What Are Box Squats And Should You Do Them?
I started writing a post on box squats and had just finished it when I came across my buddy Caleb’s article on doubleyourgains – on the exact same subject! And his was much better than mine! Thankfully, he allowed me to reprint it in its entirety for you.
Why Box Squatting Sucks & Why You Should Do It Anyways!
by Caleb Lee from http://doubleyourgains.com/
I have discovered a new world of pain … agony … and ego-wrenching … and it’s name is the Box Squat.
Before I tell you of all the amazing benefits of box squatting and how you may have to end up buying clothes with a big “S” sewn on them after starting to squat on the box, let’s first discuss …
Why Box Squats SUCK!
Normally, when I say an exercise sucks … I’m talking about exercises that suck at actually doing something for your body. Throw bicep curls, tricep kick backs, any type of curling in the squat racks, leg extensions, etc in this list …
BUT … when I’m talking about box squatting — I simply mean it just plain SUCKS to do!
- Lower Weight – your ego is going to be bruised the first time you box squat and you realize you’re lifting almost 100 pounds less than your regular squat …
- No Cheating — you can’t cheat with a box squat. You go down the proper depth, and if you don’t make it off the box, everyone knows.
- No Reflex Action — you don’t get the stretch reflex to help power you out of the hole — the bottom position of the squat …
- Everything Feels Heavy — maybe I’m just talking out my ass here, but it all feels so much heavier when you box squat.
And those are just some of the reasons why it sucks to box squat. But, those are ACTUALLY …
All The Reasons Why You SHOULD Box Squat & Why It Kicks Ass!
Even though you’re going to curse yourself, the iron, the gym, strength training and whatever concept of God you believe in while you’re doing them … they’re one of the best ways to squat!
- Learn The Squat Better — it’s much easier to learn the proper squatting form with a box
- Can Be Safer – especially for novices, because you don’t use as much weight
- Faster Recovery — Louie Simmons says, “Box squats are much less taxing on the lifter, and by training at 50-60% of a 1 rep max for 10-12 sets of 2 reps, you can easily break your squat record. The muscular soreness is much less than with regular squatting.“
- Learn To Sit Back — the box teaches you how to sit back into the squat and activate your posterior chain more.
- Always Break Parallel — instead of getting higher and higher as the weights get heavier, once you have a box at parallel, you’ll always hit the correct depth if you hit the box
- Posterior Chain — the hips, glutes, lower back, and hamstrings can get more work on box squats
- Explosive Power – because you pause on the box, the stretch reflex action is nullified, and you have to unflex, then flex again to get out of the hole … this builds power.
So with all the benefits of box squatting … is there anything bad about it? Well, besides the fact that it’s hard as hell there’s some stuff you gotta watch out for.
Never Bounce Off The Box
It might be tempting to try and “help” yourself off the box, by dropping down onto it and trying to “Bounce” your way off it.
Much like bouncing a bar off your chest to help your bench press, this is a dumb f*cking idea. Whereas with the bench press, you’re probably not lifting that much and won’t break through your sternum or anything serious … if you’ve got a couple hundred pounds on your back and you drop down onto a box … even if … you don’t think you’re hurting your spine, you could be doing “micro damage” to it.
So bottom line: never bounce onto the box. (Unless, you happen to be me and one day you forget what they hell is going on for some reason and decide to drop the last 4-6 inches onto the box mid-set because you thought “I must be low enough” — seriously though — don’t do that, it’s stupid).
Always Stay Tight
Staying tight is an integral part of squatting … and … you’ll DEFINITELY learn how important it is if you box squat heavy weights!
There’s absolutely no way you can go down with a heavy load, hit the box, relax your whole body and then expect to get off the box (alive that is). You’ll learn real quick how to keep your core, upper back, arms, and everything else tight and stable for the box squat (and it’ll transfer over to your regular squats when the weights get heavy!)
Should You Box Squat If You’re Just An Athlete?
If you’re not a powerlifter, or don’t want to be … there’s actually some debate as to whether you should box squat or not. Respected strength coach Poliquen was quoted as saying:
“I never use them. With athletes, you want the most bang for your buck, the highest return, because you only have eleven weeks on average to train them during their off-season. So the choice of exercises becomes really important. The problem I have with box squats is that their application is limited to powerlifting. Essentially in the box squat, your shins don’t travel forward. Now I don’t know of any sport where the shins don’t travel forward for propulsion. So the mechanics of the box squat aren’t found in sport.”
And I like Joe DeFranco’s reply:
“Those of you that regularly read my website know that I am a big advocate of box squatting for many reasons:
I feel box squats are easier to teach than “Olympic squats”, they strengthen the often overlooked posterior chain, you can set the depth of the squat so every rep looks exactly the same, they don’t place as much stress on your knees, you can recover faster from box-squatting, etc., etc. My list of the positive benefits of box squatting can go on and on.
Now, I agree that in almost all sports the shins travel forward for propulsion, BUT, I do not feel that we have to mimic this with EVERY lower body strength training exercise. Remember that all work performed in the weightroom is GPP (unless you are a powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter). Because of this, I just try to choose exercises that help strengthen all of the muscles that are used in an athlete’s particular sport. This is how my program has evolved and it’s how I came up with my main lower body template.
For example, the reason that we almost always follow box-squatting with a quad-dominant, unilateral movement is to create “balanced” strength in the athlete. Since box-squatting emphasizes the hamstrings (because we’re sitting back and our shins are remaining somewhat perpendicular to the floor), we follow this with a quad-dominant, unilateral movement in which the athlete’s shins DO travel forward during the exercise. (This strengthens the quads to a greater degree than box-squatting. These exercises also help to keep our athletes flexible because most of them require a much larger range of motion, compared to box squatting.)
Developing this type of “balanced” strength & flexibility in the weightroom IN CONJUNCTION WITH PLAYING YOUR SPORT is what makes your strength “sport-specific”.”
In my opinion … You SHOULD Box Squat! It’ll teach you how to squat better, faster and easier … plus … you’ll be able to work your posterior chain more, which almost every athlete needs!
How To Box Squat By Westside Barbell
Here’s a couple good videos with Dave Tate from Westside to get you started box squatting:
Then there’s these two articles by the man himself, Louie Simmons. “Why You Should Box Squat” & “Box Squatting“.
Dave Tate, also from Westside and elitefts has a good article on T-nation on “Squatting from head to toe — introducing the box squat” as well. Read em all.
So what do you think of Caleb’s article? Do you do box squats? Are you going to start?