There are so many different ways to try and lose weight and get in shape. You can try one of the zillions of different diets, hire trainers, take classes at the gym in any area from kickboxing to yoga to Zumba, or use the equipment to get ripped. You can bike, run, hike, do those strange but oddly satisfying mud and obstacle style races, or whatever strikes your interest.
How many of them are realistic long term solutions, though? If you're tired of fad diets that let you down or having to shell out massive amounts of cash for gym memberships that leave you wondering how to best utilize machines, or drop-in classes that are super affordable until you start adding up monthly costs of going regularly, then you probably think there's nothing you can do.
Not so! In fact, social media challenges have actually given rise to a super effective way to get in shape without spending buckets full of cash! No, I’m not talking about the photo challenge, and I’m sorry to tell you that ice bucket challenges won’t shock your system into weight loss either.
The trend that is on the table today is the 30-day workout challenge. There are a lot of different variants of this challenge, some made for men or women, others targeting fitness buffs or people who want to get healthy but don't work out, and still more that target specific areas of the body!
If you’re curious about this 30-day workout challenge that is trending, then keep reading. We'll talk about whether they work, how they work, and even layout some different ideas and options for you to start!
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Yes, and no. A typical workout program will have noticeable results within 4 to 8 weeks, so in that sense, a 30-day workout challenge is a great way to make progress towards visible results that may let you see some difference.
The issue is that if you don't see the drastic improvement you are looking for, you may give up halfway through the time it takes for massive results to start showing. In the sense that leading an active lifestyle with regular workout routines should be part of your life, the 30-day challenge is a great way to start establishing healthy patterns but without any follow-through, it isn't enough on its own. The best-case scenario for people who pair this workout challenge with a healthy diet is to lose about 1 pound of real fat per week on average.
Building muscle will take much more time and depends on your age and genes. Every 4 to 8 weeks, you should see around 1 pound of muscle gain or so, and that's if you're also sleeping, recovering, and eating properly. This means that if you're taking the 30-day challenge to get ripped or toned, rather than to lose weight or get healthier, 30 days will show the beginnings of muscle changes, but won't be your instant ticket to a perfectly ripped body.
One thing that it excels at is getting you to set good habits. Committing to a routine is really difficult, especially with today’s short attention spans. This means that making a decision to exercise every day indefinitely is really hard to do. A finite goal, like 30 days, is something that seems easy and manageable. The good news is that it takes around 3 to 4 weeks for people to start feeling great when they exercise, so this challenge is just long enough to start establishing a pattern that will leave you wanting to keep going after the challenge is done.
Temper your expectations, though. While jogging for just 5 to 10 minutes a day can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease and regular exercise also lowers blood sugar and boosts metabolism, results won’t be visible immediately. Sticking to the routine will decrease your stress, increase your muscle mass, and reduce your risk for various diseases, and with consistently healthy diet and exercise you can start seeing small changes in your physical body and energy levels in a month, but it isn’t going to be a miraculous 1 month to the perfect body routine like some people say it is.
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One of the things that many of these challenges fail to do is work your entire body. A lot of the challenges that have become very popular focus on building your stamina and ability to handle a specific type of exercise and the issue with that is that it is at the expense of the rest of your body.
When you build a workout, you should work different muscle groups. For example, if you spend one day doing squats and leg exercises, the next day should work on your arms and upper body, and another day should work your core. Be careful of undertaking challenges that focus entirely on a single exercise, unless you’re willing to double your challenge by grabbing another exercise challenge that works the other area of your body, too.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should incorporate some form of cardio and stretching. A lot of the people who do these challenges are people who aren’t used to regular exercise and don’t necessarily have the money to pay a trainer when they want to start getting healthier. What these challenges tend to do is give you a list of exercises to build your muscles without talking to you about proper form or full workouts. It's important to make sure you stretch before your workout and take some time to cool down afterward.
There are so many different types of popular workout challenges involved in the 30-day workout. Here’s an overview of some of the popular trending challenges and the good and bad that goes with them.
This challenge involves working from 25 to 200 squats per day and promises a gorgeous butt as a result. This is a great way to burn calories and build muscle, but the same squat type every single day isn't going to be as helpful as varying the different types of squats. Furthermore, using bad techniques may have a negative impact on your body, as it can rip the tendons and ligaments in your knees over time.
This challenge is a great way to build your glutes, thighs, hamstrings, and lower legs. It will also build balance and lower body strength. Unfortunately, it neglects the upper body and core entirely and overworks your lower body instead of alternating exercises and providing for rest days.
If you want to make it your own, then you can do this challenge every other day instead of daily. This gives your muscles a day off to recover in between workouts. When you do the squats, change your form. Do some regular squats, some Bulgarian squats, some squat lunges, some open feet, and wider knee stances, statically held squats for periods of time instead of reps, and so forth. Resistance bands can also be highly effective because they'll engage your muscles.
Just remember that alternating days doesn't mean taking a day off when you're not squatting. Find an upper-body challenge to follow and alternate lower and upper body day workouts for a well-rounded exercise routine.
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Plank challenges are probably the most popular form of 30-day exercise challenges. One of the reasons they're so popular is because they tend to be extremely good for your entire body with just a single exercise move. These target your core more than any other muscle group, so you’ll see improvements to posture and less back pain when you do them.
Again, form is crucial and a lot of these challenges neglect to show you proper form. Make sure that your posture is perfect. Keep your abs pulled in, your heels reaching towards the back, and the crown of your head forward. Keep your back as close to a flat table as possible, without your butt being elevated above it. If you have trouble maintaining this pose initially, then you can lower your knees to the ground while keeping the rest of your posture perfect to decrease some of the weight that your plank is holding.
The great thing about planks is that they work your upper and lower body as well as your core, and they also effectively work the front and back of your body. It’s one of the best total body exercises available and the form is pretty easy to master. This can also be done every day, unlike other routines, because the primary target is your core, which has very small muscles that can withstand daily workouts instead of needing a day to recover.
The downside is that if you are sloppy with the form on these exercises, you're putting yourself at a major risk for neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain. Imperfect form can lead to added stress on vulnerable areas of your body.
Most of these challenges begin with you holding a plank for a certain amount of time each day, where that time increases with each day or week of the challenge. This is a good idea in theory, but in practice, if you add too much time too quickly you're going to end up hurting. Listen to your body and go at your pace. Push through discomfort, but stop at pain.
You also need to manage your expectations with this exercise. If you start with a 10-second plank on day one, by the end of the 30-day challenge a realistic stopping point is to attain a 60-second plank. Routines that start at 10 seconds and amp up to a minute and a half by the second week are going far too fast.
If you’re worried that you won’t have the core strength, then as I mentioned above, start with your knees on the ground and slowly build up to a full plank position. Remember, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Holding your breath is not going to work because even though you aren’t moving your entire body is working muscles as if you were.
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Cardio challenges usually come in the form of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) challenges. These are extremely intense, so you’ll feel as though you spent hours at the gym instead of just 20 minutes. These can combine cardio and strength training.
The key to these challenges is to elevate your heart rate by having you quickly switch between exercises with no downtime. Some of them focus on a combination of jogging and springing, and others will mix in strength training like high knees and burpees. Jump rope and jump squats are also seen in these types of challenges.
These are a great way to get high yield results very quickly, so if you’ve got a hectic schedule that doesn’t allow you to get much gym time then these are a great option. They also outperform traditional cardio if your goal is to lose weight.
Unfortunately, a lot of these challenges don't warm you up first or cool you down after. Warm-ups, stretching, and cooldowns are vital parts of cardio workouts because they will help you elevate your heart rate safely, and also help it come down gradually rather than jut drastically. In fact, warming up your muscles will also prevent soreness and cooling down prevents injury.
These challenges aren’t great options for their target audiences because they are not good for beginners. This type of challenge is better suited towards someone who works out regularly but wants to motivate themselves to kick their routine up a notch and take it to the next level. If you’re new to workouts, then you’re just going to end up at an increased risk for injury because your form will suffer as you try desperately to keep up with the routine. Use a personal trainer if you’re going to do this and are unfamiliar with the moves.
To make it safe and effective, include some dynamic stretches before you start this type of workout and do some static stretching at the end. Beginners should look for a cardio challenge that focuses on one type of cardio rather than the HIIT challenges. Walking and running challenges are a great way to start working out regularly.
You can always modify moves to work with your body as long as you do it safely and don't modify them in such a way that your form suffers and you put pressure on vulnerable areas. Push-ups can always be done on your knees, lunges can be done holding on to something if you need help balancing, and jump squats can be turned into just squats rather than jump squats, or else into jumps with a half squat.
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A lot of people have a very love-hate relationship with burpees. These little devils can be difficult for even very fit people, so if you’re just starting to workout then you may need a different type of workout challenge.
Similar to the plank, a burpee gives you a massive payout from a single exercise. These combine the benefits of squats, jumps, planks, push-ups, and another jump squat. They work out your entire body – arms, legs, core, and back – and they also elevate your heart rate similar to cardio.
This challenge is the most likely challenge to produce visible results by the end of the 30 days because of how many movements and muscle groups are covered by this exercise. It also helps your flexibility because you'll need to change positions during the exercise. Stepping in and out of a plank, for example, will increase your hip flexor flexibility.
Unfortunately, this is also a very high impact exercise. This can have an extremely negative impact on your joints, especially if you push yourself too far too quickly or don't follow proper form. Speeding through 5 exercises quickly is difficult to handle for advanced people, so beginners regularly end up compromising their form in an attempt to gain more speed.
The trick with burpees is that they require a certain level of fitness already. While they’re amazing for coordination training, elevating heart rates, and building muscle endurance and power simultaneously, they also require some restraint and skill. If you're not already used to doing push-ups, bench presses, and lower back exercises, then you won't be able to handle doing tons of burpees right off the bat. Train up to this challenge by undertaking some push-up challenges first.
If you still want to do this challenge, but you’re new to burpees or have knee and hip issues, then remove the jumps when you start them. When you need to jump back to planking, just step one foot back then another instead. When you’re exiting your top squat, come onto your toes in a heel raise instead of jumping. Sensitive knees should avoid the jumps in favor of high knee steps. This makes this exercise much lower impact.
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If you’re worried about paying gym memberships or using equipment you don’t really know how to use, then there are some great options for you in no equipment challenges. The good news about these is that many of them account for the entire body, with full-body workout methods. These workout challenges usually focus on strength training in place of cardio.
Based on the research that shows doing all of your strength training in one day yields similar results to splitting the workouts up by muscle group, these challenges are based around busy schedules that can’t make it into the gym. They split the workouts into different days so that you can do these challenges with just 15 minutes a day.
They categorize based on upper body, lower body, and core workouts. Certified personal trainers recommend doing all of the exercises in each category twice a week, and incorporating 2 cardio sessions per week into your routine as well. Let your schedule dictate whether to combine or split these up because the main rule is to avoid doing the upper or lower body workouts back to back 2 days in a row. These muscles need a day to recover and repair. These challenges usually recommend 30 reps of each exercise throughout the workout challenge, rather than building up to crazy high levels of reps.
Upper body exercises include tricep dips, which work the back of your arms in a position similar to a reverse pushup, where you sit on the floor and have your fingers pointing into your body. Press through your palms until you're up on your feet with your knees directly over your ankles and bend to lower your butt back to the ground.
Pushups also work your upper body. This routine also allows for side planks, which use the same form of a plank but lift one half of your body upward by raising your hand into the air and facing forward instead of downward. Bicep and chest squeezes can be done without weights by putting your hands in goal post position and turning them inwards at the center of your chest, then squeezing chest and biceps.
Lower body exercises include squats, lunges to the front and side, back lunge and lifts, calf raises, and planks and supermans. For core workouts, keep planking and superman exercises, but include curls and crunches.
The good news about having so many different options for 30-day workout challenges is that you can find a great option for your goals. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or target problem areas of your body, there is a specialized challenge waiting for you that was built to do exactly that. You can find a lot of these workouts on the app store, or Pinterest. They will all be free and easily accessible. In fact, most of them won't even require a gym membership or expensive materials because they're designed to be something you can easily do on your own from the comfort of your home.
Just remember that you need to be safe before undertaking these challenges. Talk with your doctor about your proposed challenge routine before you begin to make sure that the exercises you want to do won’t put undue strain on your body. You also need to know that it’s okay to modify workouts to fit your current exercise level or health needs.