Back squats are a highly effective exercise and an excellent way to strengthen the muscles of the lower body, however they don’t necessarily address certain strength and flexibility deficiencies.
Box squats can help correct these issues, and as you become stronger they should be done with straight legs, culminating in full hanging leg raises and/or toes to bar exercises.
Box squats can be a powerful tool for any strength and conditioning program when used correctly.
They are an effective accessory exercise to strengthen the muscles used for back squats or even replace them depending on the situation.
Unlike regular back squats, box squats require you to pause at the bottom of the motion and develop muscle control which is essential in injury rehabilitation and reducing one-sided muscle weakness.
Unfortunately, not many people know about this exercise or its benefits it’s important to spread awareness of box squats so that athletes and coaches can use them to optimize training performance.
What Are Box Squats?
The box squat is an effective compound exercise to use in your strength routine. It works a range of muscle groups in your body, from your core muscles to your hips, thighs and glutes.
To perform the move correctly, begin with a wide stance just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and remember to breathe deeply throughout the movement.
Keep your core tight as you unrack the barbell and sit down onto the plyometric box concentrating on keeping even weight distribution across both feet is crucial for maintaining proper form.
From here, return back up to standing position and repeat as necessary. With practice, box squats will help you develop increased coordination, balance, stability and strength overall.
How to Do a Box Squat
Proper squatting form starts with a box of the right height. The ideal box should allow for a 90 degree angle at the knees when in full squat position.
For some, this may not be possible due to mobility or injury, in which case a slightly higher box may be required.
It is essential to choose a box that allows one to squat without risking form issues or causing further injury.
Utilizing the correct box height is key to success during every squat session.
Here’s a step by step guide how to perform a Box Squat:
Step 1: Start by setting up a box, chair, or bench that is around the same height as your hip. Stand a few inches away from the box with your feet hips-width apart and your toes either pointing straight ahead or slightly out at 15 degrees.
Step 2: If you are using a barbell when doing the box squat, make sure to screw in your pinkies into the bar in order to activate your lats. Keep your core engaged and chest tall throughout the exercise.
Step 3: Take a deep breath and hinge at your hips as you bend your knees to lower yourself until your butt is touching the box.
Step 4: Once you have reached the bottom of the squat, ensure that you keep your chest tall and core tight as you sit on the box for a moment before proceeding to push off of it using all of your foot muscles in order to press yourself back up into standing position while exhaling on the way up.
Step 5: When you have finished pressing back up into standing position, squeeze your glutes but be careful not to thrust forward with your hips too much as this can cause injury.
Step 6: Once you have completed each rep, adjust how many reps you do depending on whether you are doing bodyweight squats or not. For bodyweight squats, aim for 12-16 reps while if using weights aim for 6-12 reps (or higher as weight allows) ensuring that proper form is maintained throughout each rep.
Benefits of Box Squats
Box squats offer a range of benefits for exercisers and athletes, from newbies to experienced pros. Box squats provide an effective way to target the major muscles in your lower body, helping to develop leg strength and power no matter what skill level you are at.
Newbie exercisers can improve their form with box squats, as they can help you learn proper squatting technique.
Meanwhile, advanced athletes can use box squats to increase the challenge of their workouts and build further strength gains.
There are a few reasons why box squats can be a good addition to your leg day program listed below:
Utilize Your Entire Lower Body
The box squat is a compound exercise that provides an array of benefits to your entire body, while also engaging several muscles at once.
Targeted areas include the hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves and core. If you opt to add weights held in front or behind you such as a barbell back squat or goblet squat your upper body will be worked too.
Build up the hamstrings and glutes
Box squats are an indicative exercise to reduce dependence on the quad muscles.
With a box squat, performers are looking to move their hips back towards the box while achieving a deeper squat that recruits more hamstrings and glutes than standard squats.
This strategically orientates the center of gravity further back which contacts the posterior chain including glutes and hamstrings more significantly in order to distribute the load efficiently.
Increase Your Squat Depth Awareness
Deep squatting is an important technique for any weightlifting enthusiast, yet many beginners may not understand how deep they should be squatting.
Fortunately, box squats are a great way to teach lifters about depths and enable them to receive feedback without the help of a coach.
With this aid, newcomers can become more confident in their squat movements and gain improved control overall.
Work Your Posterior Chain
Box squats are an effective exercise to work your posterior chain.
Working the posterior chain can help you achieve a complete lower body workout, as it will target muscles such as your hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, hip flexors, and lower back.
By extending your lower body backwards during a box squat unique compared to traditional squats, you can activate all these muscles at once in order to maximize their potential.
Box Squat Variations
If you want to switch up your box squat exercises, think about trying one of these:
Low box squat
The low box squat is an advanced variation of the regular squat that requires a greater range of motion in the knees.
It involves placing a box or other object significantly lower than usual and then using proper form to squat down until the thighs are parallel with the surface of the box.
As this exercise can be relatively demanding, it is important to start out with a lower weight and gradually increase as comfort and strength grow.
This movement will not only challenge seasoned athletes but also help build muscles, improve balance and stability, and even assist in rehabilitation.
Bodyweight box squat
The bodyweight box squat is an effective, low impact exercise ideal for those who are new to weightlifting and looking to strengthen the lower body.
Without a barbell, it is simpler to learn proper form and execution of the movement, increasing strength in the glutes, hamstrings, and quads while promoting healthy core engagement.
This exercise can be scaled as needed by adjusting the height of the box or performing a single leg variation to further challenge your balance and stability.
Dumbbell box squat
The dumbbell box squat is a great variation of the squat exercise for those just starting out. It replaces the traditional barbell squating by utilizing a pair of dumbbells instead.
To perform it, you stand with both dumbbells in your hands at your sides and lower yourself onto a box until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
This beginner-level movement will help build your strength and engage key muscles in the lower body like your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Common Box Squat Mistakes
The box squat is a great way to make your regular barbell squat easier and help you build the confidence you need for it.
By placing a bench or box behind you in the right position and depth, it allows you to be able to do a squat movement with correct form, helping you identify what is a good bottom range of motion that works for your own body type.
While this move can have its many benefits, some of the common mistakes made are either not using proper form or not going deep enough when necessary.
Here are a few typical mistakes we encounter with this move:
The wrong depth
To maximize the effectiveness of your workout, it is important to sink down to a low box while performing exercises that target range of motion.
If the intended box is too low for your current range of motion, start at a higher box and work your way down to reach the desired depth, allowing time for your body to adapt as you progress.
Remember, sinking down lower than your current range of motion not only helps increase flexibility but also works wonders in building strength during your exertions.
Taking a pause at the bottom of every box squat is a critical technique to ensuring maximal tension and safety when lifting.
It is important to stay mindful to avoid fully sitting on the box, as this will lead to an elimination of any momentum gathered by hydraulically sinking in order to perform the squat.
Taking too long of a pause can be dangerous and can interfere with proper form due to compressive force placed on your spine.
Lack of Pause
Pausing at the bottom of your box squat is an important component for maximizing its benefits.
Not only can this give you more mental confidence in deeper ranges of motion, but it has a significant impact on building max strength.
Pausing for a beat allows you to avoid bouncing off the box and reset your muscular connection with the weight to ensure the greatest amount safety and output.