Box Squat

Exercise Name:
Name: Box Squat
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Glutes
Secondary: Calves, Hamstrings, Hip Adductors, Quadriceps, Spinal Erectors
Classification:
Function: Strength, Explosiveness
Mechanics: Compound
Force: Push
Equipment:
Main: Barbell
Ancillary: Box, Power Rack
Optional: Knee Wraps, Weight Lifting Belt
Guidelines:
Experience: Intermediate
Rep Range: 3-12
Training Tempo: 2 – 1 – X – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: High Box Squat, Low Box Squat
Alternatives: Squat with Chains, Band Squat, Reverse Band Squat

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Get into position in front of the box and proceed to get underneath the bar.
  • Use the low bar squat position (bar on trapezius, across top of rear deltoids)
  • Push chest up/out and bring shoulder blades together.
  • Pull elbows down and tense upper back.
  • Unrack bar and assume a wide stance with toes pointed out.
  • Arch lower back and extend/arch thorachic spine (upper back).
  • Keep head inline with spine to avoid hyperextending neck; look diagonally downward, ahead.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex hips and knees to squat down until butt is firmly seated on box.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause on the seat for about 1 second.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend hips and knees to squat up until standing upright with hips/knees fully locked.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the box squat motion for the remaining reps in your set.
  • The box squat is highly effective in the 3-12 rep range; 8+ is best when just learning the technique.

Common Box Squat Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Relaxing muscles when seated When seated, you should keep nearly all of your muscles tight, especially your abs/core. The one exception is that you should relax your hip flexors, as I explain in tip #4.
Plopping onto box Lower your body in slow and controlled motion, so that you gently sit down onto the box. Plopping your rear down on the seat is dangerous is dangerous for your spine. If you can’t sit down without dropping onto the box, then you need to reduce the load and/or increase the box height.
Swinging torso forward for momentum When seated, drive your hips up by squeezing your glutes hard and pushing through the sides of your feet. Swinging your torso forward to generate momenum is considered cheating.
Box height too low As mentioned in error #2, you can tell that the box height is likely too short if you have to plop down into the seated position. If this is the case, then simply get a taller box, or stack a plate or two atop the box.
Lower back rounded A rounded lower back is dangerous on any squat movement. It is doubly dangerous on the box squat if you plop onto the seat with the lower back in a vulnerable, rounded position. So, be sure to maintain a strong arch in your lower back. Flex your abs hard by pushing them out while using the Valsalva maneuver to breathe.
Leaning torso forward While the low bar position will naturally make your torso to lean forward somewhat, it should be as minimal as possible. Negate excessive leaning by keeping your chest up while squeezing the shoulder blades together. And maintain an arched thoracic spine (upper back).
Stance too narrow Your stance should be noticably wider than shoulder width. If you go too narrow, that causes all kinds of problems with your form (e.g. knees go forward or buckle, torso leans forward, balance suffers). Conversely, your stance should not be so wide that it becomes a sumo stance.
Knees buckled in Keep your knees pushed out. See tip #1 for more on this crucial point.

Box Squat Tips

  1. Push your knees out to the side by bringing your hip adductors (inner thighs) into play. This is essntial for proper glute activation and balance. You should be conciously forcing your knees out as you squat up and down, and when you’re on the seat. Remember to re-initiate this at the beginning of each rep.
  2. “Grip” the floor by curling your toes into the floor and pushing through outsides of your feet to provide balance as you lower yourself onto the seat.
  3. Push hips back to sit back/down into the squat. Don’t just lower your hips downward, as this will bring your knees forward and throw off your balance.
  4. Keep your body tense when seated on the box – except for your hip flexors, which you should relax, because this allows you to separate the eccentric and concentric chain of movement. However, if you can’t relax your hip flexors without also relaxing your abs, then don’t try to.
  5. Implement the Valsalva maneuver breathing technique. It gives you a strength boost, guards against lower back injury, and enhances overall balance and stability.
  6. Squat up as fast as you can without losing control of breaking form. After all, this is movement is designed to train explosiveness.
  7. Drive through your heels while squeezing your glutes to drive your hips up and off the box.
  8. Chest and hips should rise at the same rate as you squat off the box. If the hips rise faster, your torso will start bending/leaning forward.
  9. The box should be the right height for the depth that you’ll be squatting. This may require you to be creative to change the heights by putting weights underneath or atop the box to increase its height. There are three types of box squat depths:
    • Parallel (recommended/taught in this tutorial): The top of your knees should be aligned with the crease of your hips. If only your thighs are parallel to the floor (which is considered parallel on regular squats), the box is still too high.
    • Low: The box height for low box squats can be as much below parallel as desired, so long as you don’t have to “rock” your body to squat up. The box is too low if you have to “plop” yourself down in order to sit.
    • High: A high box height is useful for improving the sticking points above parallel. So, the box height for high box squats should be set so that you’re only about 1-3 inches above parallel when seated.
  10. Shins perpendicular/behind perpendicular vs. past perpendicular: There’s a debate about what the angle of your shins (relative to the floor) should be when seated. There are two schools of thoughts, both of which are valid, depending on your goal/preference.
    • Perpendicular or behind perpendicular (knees behind heels): This is the way to go if you’re a Westside-inspired powerlifter; someone who needs to train with a very wide squat stance and push the hips back very far in order to maximize squat numbers for competition where suits are used.
    • Shins past perpendicular (i.e. knees over mid-foot or toes): This is the way to go if you’re an athlete or a non-powerlifting weight trainee; someone who trains with conventional squats.
      • If this is you, the box squat motion should (for the most part) resemble the motion of a conventional low bar squat. That said, you still have to use a relatively wide stance and sit back into the squat; just not to the extent that Westside guys do.
  11. Keep your knees behind your toes when squatting up or down.
  12. Don’t have a box? Use a bench. Although not ideal, a bench can be an effective alternative piece of equipment. You simply squat down onto one of the ends of a flat bench. Just make sure it’s an appropriate height for you, and that it’s stable so it doesn’t tip down under the load.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

This exercise is best for intermediate/advanced weight trainees and (especially) powerlifters who want to:

  • Increase explosiveness and speed out of the hole.
  • Reinforce a given squat depth/range of motion.
  • Train the legs intensely with a significantly reduced spinal compression (due to a lighter load) compared to conventional squats.

It may be necessary to avoid the box squat if you have lower back or knee issues that inhibit your performance.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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