The third exercise in The 100 Workout is the squat. The squat is an exercise performed in some way by virtually everyone who trains athletically, from yoga junkies to bodybuilders. Squats provide an excellent workout to all of the major muscle groups in the legs, including the calf muscles, the quadriceps / thigh muscles, and the glutes / butt muscles, as well as the abdominal muscles and lower back. In the beginning, squats can be excruciating as so many muscle groups are working at the same time. However, as your skill and strength develops you will find that the increased muscle tone in your legs and butt is well worth the work.
During The 100 Workout Program, the squat comes twice: at exercise three, you perform 80 squats; at exercise seven, you perform… 40 squats. While one of the biggest benefits of the squat is that you can progressively load more weight on to your shoulders to really stress your legs, you can start with simply doing “body weight” squats, and then you can step up to dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your shoulders as your strength grows.
Performing the Squat
Performing the squat looks simple at first glance, but it is actually a complicated exercise which requires technique, strength and balance. Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart, with your hands at your sides, crossed across your chest or above your head. Then, bend your knees and stick your butt out backwards, lowering your body until your butt and legs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should be bent at about a 90 degree angle at the low point of the squat; while you can go lower than this, it can lead to knee injuries so stick to 90 degrees. Here’s a side view of the starting and finishing points of one squat repetition:
Once you’ve reached the low point, return back up to the standing position and repeat. If you’d like an additional challenge, you can hold the “sitting” position below for a second or two before returning to your starting position:
From start to finish, each squat should only take you between 1-2 seconds. If you perform squats too slowly, you will strain your muscles more – which is good, but doing so will make it far more challenging to complete all of the 120 squats required for The 100 Workout.
Here’s a brief video that demonstrates proper body weight squat technique. Note that the instructor keeps his heels firmly planted on the floor, and as he bends his legs he sticks his butt out, bending at the knees:
Once you are able to complete all of the 120 squats in The 100 Workout you can start adding weight in the form of dumbbells. For beginners, a 5 pound dumbbell in each hand will be sufficient for adding weight to make your squats more challenging. Those who are a bit stronger or more comfortable with their fitness level can use up to 25 pound dumbbells in each hand.
If you’ve mastered dumbbell squats and you’re looking for something advanced, you can move on to barbell squats. These are best performed in a gym or fitness center with a squat rack, as you can step underneath the bar before placing it on your shoulders and performing your squats. The rack will also support you, should anything go wrong and you need to bail out. To perform barbell squats, place a barbell loaded with weight comfortably across your shoulders. Grip the bar with both hands to stabilize, and perform your squats as normal:
Tips for Mastering the Squat
The sheer volume of crunches in The 100 Workout is one of the main reasons that it’s so challenging. Performing 90 crunches back-to-back can be excruciating for first-timers (not to mention the other 50 you still have remaining!), so here are a few tips to help you master the crunch on your path to becoming a 100 Workout champion:
- Start out with body weight! – seriously, squats are an exercise that can leave even advanced athletes breathless after a short time. If you’re new to The 100 Workout or new to performing squats, don’t worry about adding any additional weight. Stick with the simple body weight squat as performed in the video above until you have no trouble with all 120 squats in The 100 Workout.
- Squat, squat, everywhere! – as they require no equipment and just a couple of minutes, squats can be performed anywhere. In an elevator by yourself? Bash out 10 squats on the way up! Don’t feel like going for a walk after lunch? Try to hit 50 squats in the office before heading back to work. Squats will get the blood flowing and train everything in your lower body, all at once.
- If you’re struggling, use a bench – if you are finding it tough to perform your squats correctly, you can try this easy trick. Squat in front of a flat bench (use the couch at home) and on your way down touch your butt to the bench. This way, you know that you’ve completed a rep and can head back up. Poor squat technique can cause knee issues, so make sure you are exercising correctly!
Share your Squatting Advice!
Have you decided to change things up a bit and modify the 120 squats in The 100 Workout? Are you using dumbbells in each hand, a medicine ball, a loaded barbell or olympic bar across the shoulders or some other form of making squats more challenging? Share your tips and advice for performing great squats in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!