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BOX SQUATS

Technique is the number one element for squatting big weights. To add complexity to this subject, the squat is the most technical of all barbell lifts due its multiple components having to be coordinated: timing, depth, tightness, and the correct bar path.


If you train with bad form, no supplemental exercise or training program will drive your squat up. It will only get you so far, and then you get stuck (literally).   


The box squat is one of the most valuable exercises you can do to either learn proper squat form from the get-go, or to add poundage to the bar when form creep starts to happen over time.


This article focuses on the benefits of box squatting, proper execution, as well as programming of what is one of the most underrated exercises on your strength journey.



BENEFITS

HIP STRENGTH

Squatting to a box allows you to sit back onto the box to a point where your shins and knees are “held back”, thus increasing the tension inn your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. This is much more difficult to perform on a regular squat as you have nothing to sit back and down on. The box acts as both a cue and target, and you can rest assured that you won’t fall down.


The box squat places a tremendous amount of stress on the squatting muscles – glutes, hamstrings, and lower back - making it a powerful tool to add poundage to the bar in a short time.


In fact, the quads are not that important for squatting as they represent a much smaller surface area than the posterior chain muscles together. The hips are drivers in the squat, not your quads!

 

CONSISTENT DEPTH

When box squatting, you always squat to the same depth. This allows for repeatability in your squat pattern. It also prevents you from squatting too shallow, which can be the case as you start adding more and more weight to the bar. Simply put, with box squats you’ll always go low enough.

 

REINFORCING GOOD FORM

Box squats reinforce good squat mechanics. The “reaching back with the hips” pattern is something beginners would normally struggle with as they naturally tend to shift too much of their weight onto their knees. This would fail to develop proper hamstring and glute strength and thus make their squat performance inefficient. In the long-run, poor strength in a certain muscle group will be hard to correct unless the weight is being dropped by a large amount for those muscles to catch up. While resets are ok and natural in everyone’s training, we don’t want to take ten steps backwards to start all over again as this is a waste of time.

 

TEACHING TIGTHNESS

The box squat requires you to stay tight all over the body in order to perform a “soft” landing on the box. The one thing you exactly don’t want to do is plummet your backside onto the box and use it as a trampoline. You have to stay tight to be aware of your body positioning at the bottom of the range. If you just collapse onto the box, you lose awareness of where your body is in space.


EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT

The box squat breaks the cycle of eccentric and concentric contraction. In short: because you are not relying on the stretch reflex at the bottom of the squat, your muscles have to produce greater amounts of force to drive the body up from the “resting position” on the box. This is a very effective way of building tremendous amount of explosive strength.

 


TECHNIQUE

Get the entire body tight as you un-rack the bar. Breath into your belly and “seal the air” in your abdomen. Pull the bar into your back as if you were to bend it.


Stand up by locking your knees and keep the body tense while you do that. Do not give an inch anywhere. Stay tight!


As you start descending, imagine your trunk being a block of concrete. Nothing in the world should be able to move you from your stable position.


Remember: tight muscles can bear more load, and you can only move load that you can bear firsthand.


Lean forward with your trunk, and reach back and down with your hips towards the box. This will tighten the lower back muscles, and will create a hell of a lot of tension in your hamstrings and glutes – the main drivers in the squat. Force your knees out as you descend as this will externally rotate your femur and thus tighten your hips.


Focus on a “quiet” landing onto the box, and keep your body tight as you do this.


To drive out of the squat, shove your hips to the ceiling, while keeping your trunk angle the same. DO NOT stand up from your knees! You want to develop strength in the hips, so use them to your advantage!


The box should be one inch below parallel for most people as this mimics proper squat depth. For beginners, placing the box height one inch above parallel sometimes works better as they do not have the hip strength yet to come out of a low position.

 

PROGRAMMING

We recommend that you perform box squats 1-2x per week depending on your need to improve form and hip strength. We have found that a variation with 1x/week box squatting & 1x/week regular squatting works well as the transfer from the box squat to the regular squat can be “tested” every week.


Tripples and sets of five work best for box squats as we want to develop strength while developing proper form.


Be aware that box squats are just as taxing on the body as regular squats as the nervous system has to work very hard in order to propel the body off a “dead” position on the box.

 

Want to squat big weights?


The box squat might just be what you’ve been looking for.


Stay strong.


Squat deep.


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