By Coach Rob
I love squats. I love all kinds and variations of squats, but one of my favorite squats is the box squat.
The box squat is a simple and effective exercise that gets over looked for many reasons. I am a competitive Power Lifter and most powerlifters don’t use the box squat, often times they do only normal squats, high bar squats and front squats. Somehow the box squat gets left out.
Along with competing in PowerLifting I also coach a lot of Powerlifters. However I also coach a lot of people who don’t Powerlift. They are people trying to get stronger, move better, feel better and live better, who just don’t step on a platform to compete.
When it comes to all variations of squats the box squat is one of my favorite squat variations.
Here Are 5 Reasons Why Box Squats Are Beneficial In Your Training.
1. Box Squats Are Easy to Teach
Give me a bar and a box and I can teach anyone to squat pretty good in just a few minutes. Give me just the bar and a lot of people will struggle with a back squat with no box. I have seen it happen time and time again. Some people get it, some don’t, but most will be afraid of hitting depth and having confidence without having something to sit back on or touch.
Box squats can be used as a simple progression to get someone to do a free back squat very easily. A great tool for this is the 3 sided box from Elite FTS. I use this with a lot of our clients in programs at HWTC. We start them at the highest box, then lower it to the mid range, then to the lowest box height and then we take away the box. This re-enforces good squatting technique and makes teaching the back squat much easier.
By having something to sit back on or to touch it will make the comfort and confidence of a squat much easier.
2. Always Find Your Depth
How deep you squat is dependent on many factors. If you are competing in PowerLifting you either have to hit below parallel or hit parallel depending on your organization.
If you don’t compete in PowerLifting a simple way I look at squat depth is that you should squat as comfortable as you can without pain or discomfort. Then over time you can slowly try to work on your mobility and flexibility to improve the depth of your squat.
One good thing about a box squat is that you won’t have issues in knowing exactly where your depth is. If you come to the box height then you know you have reached your depth. This takes out a lot of the guessing game of “did I hit my depth”.
I used a box squat to re-learn my squat depth after my first competition at PowerLifting Worlds in Africa. I went 1/3 on squats and missed 2 squats by not going deep enough. When I got back to training I used a low box to just touch on every squat, this helped me re-establish where my squat needed to be. Sometimes you think you are deeper than you are, using a box is a great cue of knowing exactly where you are.
If you are a personal trainer or a coach you can assess your clients squat depth and mobility by using a box. This will give you exact depth every rep. If you want to go deeper you adjust the depth of the box to go lower. This is a great way to assess your clients progress and squat depth.
3. Faster Recovery Compared To Normal Squats
Box squats tend to have faster recovery compared to normal bar squats. I have no idea why but they do. This means you can squat more frequently and still get your training in. If you are an athlete this is great and if you are a lifter this is a bonus. Training is all about frequency, the more you can train the better as long as you are not over training. In this situation someone could squat once a week and box squat once a week and not cut into recovery or over training too much.
Some of my workouts when I was PowerLifting would have me squatting 3 days a week (a mix of medium, heavy and lighter workouts) but after a few weeks my body would be trashed. It was just too much for me. By adding in box squats this would have helped with my recovery and still allowed me to get the frequency of training in.
4. Hits The Posterior Chain Harder
A normal bar squat when done with a high bar really hits the quads. A normal bar squat done with a low bar really hits the upper back, hips and quads. A bar squat to a box really hammers the posterior chain which is usually a a very weak link in the chain. By hitting the glutes, hamstrings and hips you are really bringing up a very important part of the strength chain that often times gets neglected.
The stronger your posterior chain, the better everything will be. You will run faster, you will squat more, you will deadlift more, and you will also build a strong muscular glutes which is important. I don’t care if you are a guy or a girl a set of strong muscular glutes go a long way.
5. Power Development Out Of The Hole
Having speed, power and confidence coming out the bottom of the squat (aka the hole) is very important. A lot of people once a squat gets heavy will shorten their depth on a squat. I have had this happened to me many times as well. It’s pretty simple, you don’t think you are going to come up out of the deepest part of the squat so you shorten your depth.
It’s important to squat as deep as you can, and if you are competing it’s important to meet competition depth on your squat.
By using a box squat you can build confidence of exploding out of the hole in your squat.
Sometime that adds a lot of strength to some squatters is the stretch reflex aka the bounce in the bottom of a squat. Some people really use this to their advantage squatting. By removing this we make the squat even harder. If someone sits on the box and then explodes out of the bottom of the squat when they go back to normal bar squatting and add in the stretch reflex this should make them even stronger.
Some Tips For A Solid Box Squat
==> There is a big difference between squatting to a box, and an actual box squat. With squatting to a box you are just touching the box to know where your depth is, with a box squat you are sitting on the box releasing the hips.
==> It’s important when box squatting to use flat sneakers like chuck taylors or go bare foot, and also be sure to focus on sitting back as much as possible. This is not a standard squat to a box, we are trying to really sit back and keep a vertical shin.
==> Brace hard and control the weight, sit back on the box for a second and release the hips.
==> Power out of the box by driving your back into the bar, the hips will then follow.
==> Make ever rep as fast as possible off the box. You want to learn to develop maximum speed and power when squatting.
==> Do a mixture of high bar box squats, low bar box squats and if possible squat safety box squats. Each variation will offer different benefits.
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Coach Rob is the creator and owner of Women Who Lift Weights and Heavy Weights Training Center.
He is a Coach, Writer and Competitive Power Lifter.