The box squat may be one of the best squat variations known to man. And no, I'm not talking about the "box squat" you've seen on Instagram where someone is haphazardly just brushing the box with their butt and going into their next rep.
I'm talking about actually breaking up the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (lifting) phases of the lift.
Usually people make one of two mistakes:
- They don't sit back at all on the box (tap-and-go reps).
- They sit back TOO far and lose spinal neutrality.
Here's a quick overview:
Reasons to Box Squat
- Because we're breaking up the eccentric and concentric phases of the lift, we're not able to use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) which stores elastic energy in the series elastic component (SEC). You've noticed that a pause squat is markedly harder than a squat with no pause, right? This presents similar challenges which alters the dynamics and loading capability of the lift.
- The box squat is safer. You're not able to use the same loading you'd be able to use for the classic squat, and that reduces spinal compression. Properly performed box squats also reduce spinal loading at S5-L1. They're safer for the knees too because the perpendicular tibial angle reduces pressure on the patellar tendons.
- Because you're not able to use the same weight that you'd use on a traditional back squat, there's less tissue breakdown, which in turn means less soreness and faster recovery. Sub-maximal loads also provide a nice counterbalance to your maximal lifting in terms of volume/intensity – instrumental in preventing overtraining.
- You're able to squat wider and use more of the agonist muscles: gluteal complex, adductors, and hamstrings. Due to our daily flexion-based postures, we tend to be anterior-chain dominant, which doesn't translate well to strong pulls and back health. By developing the posterior chain we can effectively improve lower-back health and pulling strength.
- The box height doesn't lie. Go to any commercial gym and note how many lifters' squat depth decreases as the load increases. With a box as your reference point, you aren't able to cheat. The box provides a tactile cue to ensure proper depth on each rep.
You can vary the height of the box, the position of the bar (back rack vs. front rack), and you have the ability to use accommodating resistance in the form of band or chains.