It was actually Ido Portal’s 30 day hang challenge that fixed my right shoulder all those years ago, once and for all. I battled impingement for a good 18 months and tried all sorts. Little did I know how simple the fix would/could be.
Just 7 minutes (accumulated) per day of passive hanging on two arms. And my right shoulder has been brilliant ever since *knock on wood*.
The hang challenge is actually less publicised than the squat challenge. When we think of resting squats, we have to think of Ido’s famous squat clinic and all his passionate speeches on the importance of restoring this natural resting position…
To us Westerners it’s more of a punishment than a break but that’s only because of how immobile we’ve let ourselves become through all the joints involved in a deep squat.
Go to the east and you’ll see people sitting waiting for a bus in a super deep squat. You’ll see people eating their noodles in an ass-to-grass squat. It’s commonplace. You don’t get the looks or comments you’d get here.
“If I tried that I wouldn’t get up!”
“I wish I could do that!”
“I used to be able to do that!”
“Surely that’s not comfortable?!”
Whereas in the East/Asian regions you’d get the third degree for not sitting in a squat. Sitting on a bench at the bus stop? WTF. Eating dinner on a chair with the hips and knees set at a 90 degree angle? WTF x 2.
Even pooping is a resting squat favourite out there and is technically the original position for optimum defecation, if we can term it that.
Point being, the resting squat is as old as us and has been around forever. It’s a part of our evolution and is a natural position, despite modern day society trying to trick us otherwise.
Why I FINALLY started this challenge
I’d known about this challenge for years but never had the balls to try it. It never appealed to me and I always had a decent(ish) resting squat, thanks to being short legged and long torso’d. So I didn’t think I’d benefit much from it.
But gradually over the last few years I’d notice my deep squat feeling harder and harder, and my pistols going from a comfortable resting pause right at the bottom, to a clunky bouncing style where my body was trying to avoid this ultra deep squat position, which demands very good ankle mobility to be comfortable.
Then the final straw came a few weeks back when I finally visited my good friend Ollie Brown from Norwich (I did many workshops with him 2-3 years ago), and we spent the weekend training together and bouncing ideas off each other.
He’s always had a pretty bad ass deep squat and an incredible hanging game – he once spent 10-15 minutes without letting go of a bar just by alternating from arm to arm in a one arm hang every 30 seconds or so!
And if you look back into his history he spent lots of time under Ido’s wing as one of his private 1-1 online coaching clients, as well as visiting loads of his seminars all across Europe. As I always say: people’s history usually explains exactly why they can, or can’t, do the things they do now.
We suggested things to include in our sessions over that weekend, and one of his suggestions was the resting squat for 5-10 mins. The only time prior to this I’d ever sat in a resting squat for 10 mins straight was our very first workshop. It was a challenge for everyone and as one of the figureheads of the workshop, I couldn’t not finish it.
It sucked though; it sucked BALLS.
This time was worse! I was tighter and yet for Ollie it was business as usual. He was even playing with elevating his toes/the balls of his feet, requiring even more ankle mobility (dorsiflexion).
“I REALLY need to work on this, like BADLY”, I’d say over and over.
I even said I should do the Ido 30/30 challenge and Ollie agreed. He’s done it a few times, apparently. So rather than procrastinate any longer, it was GAME ON the very next day. This just shows the power of healthy competition mixed in with feelings of inferiority. Few combos spark action quite like it.
Time frames & the evolution of my squat
As you can imagine, at first it was dribs and drabs: 2 mins here, 3 mins there, maybe 4 mins if I felt frivolous. And I’ll be honest…I didn’t do 30 mins on the first day. I started with 10 and went to 15, then 20 and then thought fuck it, and went to the full 30 by about day 4 or so. And for those purists who’ll scream at the screen, telling me the days only count from when you hit 30 minutes, I know, don’t worry brothers ;).
The first week or so was rough and many days just felt like a CHORE AND A HALF. I would will that stopwatch to speed the fuck up. But the second week was where I noticed a bigger change – I would hit 10-15 minutes in one hit sometimes. I’d do my laptop based work or program writing in a squat with a timer running, that I’d deliberately place out of my sight. Then I’d check it and it would be at 13 minutes!
Such is the power of immersion in a task or a distraction.
Supposedly 30 mins straight is the gold standard according to Ido. It’s funny because again, coming back to the psychology of this, 10 minutes seemed almost impossible as recent as the last weekend in November, yet towards the end of the challenge 20 mins plus was becoming quite easy…the power of repetition to redefine ‘normal’, huh?
I broke this 30 day squatathon into 2 parts. The first part (2 weeks) was just nailing the 30 minutes every day in whatever combination suited me at the time. On days my lower body felt banged up I would do shorter holds more frequently and on days I felt as fresh as a daisy, I’d try to take a massive swipe out of that bastard 30 minute number in one go.
Then for the second part (last 2 weeks) I started doing Ido’s squat clinic 2.0 in one of the ‘squat blocks’. Anyone who’s tried this will tell you how hard it is. You sit in the squat and you’re like, “Ok, cool, I’ve got this”. Then he starts the sky reaches and by the fifth rep on the first side, you want OUT.
That’s how it felt when I first tried it near the start of the challenge. BUT, by the time I attempted it again with all this new mileage in the ‘optimal shitting position’ under my belt, I can confirm it was much much easier. And it got easier still each and every day.
Then on December 27th I did it. I managed the iconic 30 minute ‘gold standard’ squat hold in one hit. As you’ll see in the YouTube footage I’ll link at the end of this post, my legs were DEAD at the end, but I still managed to stand up! The last 10 minutes were challenging but it was mostly all in the mind, like everything usually is.
The most fundamental benefit here is the very fact it now feels like a resting position as opposed to a punishment. From the mid-point of the challenge onwards I’d find myself sitting in a resting squat to watch clients during personal training sessions. This was virtually subconscious.
The next big thing I wanted to test was how much this position itself improves your ankle mobility (dorsiflexion). And like a good science nerd, I tested it prior to the challenge and again at the end…
Initially my measurement in the classic wall test was 5 inches on both feet, which was odd because my left ankle always feels hella tight compared to my right but the test said I’d been lying.
The new result was…
1.75 Inches on the right & 1 inch on the left! (6.75 inches on the right, 6 inches on the left).
Which just shows there are ankle mobility benefits up for grabs here. I initially wasn’t convinced as some people have a more hip dominant squat and others are more knee dominant. Anyone naturally more knee dominant would demand more ankle mobility, whereas the hip dominant style doesn’t. I’m in the hip dominant camp but still got some nice gains in dorsiflexion.
Posturally there were solid benefits too. A straight back deep resting squat was a thing of fantasy for as long as I knew about it. Now though, as you can see, it’s a reality. It’s so much easier to push the chest up and out without actually lifting the hips.
Even lifting my arms overhead in the position became easier and easier. The first few times I tried it I could clearly see my hands in the upper corners of my gaze. Yet now I can’t see my hands at all.
And right at the very end of the challenge (the day after finishing it), my squat looked like this without much of a warm up:
Lastly, one thing I’ve never seen anyone talk about with regards to this challenge is the effects of all the hip flexion you encounter. Having the glutes stretched so much and the hips flexed so much would theoretically be a nightmare for hip health/structure, unless factored in with counter stretches, surely?
I think this is definitely a possibility if you did no counter stretching and had tighter hips to begin with. Fortunately my obsession with the front splits has raised my natural hip extension capacity, to stand up to this hip flexion pummelling I’ve subjected myself to over the last month.
Should YOU Do This Challenge?
I genuinely think this challenge would benefit almost everyone. Although I wouldn’t be so aggressive with it. The 30 minutes protocol is like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. If you’re really tight in your squat, even 5 minutes per day could yield great results in the beginning.
Ultimately it’s all about finding a number that’s A) a challenge and B) an achievable figure. 30 minutes might sound good on day one but trust me, you’ll hate it more than masks and lockdowns by day 15 onwards. It’s not for the faint hearted at all.
You will get better posture, better knee health, better ankle integrity and maybe even better digestion? I can’t say I noticed much difference in the digestion department but you hear these legendary tales of people going from backed up to flowing like a river…
And as I alluded to a moment ago, I would counter balance all this squatting with some hip extension stretches, especially if you’re tight through the hips anyway, as all this super flexing of the hips will make you feel tighter for sure. Whether you do that with the couch stretch or the reverse hero, it’s up to you and your comfort.
The last tweak I would make (and did make) is NOT doing 30 days straight, which I know would have me kicked out the movement culture club but this makes adherence much easier, trust me. If you’ve got other training goals, time constraints or both, skipping a day or two and getting back to it will only keep you wanting to do the damn challenge.
It certainly did for me. There were a few times where I’d have super sore legs from lower body training, then had some pretty complex upper body work on the itinerary, and I just didn’t want to sit in a squat for 30 minutes. I’m very disciplined with this stuff though, there is a risk of drop off if you’re not that type and tend to fall off the wagon when you lose a day.
But, as the purists and movement culture warriors told me: the 30 days only count once you’ve totalled 30 full days of 30 minutes’ squat time.
Now I’ve reset my squat somewhat, I can now bring the demanding time down a fair bit & maybe bump the difficulty up. An easy example is doing 5 mins per day but with the toes elevated – this will demand more from the ankle dorsiflexion and be a more uncomfortable squat, but should make the default resting squat feel like a piece of piss.
The elevation of the toes only needs to be a half inch to an inch. Any more would be very aggressive and set you up for failure and lack of adherence.
We shall see! I will give this a try for the 30 days accumulated and see what it does. I have the ankle measurements after all so we can give it a fair test!
As for other challenges, I’m not entirely sure just yet. One that comes to mind is re-doing Ido’s hang challenge (7 mins per day for 30 days), which is boring on paper as I’ve already done it, although if I do it again I would be aiming to do a big chunk of it on one arm!
If you have any ideas you want to see trialled and reviewed, let me know down below?
The trick to these 30 day challenges is choosing ones that don’t hinder the other areas of your life. The other trick is working them to suit you without totally re-engineering the challenge altogether.
A tough balance but one I definitely did with Ido Portal’s 30/30 Squat Challenge.
(P.S. I made a video version of this challenge that includes lots of raw squat footage from my journey. Check it out below! As always, all support is greatly appreciated).
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