As well, the diet was mostly carbohydrates and basically no protein to prevent muscle wasting, described as:

...starvation diet reflecting that experienced in the war-torn areas of Europe, i.e., potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, dark bread, and macaroni.

Tasty.  Anyway, a summary of this experiment is:

  • Participants ate a little less than half of their maintenance calories for 6 months.
  • Diet was a high-carbohydrate, low-fat and low-protein diet.
  • Participants walked 22 miles per week.
  • Weight loss came out to an average of 1.5 pounds per week for 6 months.

...Doesn't this actually sound kinda familiar?

This diet sounds like an exaggeration of what many of us do to lose weight:

  • Eat a low-calorie, low-fat, high-carb diet.
  • Log in the miles via walking / running / cycling
  • Do so for an extended period of time - possibly indefinitely

I'm not trying to say that you're going to end up looking like the man in the above picture - health problems and mental issues and all - by following the above regimen.  If it was up to you, your body wouldn't let you get to that point assuming you didn't have an eating disorder.

What I am trying to say is if you ever beat yourself up about "falling off the wagon" after "being so good" for 5 days...think about that in a new light.  Your body doesn't like running 3 miles a day on 1,200 calories of Special K with skim milk for weeks on end.  For most of us, your body will overpower your mind.  That's probably for the best.

Hey, at least they're bucking the trend of this article and going for a 14-Day Challenge instead!

Summary: So what can you accomplish in 21 Days?

Complete Fast: ~17 pounds if you're a young, normal-weight female.  Half of this will likely be water.  The rest will be a combination of muscle tissue and fat, depending on your activity.

Alternate-Day Fasting: ~2% of your bodyweight for healthy, normal-weight people, half of it being fat.

Low Calorie Diets (~50% of daily needs): The men in the study started at ~150 pounds and lost on average 1.5 pounds per week over 6 months.

If you eat a similarly high-carb diet, you can probably expect this or a little bit more over 21 Days as weight loss is typically greater during the first few weeks.

If you eat a low-carb diet of similar calorie levels, you can expect to lose more due to losses in water weight.  Note that this won't affect your appearance much.

Overrall: In all studies, subjects gained back all, or close to all, their weight back afterwards.  Some even ended up heavier. Across the board were reports of irritability and distracting hunger, though this wasn't the case for all participants.

Moral

Look, I know the quick fix is always tempting, especially when you want to look good for a particular event.  Marketers PREY on that.  Just read Harper's Jumpstart to Skinny book (essentially a 21-Day Diet) - he repeats over and over how much you know you want to look hot for the beach / reunion / wedding!

And I'll be real with you: it's not that you're likely to kill yourself on these diets. (Though there is seriously a reason why all the participants on these diets, especially complete starvation, were under constant medical surveillance.) They're short-term, and the negative physiological consequences tend to go away after a couple days of re-feeding.  (Though the mental ones can last much longer, which is my main concern) You'll probably even lose a fair amount of fat, an amount that you might even notice.

But now it's time for you to be real with me and with yourself: will it really make you that much happier to lose at most around 5-8 pounds of fat?  Do you want to exchange 3 weeks of stress and misery for maybe 1 good day at the beach, only to have to repeat the cycle every year because you'll likely gain the weight back from the crash diet?

WorthIt

6 pound difference - 160 on the left, 154 on the right. Worth it? Only you can answer that question.  (Also not covering my face out of anonymity, it was because I was making embarrassing faces in both pictures!)

Why not make this year the one that you do something permanent about your weight-loss goals by making small changes that add up over 365 days instead of huge changes that crumble after 21 days and leave you right where you started?

Maybe you have an iron will and you'll be really strict during your 21-Day calorie restricted diet, be really strict after, and keep the results.  But if that was the case...wouldn't it be likely you'd be at a weight you're happy with already?

If you made it this far, thanks for staying with me.  Leave a comment below, or share this with your weight-loss-hopeful friends and family if you enjoyed it!

P.S. While researching this article I came across this book on fasting.  I only read Chapter 4 about fasting for medical interventions, but it looks like a good resource on the use of fasting for various reasons throughout human history!

P.P.S. I realize that many of the studies I posted are old, or I only used 1 study where it would be better to use at least 3.  Many of them have small sample sizes...unfortunately finding 3-week long starvation or semi-starvation studies on healthy, non-obese individuals was really, really tough.  So I worked with what I could find. 

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What would health and fitness advertising look like if marketers had to be honest?  I was inspired to do this post after seeing the hilarious before & after pictures here - I'm not sure who did these originally, but I owe them for a lot of laughs.

I had WAY too much fun doing these.  Someone should have been taping me giggling like an idiot while trying to come up with witty sentences in Photoshop.

In any case, I thought it had been far too long since I'd done something similar to my popular "Pinterest Modifications" post, so without further ado, here's my take on a few popular articles and products we've seen over the years...

AdRedo1

Alternative caption "9 foods that, just like everything else on Earth, contain chemicals."

AdRedo2

"Eat this, not that" potentially an experiment in "how many books can you sell off of one concept?"

AdRedo3

Please pay close attention to my pro-level Photoshop skills here.

AdRedo4

Any takers on how many VS models have done this workout?

AdRedo5

God I hate slideshows.

AdRedo6

Other products used: going back in time before having children, eating less, moving more.

AdRedo7

I mean this could be any exercise DVD / magazine headline / program promotion really.

And this last one is a little off-topic, but this was my theory for why Cosmo keeps talking about sex when any sane sex-having female would probably find those articles a tad ridiculous:

AdRedo8

I know this because I have experience being an 11 year-old girl.

Guess it's time for my second "I hate Tracy Anderson with the fiery passion of 1,000 suns" post of 2014.  I'm a glutton for punishment I suppose.

When I saw that Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz were going to "de-bunk some popular fitness myths" I felt a strange combination of sorrow and giddiness.  This is an unlikely mix of emotion that can only really be properly encapsulated with one sentence:

"Oh my God, this is going to be the worst thing I've ever seen."

JustShittyThings

Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz - a dynamic duo topped only by Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger

But you know what, after watching the clip, I gotta say...it really wasn't that bad.

I mean, in just five minutes it's tough to get across any actual good information.  But nothing they said was particularly egregious.

I know, I was shocked as well.

So, let's go over exactly what was said and see if there was anything really helpful to glean from this segment.  Let's start from the top:

Dr. Oz: "You think you know the facts about getting fit?  Well you may be surprised to find that much of what you've been told is fiction.  So fitness expert Tracy Anderson is here to help de-bunk the three biggest fitness myths.

Why is it so important to tell fact from fiction for you?"

Anderson: "It's so important, we don't have a lot of time to exercise. We want people to see results, we don't want them to hurt themselves - they need to be educated."

Oh boy.  Let's just get this out of the way first...

Tracy Anderson is one of the biggest promoters of fitness myths

Whether it's having zero understanding of how the human body actually works,

...you know that my method reengineers your muscular structure through the constant flow of new workout sequences, prescribed specifically for you. These unique sequences are based on targeting the accessory muscles (the small muscle groups). Strengthening the accessory muscles while burning fat through intense cardiovascular work helps to create a tight knit group of small muscles that actually pull in the larger muscle groups...

seemingly just making shit up off the top of her head,

"We all store weight in different areas dependent on where we are muscularly weak," Tracy explains.

being under the impression that literally everything bulks women up (except her super-secret dance routines),

"...spinning creates an imbalance in the muscular system. It bulks the thigh and butt muscles. You develop mass by working these same muscles over and over."

Tracy is totally against other forms of cardio, such as running, where you repeat your movements over and over. That, she says, will bulk muscles.

or of course, the numerous times she's said not to lift anything heavier than 3 pounds,

"A woman should never lift anything heavier than 3 pounds."..."I carry my 30 pound son in my left arm...so [my right arm] sags lower than [my left arm]" The dissonance hurts...

So you want to build muscle but not look like the Terminator? Anderson suggests working accessory muscles first, avoiding bulking up the large groups. Also, never work out with weights heavier than 3 lbs.

Anderson says more things that are flat-out wrong and completely in line with common fitness myths than anything remotely close to the truth.

Let's not mention that some of Anderon's methods take an unnecessarily long time.  For example, one reporter had this to say about her "30-Day Method" plan:

On the 30-Day Method you have to do to three hours of exercise a day, which decreases to one hour on the 90-day plan.

Or her recommendation to work up to doing 100 repetitions of a single exercise - that wouldn't take a long time or anything:

Now on to toning. For each of the below, start with 10 repetitions and work up to 100.

Anyway, let's move on to the first myth Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz set out to de-bunk:

JustShittyThings2

Myth #1: Crunches are the key to flat abs

Dr. Oz: "This is why crunches don't help you get flat abs - it's all about this concept of 'spot reduction,' it doesn't work...

So if you really want to lose the fat so you can see the six-pack underneath, you gotta build up a lot of muscle, not just a little bit of muscle in your belly.  And to do that, Tracy, you say you've got a better way of doing it?"

Anderson: "Yes, I'm going to reach all of those muscles, not just the large ones, and we're going to use our whole body so we're gonna burn calories at the same time - which burns off the fat." 

This is an interesting exchange to look at in-depth.  I actually completely missed what Dr. Oz said the first time around - that one should 'build up a lot of muscle' to lose fat and see your abs.  This advice (though not the umm...best tactic for fat loss) completely flies in the face of everything Anderson promotes and suggests, so it's interesting to see how they just rolled with it.

Anderson suggesting that exercises that use more muscles at once burn more calories for your time is true enough. (For instance, doing a deadlift instead of fancy kneeling kicks for "butt toning") And burning extra calories could certainly help to get rid of the fat over your stomach eventually.  When she says "all of the muscles," she's referring to working all of your abdominal muscles, I assume.

There are a lot of exercises that do that.  Walking, squatting, deadlifting...etc.  But the exercise she demonstrates does as well.  It's a perfectly fine exercise, I suppose, but it's not likely to help you out a significant amount more than crunches to reveal dem abs.

JustShittyThings3

"I can't copyright a plank, so I added this little leg kick."

 Dr. Oz: "So you build those core muscles up...with all those core muscles getting strong you have a better metabolic furnace burning through calories to get rid of that fat."

It's technically true that muscle requires more calories to sustain itself than fat, though the difference is pathetically small.  Regardless, two things with that:

  1. Anderson doesn't advocate building muscle
  2. Simply doing that exercise won't be enough to build significant muscle mass

As well, counting on building muscle to be your saving grace in fat loss is probably not the way to go about achieving your goals.  If you've got a significant layer of fat covering those abs, your best bet will be to eat at a caloric deficit (which generally won't allow you to build much muscle anyway) to get rid of it.

Myth #2: The more you sweat, the more calories you burn

Dr Oz: "The amount you perspire is not at all correlated to the amount of calories you burn...you could sit in a sauna...and you're perfectly still burning no calories at all, sweating away.  So it clearly doesn't work.  In order to burn more calories you have to elevate your heart rate." 

I don't have too much to comment on here.  This is generally correct.  Sweating more does not equal burning more calories.  You might just be in a sauna, like Oz suggested, or you may be trying to squat in a garage gym with no AC in the middle of a North Carolina summer and have a hard time keeping the bar on your back because it's so sweaty and you nearly pass out.  I dunno.

As far as needing to elevate your heart rate to burn more calories, I'm gonna admit that I'm not 100% on how true that is.  After all, you could go through a weightlifting session picking up heavy weights for few reps at a time not get your heart rate up that much while still burning a significant number of calories.

Anyway, they go on to do some cardio to elevate the heart rate.  Yay.

Myth #3: Stretching before a workout warms up the muscles

Dr. Oz: "Truth is you can actually injure muscles if you stretch before you warm up a little bit."

I've read many studies on the efficacy of static stretching before warming-up, but none mentioned static stretching actively injuring the muscles - just that they didn't prevent injury from happening too well.  I may be missing studies on this, however. (1, 2, 3)

Anderson: "Absolutely, it's about warming up, it's about connecting your brain to your muscles, getting focused, getting ready to burn calories, build muscle..."

Woah woah woah.  Is this segment a foreshadow to Anderson's impending endorsement of building muscle for women?  Considering that she just released her exercise routine for men to make them "skinny ripped" panthers, as opposed to big, bulky, overdeveloped bison, it seems unlikely.  But then again, strength training for women is catching on...

In any case, I've got nothing against a good warm-up that gets your mind right to do some awesome stuff in the gym. (or do 30 minutes of glorified arm circles, whichever)

"Range of Motion"

"Range of Motion"

In the segment, Anderson says the warm-up sequence she's demonstrating will work on your range of motion, however I could think of quite a few better ways to do so than doing a slight knee bend with a backwards-to-overhead arm reach. Could try something like:

  1. Spiderman Lunge x 10
  2. Bodyweight Squat x 10
  3. Laying Windmill x 8 each side
  4. Downward Dog to Plank x 10

But, whatever, not a really big deal.

Conclusion

We end with a product promotion and that's the end of it.  Seriously, that's all.  Nothing that makes me want to rage and claw my eyes out or facepalm.  It's not a segment I'd be particularly proud of, but it's not one that would make me want to hide under my bed in shame for the rest of my life, I suppose.

And that's the most positive endorsement you'll likely ever hear me say about Anderson.

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Summer abounds with month-long challenges: the 30 Day Squat Challenge, 30 Day Plank Challenge, 30 Day Body Transformation Challenge...it goes on.

This was the only picture I could find of a not half-naked butt.

Hell there's an entire website devoted to 30 Day Challenges.  I want to take a moment to talk about these challenges, and why they're so popular.

See if this sounds familiar:

What we WANT to happen after 30 days...

  • Day 1: I'm so excited to start this challenge!  It's a whole new way of life - but easy to do.  I'm going to look SO HOT in my shorts this summer.
  • Day 5: I'm pretty sore, so I know it's working.  I think my legs might be looking a little firmer!  It's hard work, but I've got this.
  • Day 15: Half way through!  I feel great, these squats are getting easier and easier.  They take a bit longer now, but it's no problem.  Man my legs look great.
  • Day 25: Finish line in sight!  In addition to doing a crap ton of squats everyday, I've been eating fresh veggies every meal and drinking a shitload of water out of my fancy water bottle.  It didn't even take any thought on my part.  I feel so light!  So pure.  Much healthy.
  • Day 30: Damn, my ass is fine.  I feel great.  It was tough, but this experience was truly rewarding and absolutely worth it.  Not to mention these results will last forever and I'm never going to have to squat again.

What ACTUALLY happens after 30 Days...

  • Day 1: I'm so excited to start this challenge!  It's a whole new way of life - but easy to do.  I'm going to look SO HOT in my shorts this summer.
  • Day 3: Holy fuck my thighs are sore.  I have to spend 5 minutes strategizing how to get on and off the toilet.  My coworkers spent all day asking why I was walking funny.  How embarrassing.
  • Day 4: I can't even do 5 squats like this.  Way too sore.  Good thing it's a rest day.
  • Day 5: Legs...so stiff...gonna have to take another day off.
  • Day 6: I dream of getting in and out of chairs without sounding like an angry boar.
  • Day 8: Okay.  Feeling better.  I got this.  So I guess I'll just have to pretend this is Day 5.  I'm feeling a little discouraged so I better look at some motivational quotes to get going:
Pinterest #5

"Fuck yeah! Let's do this!"

  • Day 12: Thankfully not feeling quite as sore, though getting in and out of chairs is still a bit difficult.  My main gripe is that I haven't seen ANY changes in my legs or butt...maybe they're a bit firmer?  I just can't tell.
  • Day 15: My knees hurt.
  • Day 17: Oh God my knees hurt.
  • Day 21: Had to take a day off and put some frozen peas on my knees.  Now I'm 4 days behind.  And I haven't seen any results.  Feeling discouraged.  Time for more motivational quotes:

"Ugh, how the hell does anyone actually look like that? Whatever, just keep going I guess..."

  • Day 22: Fuck this shit, I'm done.

And this is, for many people I know, how these challenges tend to go down.  But maybe not for those of you who start out a little less sedentary.  If you were exercising regularly before braving a challenge, you may complete the challenge just fine with little soreness involved.

And if you were proficient in squatting technique beforehand, maybe you'll never end up with aching knees.  Should you still do the challenge?

Reasons to do a 30 Day Squat Challenge:

  1. To build up some lower body muscular endurance
  2. Just for the hell of it

Yep, those are really about the only reasons I could think of.  Perhaps the best explanation as to why would be by explaining why you wouldn't want to do one.

Reasons NOT to do a 30 Day Squat Challenge:

  1. To "tone" your legs or butt
    As I went over in my muscle tone post, you'll be wanting to gain muscle and lose fat to achieve the "toned" look.  This workout accomplishes neither, really.  See point #3.
  2. To get stronger in the squat
    You'll get really good at doing over 200 squats in a row on this program, but you won't get really good at squatting heavier weight.
  3. To lose weight
    This may burn a few extra calories, but it isn't significant enough to make a big difference without diet changes as well. 

At the gym, we often joke when someone is doing 10+ barbell squats, that they're doing 'cardio squats' :

That's essentially how you can think of this program.

Here are some other reasons to pass up the next 30/60/90 Day Challenge your friends or coworkers start chatting about:

  • Not a well-balanced plan
    If you're doing a push-up challenge, do you ignore your legs?  If it's a butt challenge, do you ignore your upper body? Are you supposed to do these challenges on top of a regular workout routine?
  • Only one form of progression
    These challenges tend to only get harder in one way: by increasing reps.  While that's certainly one way of doing it, how do you keep improving?  Do you move all the way up to 1,000 reps a day?
  • Where do you go next?
    After you've completed the challenge, where do you go?  Do you move on to a push-up challenge and neglect your legs for a month?  Or do you go to another lower-body program that has you restart at 25 squats?
  • Not much is accomplished
    You're not building strength.  Not gaining muscle, not burning too many calories.  So in the end, what are you trying to accomplish?

I get the appeal of these kinds of challenges, I really do.  When you're not 100% sure what to do when it comes to fitness, having a solid plan written out by someone else is a huge relief.  It can even make working out more fun!  (I should know, I've paid someone to write my own personal workout program before, and I'm a trainer!)

As well, these challenges are stupid simple, don't usually require equipment (so they can be done alone at home), and promise you the world.  Plus, you'll get a real feeling of accomplishment after just 30 days.  Making real progress on your first pull-up or losing fat can leave you waiting a lot longer than that!

Moral

If they get you off the couch, challenges are fine!  If you're simply pushing yourself and keeping up with friends, they can be a ton of fun.

Just keep in mind they won't get you too much in the way of results.  For that, you'll need to eat at a caloric deficit and engage in some sort of strength-training program!