No, you shouldn’t do a squat challenge — here are the exercises to do instead

Do this workout instead of a squat challenge
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Should you do a squat challenge? Well, no. Not really. Squats are a staple lower body exercise that can build muscle mass and strength in your glutes, quads and hamstrings, but you don't need to smash out 30 reps a day to see results.

When taking on any challenge, it's worth deciding what your goals are. Weight loss? growing your glutes? Improving your squat 1RM? A general rule of thumb for building strength and muscle is a technique called progressive overload —  incrementally increasing and/or changing variables like weight, sets, reps and intensity to encourage muscle adaptation. 

Doing a number of different exercises to target a range of muscle groups is far more effective than busting out a squat challenge. So, while it could be good fun (nothing wrong with that), it won't achieve miraculous results. 

Not sure where to start? You're probably doing squats wrong, here's the most common mistake and I tried this 7-move kettlebell leg workout to build bigger legs. We’ve also rounded up the best exercises to do here. 

What is the squat challenge? And why it's not great

Let’s start by looking at the squat challenge. Most will last upwards of 30 days and involve increasing the number of squats you do per day. While squats are a great lower-body exercise, doing squats alone won’t miraculously tone your glutes and thighs (check out the best exercises for targeting the glutes here). Doing squats every day beats sitting on them and doing no exercise at all, but if you have weight-loss or glute-toning goals, it’s probably not the best way to reach your goals. 

When performed correctly, a squat will target the gluteus maximus, hip flexors, and quadriceps, as well as the calves, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles. The risk of doing hundreds of repetitions of squats is that your form might suffer, putting more pressure on the lower back, or putting you at risk of injury. 

If your goal is weight loss, the best way to lose weight is to target the entire body, rather than just the legs. We’ve rounded up 10 of the best exercises to blast away belly fat here. If you’re a runner looking to avoid injury, strengthening your glutes is important, but there are a number of different exercises that will do this, rather than focusing on glutes alone. Finally, if you’re trying to shape your glutes and lower legs, targeting the different muscles in the glutes is far more effective. 

Should you train your glutes every day? 

Generally speaking, no. It's not often recommended to train the same body part every single day, as you risk overtraining muscles, which can result in injury. As a general rule, train your leg muscles three times a week. 

The best glutes exercises to try instead: 

In addition to doing squats, add these exercises to your workout routine to tone and work your glutes: 

How to do a single-leg deadlift

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1. Single-leg deadlifts  

A single-leg deadlift is a great exercise for runners working on their lower body strength. It’s also good for those trying to tone their lower body, as it targets the back, core, and legs. To do a single-leg deadlift, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your hands and stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Leaning forward, hinging at the hips, shift your weight onto one leg and extend the other leg straight out behind you, pitching your body forward until your leg is out straight behind you and lifted as far as you can go. Return to your start position and repeat on the other leg. That’s one rep. Aim for 20 reps, 10 on each leg. 

Watch a video of how to do a single-leg deadlift here.  

How to do a glute bridge

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2. Glute bridges 

Another simple exercise, a glute bridge targets the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus, while also working the core. To do a glute bridge, lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engaging your core (think about sucking your belly button in towards your spine), lift your hips up so your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then lower your hips back down to the starting position — that’s one rep. Aim for two sets of 10 repetitions. 

Watch a video of how to do a glute bridge here; we also have a more in-depth guide on how to do a glute bridge.

How to do frog pumps

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3.  Frog pumps 

Similar to glute bridges, frog pumps work he gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. To do frog pumps, lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together into a ‘frog’ position. Then, similar to a glute bridge, raise your hips towards the sky, pausing at the top to squeeze your glutes, before lowering back down. That’s one rep, aim for two sets of 10 repetitions. 

Watch a video of how to do frog pumps here. 

How to do donkey kicks

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4. Donkey kicks 

Donkey kicks are a brilliant way of targeting the gluteus medius (your side glutes). They are also relatively easy to do and only require you to have an exercise mat, although you can add a resistance band above your knees to make the exercise more challenging (we’ve found the best resistance bands on the market here).

To do a donkey kick, get onto all fours, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Without rounding your spine, keeping the 90-degree angle in your knee, lift your leg straight up and back towards the ceiling, with your foot flexed. Lower it back slowly to starting position —  that’s one rep. Aim for 20 reps, 10 on each side. 

Watch a video of how to do a donkey kick here 

How to do a reverse lunge

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5. Reverse lunges 

Reverse lunges target your core, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. They can be performed with just your bodyweight or with dumbbells in your hands for a more challenging workout.

To do a reverse lunge, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and engage your core. Step backward with your right foot, keeping your right heel off the ground, and bend both knees to sink into a lunge. Think about keeping your core engaged and your hips tucked in under your body. Push through the heel of your left foot to return to your starting position. Then repeat on the other side. Aim for 20 reps, 10 on each side. 

Watch a video of how to do a reverse lunge here. 

You might also want to check out our story on how to do a wall sit, a simple exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and calves. 

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy. 

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