Time for our Sunday Sweat Talk date!

Sunday Sweat Talk

Let’s talk about…

The problem with online fitness challenges

It seems like online fitness challenges are popping up EVERYWHERE lately. You guys know what I mean. How many times a day do you scroll through your Facebook feed and see images promoting a 31 day squat challenge, a 150 pushups challenge, or a plank a day contest? While I 100% believe in and support fitness challenges to motivate and make exercise more fun for some, a lot of the challenges I see online make me nervous.

The ones that make me the most nervous are the really high rep challenges because I do not believe that training in an extremely high rep range every single day is going to help anyone reach their fitness goals.

In my training, I was taught to design programs with a rep range of anywhere between 1-20 repetitions of an exercise, depending on the client’s goal. I was taught that if you are looking to improve:

  • Maximum strength — then you should choose a weight load or exercise variation that only allows you to execute between 1-8 reps before hitting failure (3-5 sets w/around a 2 minute rest time).
  • Muscular hypertrophy (size and definition) — then you should aim for 8-12 reps with a bit lighter of a load than if training for max strength (2-4 sets w/around a minute rest time).
  • Muscular endurance — then you should choose a lighter load and aim for the 12-20 reps (1-3 sets with little rest time). Note, I will argue that 12-15 reps is just fine, and even 15-20 is too high.

I’m all for metabolic conditioning workouts, AMRAP circuits, and timed circuits, but only if they are properly planned by someone who knows what they are talking about and challenge different muscles on different days. And not every day.

Maybe now you understand why I get scared when I see something like this floating around on Pinterest.

squat challenge

Really? 250 squats on day 1? Yikes. Extreme is an understatement!

It’s just scary because the average person doesn’t know any better. They’ll just jump right in.

In my opinion, participating in something like this can result in some pretty bad things. First, there’s the chance of getting an overuse injury or re-aggravating an old injury. I know that any time I do too many pushups, my rotator cuff problems from the past tend to creep up again in my right shoulder. High rep workouts also can lead to muscular imbalances. For example, someone who puts this much time and effort into squatting is likely only focusing on quad work without engaging the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes). What can happen then? Bad knees, lordosis of the spine, the list goes on. It’s just not worth it. Plus, how is doing 500 of any movement allowing you enough time at the gym to improve on other training areas, whether it be cardio, flexibility, or just working on strengthening another part of the body? Who wants to only be good at squats and nothing else?

One thing that I do get a lot of questions on is the “plank a day” concept. I do believe that it’s safe to plank daily. I also think it’s okay to work on your “plank to fatigue” times. I do this, but I don’t do it daily. I probably work on my plank to fatigue time once a week at most, but usually bi-weekly. What makes me nervous about plank a day challenges are the ones that have you doing a VERY lengthy plank every single day with no rest days in between. I think it is more beneficial to vary the type of plank you’re doing instead of simply adding more and more time to it each day.

Elbow plank with alternating leg lifts

Also, while holding a plank in good form is a great way to improve your anterior core strength, you want to make sure you also work on opposing muscle groups. It’s similar to neglecting the hamstrings if overworking quads. You don’t want to neglect your backside if planking too much. My suggestion to anyone participating in a plank a day challenge is to also set aside the time for perfecting something like bridging technique.

If you are going to participate in an online fitness challenge, I highly encourage you to just make sure you know where the workout is coming from. So what if the image or graphic has a website or a hashtag on it? That doesn’t mean anything. Often the image, despite having a website listed, will also have a picture of someone executing the movement. Half the time, that picture depicts incorrect form.

plank challenge

Nobody should ever hold a plank like this girl.

Just do your due diligence. Know who designed the challenge and what their qualifications are. Be wary of high rep and time workouts. Don’t trust a workout that has you working the same exercise day after day. If something doesn’t feel right, stop.

You want to feel 100% confident that you are participating in something that is going to help you, not hurt you down the line.

Time to talk!

What do you guys think? Have you ever participated in an online fitness challenge? What’s your opinion on high rep workouts? Feel free to also use this as an opportunity to comment with anything fitness related from your week.

Did you miss an earlier Sunday Sweat Talk post?

Since this rant post got kind of long, I’ll check back in with my weekly workout log a little later. Have fun at any Super Bowl festivities you may be attending or hosting tonight. If you’re feeling up for it, you can even try my Super Bowl workout during the game!