Two Girls Get Rhabdomyolysis After Squat Competition. Be Proactive!

Physical exercise


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


Doing squats is great for strengthening our quads and tightening up our glutes. But the following story is an example of how too much of a good thing can be bad. 

Recently, in China, two teenage girls had to be taken to the intensive care unit after doing 1,000 squats each! 

The girls were squatting over and over again as part of a competition to see who could do the most squats. According to one report, they wanted to see who could “flex their glutes the longest.” Both girls called it quits after doing 1,000 squats, and two days later some things happened that I’m sure made them regret participating in this competition.

The report says that one of the girls complained of intense soreness in her legs and was unable to bend her legs. She also noticed that her urine turned brown, so she asked her boyfriend to take her to the hospital. 

She was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, “which is basically an extreme version of what already happens in the body after physical exertion,” said one doctor who was referenced in the report. Her friend was diagnosed with the same condition.

Basically when you exercise, your muscles breakdown which releases a protein called myoglobin through your bloodstream and to your kidneys. It is then your kidneys job to filter the myoglobin out. Myoglobin carries and stores oxygen in muscle cells.

But when rhabdomyolysis (also called rhabdo for short) occurs, the excess myoglobin is just too much for the kidneys to handle.

“When muscle is damaged, myoglobin in muscle cells is released into the bloodstream. The kidneys help remove myoglobin from the blood into the urine. When the level of myoglobin is too high, it can damage the kidneys,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With this condition, there are just too many dead muscle fibers for your kidneys to get rid of.

“The kidneys get gummed up, and they start to fail,” said the doctor referenced earlier. The doctor also said that the girl and her friend were very lucky and that usually “by the time you’re peeing brown it’s too late.”

Sometimes, treatment of this condition involves dialysis. But luckily the girls did not suffer actual kidney failure. They were able to recover by receiving IV drips that helped clear the protein from their systems.

Intense physical activity is not the only cause of rhabdomyolysis.

Remember, rhabdomyolysis is caused by damage to muscle tissue. So other causes may include:

  • Trauma or crush injuries
  • Drug use such as cocaine or heroin
  • Genetic muscle diseases
  • Extremes of body temperature (for example, heat stroke)
  • Ischemia or death of muscle tissue
  • Low phosphate levels
  • Seizures or muscle tremors
  • Undergoing long surgical procedures
  • Severe dehydration

And obviously, what these young girls did was not the smartest, but it’s important to keep in mind that this can happen to people who are extreme athletes. Take, for example, the story of one bodybuilder who got rhabdomyolysis after overtraining. Endurance athletes, such as ultramarathon runners, also have to be mindful of rhabdomyolysis. 

We also previously reported about a little boy who nearly died from getting rhabdomyolysis due to a very strenuous exercise.

It is actually a pretty rare condition, but it’s important to know about these conditions so that we can be proactive.

How can we be proactive?

Here are some tips per Harvard Health:

  • Drink a lot of water. That will help prevent problems and help flush your kidneys.
  • Avoid using anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs may worsen kidney function.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it will make you more dehydrated. You need more fluids in your system, not the opposite.
  • If you experience intense pain and fatigue after your workout, you should get professional help. Most cases of rhabdo may be treated at home simply by increasing fluid intake. If muscle enzyme levels are high, or if there are signs of kidney problems, IV fluids may be needed.
  • Work your way up. Build your muscles overtime and increase your training intensity overtime.

It is also important to be aware of those nutrients needed to fuel before your workout and recover after your workout. And if you are an athlete or someone who does intense workouts, I would recommend cryotherapy to help muscle repair. It has been my experience that cryotherapy will make you recover quickly, feel better and perform better.


Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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