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Here's How and If 30-Day Fitness Challenges Really Work

Here’s How and If 30-Day Fitness Challenges Really Work!

This is what you can realistically expect from a 1-month workout challenge:

A 30-day fitness challenge can be highly effective at helping you form a new healthy habit, while also improving your overall fitness level.

Although you can’t expect any drastic changes in your muscle mass or body fat levels, it will provide the initial push needed for long-term body transformation.

30-day fitness challenges are meant to provide a new mini-challenge for your body each day to stimulate all major muscles in your body.

This is done by carefully rotating exercises and movements to give your muscles enough rest between the challenges.

The end goal is to form a new habit toward living a healthier lifestyle and as an added bonus, you’ll be a bit healthier, stronger and fitter by the end of the month.

However, note that a beginner will most likely see much more impressive results with this fitness challenge than someone who’s been working out for years.

And to further expand on the effectiveness and overall goal of 30-day workout challenges, in this article I’ll cover:

  • The science behind 30-day fitness challenges
  • Pros and cons of these 30-day fitness challenges
  • 3 popular 1-month fitness challenges that you can try
  • Helpful tips for successfully completing a 30-day fitness challenge
  • Typical reasons why these workout challenges fail

The Science Behind 30-day Fitness Challenges

These fitness challenges are meant to make physical exercise a habit of yours that you follow beyond one month.

Building a new habit takes time as it includes several key steps:

  • You decide that you need to change
  • You initiate the new behavior
  • You repeat it on a regular basis

But how much time does it take to form a new habit?

According to a 2009 study courtesy of the European Journal of Social Psychology, most people will need to follow a new behavior for an average of 66 days for it to become a habit.

However, this scientific paper also shows that the time it takes to form a new habit really depends on the person and how difficult the behavioral change is.

For some of the participants, the new behavior became automatic in only 18 days, while for others it took as much as 254 days.

This means that a one-month workout protocol may not be enough to form a long-lasting fitness habit in your life.

But it will definitely put you on the fast track toward making regular physical exercise a part of your daily life.

Here's How and If 30-Day Fitness Challenges Really Work, slim man with crossed arms

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Pros and Cons of 30-Day Fitness Challenges

This type of fitness challenge has its own set of strengths and weaknesses such as:

Pros:

  • It gives you the much needed initial push to start working toward a specific fitness goal
  • An entire month of consistent training is enough to see some results, including increased energy levels improving your overall fitness
  • Some people (e.g. beginners) may see superb results in terms of looking more toned

    Cons:

    • Results may be short-lived if you don’t continue working out on a regular basis after the month-long challenge ends
    • A poorly designed 30-day workout challenge can lead to overtraining, especially if you target the exact same muscle group each day
    • Most of these challenges are probably too strict for most, making them rather impractical for long-term use

    Here's How and If 30-Day Fitness Challenges Really Work, a man doing one-leg squats

    3 Popular 30-Day Fitness Challenges You Can Try

    Below I’ve hand-picked a few effective and highly popular 30-day workout challenges that you can try, with the respective pros and cons:

    1. Squat Challenge

    • Pros – Superb stimulation for your hamstrings, glutes, thighs and calves, while also improving your lower body strength and overall balance
    • Cons – Doesn’t target the upper body muscles, while overworking the ones in your lower body

    This popular challenge relies on doing variations of the legendary squat exercise that targets the muscles in your butt and legs.

    Here’s how to do it and what you need to know about the squat challenge:

    • You begin with 15 to 50 squats per day and increase by 5 per day (up to a maximum of 250 reps daily)
    • The third week is where the truly challenging part starts
    • Doing hundreds of squats per day can be a significant mental challenge as well, due to the highly repetitive nature of the exercise

    Note that you can do squats every other day, instead of performing them every single day to avoid overtraining.

    You can also alternate between keeping feet apart and feet together to target different muscles in your legs.

    2. Burpee Challenge

    • Pros – A great total-body exercise for improving your overall fitness and conditioning as it burns a ton of calories. It also improves flexibility, especially in the hip flexors
    • Cons – Not very beginner-friendly and far from optimal if you have knee and hip issues

    Burpees can be considered a 4-in-1 exercise as they incorporate 4 different movements into 1 – squats, jumps, planks and push-ups.

    All of this provides a kickass workout for your entire body, including your back, arms, core and legs that also burns a ton of calories.

    Here’s how to perform the one-month burpee challenge as the training protocol is slightly more complicated than the other two popular 30-day fitness challenges:

    • You start with only 10 burpees and build yourself up to 100 by gradually increasing the burpee count by 5 each day
    • There are 7 so-called rest days on which you perform only planks
    • On days 4, 8 and 12 you perform 30-second planks as you start with only 2 sets and add a set on the next session
    • On days 16, 20, 24 you perform 45-second planks, starting with 2 sets and adding one with each session
    • On day 28 you perform 5 sets of 60-second planks

    But if you have some sort of knee or hip problems, I’d recommend not doing the jumping at the end of the exercise.

    Instead, you substitute the jumping part with a few high-knees to keep your heart rate up, while also minimizing the impact on your joints.

    3. Plank Challenge

    • Pros – Provides great stimulation for the entire body with an emphasis on the abdominal muscles. And since the abs are a small muscle group, they can be trained every day
    • Cons – You can easily injure your back, neck and shoulders if you use improper form throughout the duration of the challenge

    Planks are a brilliant whole-body exercise that focuses mostly on the core muscles.

    This is how to do the plank challenge:

    • Perform one plank session per day that lasts between 30 seconds and 3 minutes
    • Breathe normally while holding the plank (don’t hold your breath)
    • Optional: Start by doing a modified plank on your knees if you can’t perform a regular plank

    Remember, it’s essential to maintain a proper posture during the exercise to avoid injuring yourself.

    To do this make sure that the crown of your head is reaching forward, core muscles are tight and your heels reach towards the back.

    Here's How and If 30-Day Fitness Challenges Really Work, male and female running partners

    Pro Tips for Completing a 30-Day Fitness Challenge

    Following these tips will help you to stay on track to survive and complete your 30-day fitness challenge, while also making working out regularly a habit:

    1. Take Photos and Measurements Before You Start

    Seeing results play a major role in succeeding in tedious fitness protocols like the 30-day challenge.

    Thus, take photos of yourself at the beginning of day 1 and also measure important parts of your body such as your waist, legs, arms and chest.

    Do the same thing on day 30 and compare the results.

    You can even use your older pics and measurements as inspiration throughout the duration of the challenge.

    2. Track Your Progress and Accomplishments

    Make a checklist of the exercises that you have to do and take notes of your accomplishments (e.g. you successfully performed 5 extra reps).

    The checklist can also remind you how far you’ve come and how many days are left until you complete the challenge.

    This can do wonders to keep you motivated and determined to conquer day 30.

    3. Choose a Workout Time and Stick to it

    Grab a planner or even a personal calendar and organize your daily routine to give enough priority to your daily challenges.

    Thus incorporating a specific time frame for your workouts will give them the needed priority so that you meet the daily exercise requirements.

    You’ll be well aware that each day you have a daily goal to meet and you have enough time to crush it.

    4. Find a Fitting Workout Partner

    Getting someone to do the fitness challenge together with you can be a great method to boost your morale and motivation.

    The other person can ramp up your competitive side and push both of you to train harder.

    You can also mutually encourage each other, even though one of you might be in better shape.

    5. Perform the Workouts in the Morning

    Think about it, you have the most energy and focus in the morning as you’re still fresh and fully rested from a full night’s sleep.

    Also, your hormones (including testosterone) are at their peak during the early morning hours.

    Training in the morning means that you don’t have to wait until the end of the day, where you’ll probably be beaten up from work and everything else.

    Morning workouts will also rev up your metabolism and keep you energized throughout the day.

    Here's How and If 30-Day Fitness Challenges Really Work, tired man sitting on the floord with dumbbells in front of him (1)

    Common Reasons Why 30-day Fitness Challenges Fail

    Here are 5 common reasons why your 30-day workout challenge might fail:

    1. You Neglect the Importance of a Balanced Diet

    Engaging in physical exercise is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to improving your conditioning and appearance.

    No amount of planks, burpees or squats will undo a poor diet consisting of highly processed foods that contain tons of empty calories.

    You need to consume more whole foods and lean protein, while also avoiding overeating.

    If you want to make the most of your 30-day challenge, you’d need to incorporate a sound diet plan on top of working out every day.

    2. Working the Same Muscles Every Day Can Get Boring

    The repetitive nature of these challenges can be a real issue if you’re not motivated enough to get fitter.

    Truth is, doing squats for an entire month can bore you to death rather quickly.

    That’s why you’ll have to ensure that your motivation is always high by following the challenge protocol closely.

    To help battle boredom, make it a priority to improve with each workout and don’t hesitate to use external factors (such as your favorite music) to keep you hungry for success.

    3. These Challenges Use a Generic Fitness Approach

    The aforementioned 30-day workout challenges rely on a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to fitness, which isn’t ideal.

    They don’t take into consideration specific factors such as personal height, weight, gender, fitness level, diet and goals.

    It’s simply a generic approach that’s meant to deliver some results, but mostly to encourage you to make regular physical activity a part of your lifestyle.

    4. You Can Easily Overtrain if Not Careful

    Doing the same exercise for 30 days is a one-way ticket to overtrain land unless you train smart.

    The typical 30-day fitness challenge requires you to add more reps with each passing day, which can be a daunting task even for seasoned gym-goers.

    That’s why you need to start with low reps and slowly build your way up to higher reps as you progress towards week 4.

    Just try pushing yourself without going overboard, otherwise, you risk overtraining, which may lead to injuries.

    5. Before and After Photos Can Be Very Misleading

    We’ve all seen these mind-blowing before and after photos of supposedly 30-day fitness challenge success stories.

    But don’t be fooled – most of the time the person has the exact same amount of muscle mass and body fat percentage on both images.

    It’s just a clever play of angles, lighting and muscle pump (i.e. the person lifted some weights before the ‘after’ picture).

    You can’t expect any extraordinary results from a 30-day challenge, especially if your diet is not on point.

    Conclusion

    There’s no doubt that 30-day fitness challenges can be highly effective, especially at forming a new healthy habit in your life i.e. working out regularly.

    However, don’t expect any mind-blowing changes in how you look after 30 days.

    Sure, some people (mainly beginners) will probably see some improvements in strength, muscle mass, body fat and overall fitness – just nothing crazy.

    Use this challenge as a catapult that’ll shoot you toward long-term success in body recomposition and fitness.

    Now – have you ever tried any of the 30-day fitness challenges yourself and if yes, how was it?

    And if you haven’t tried them yet, do you think that you can survive the intensity over a period of 30 days?

    Drop your answers in the comments below!

    References:

    1. https://www.verywellmind.com/do-thirty-day-challenges-work-4164524
    2. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/do-30-day-fitness-challenges-you-see-social-media-really-ncna1064726
    3. https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/30-day-fitness-challenge
    4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674
    5. https://www.aipt.edu.au/articles/2016/08/30-day-challenges-do-they-work
    6. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit
    7. https://www.trainingcor.com/8-reasons-30-day-challenge-will-fail/
    8. https://fitboxmethod.com/5-tips-for-surviving-a-30-day-challenge/
    9. https://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/full-body-30-day-workout-challenge/

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