Exercise of the Week: Box Squats

If you have been working with me this year or following along with the blog you have probably figured out that there are a solid 5 movements that I like to include in every program.  These have been and always will be squats, deadlifts, back extensions, pushes and pulls.  These do not include your stereotypical “core” exercises because each exercise requires core strength to perform and therefore you will receive a core training effect.  That is not suffice to say that you should not include them in your program and you would be a big dummy not to.

Today I wanted to get into an exercise that I myself have been getting into and working in many of my clients programs.  In a perfect world, everyone would be able to perform a perfect squat but that is far from the case.  One way I have found to help those with poor squat mechanics to improve is to add a box or a bench below to sit on before you come back up.

I have done these in the past but not on a consistent basis so I have done a bit of research for all of you as well as myself.  Whether you are an athlete, weekend warrior, gym rat, stay at home mom, powerlifter, or just someone who wants to look good nekkid, I believe you will benefit from this move.  

From a safety standpoint, box squats are much safer than squats as you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in “the hole” and if you traditional squat sucks then this may be safer for your back and knees as well.

Other benefits of box squats include:

  1. Enforce proper technique. You can’t cheat depth and you are able to sit back by moving your hips first.  Box squats also improve upon hip mobility.  The hardest part of squatting for beginners is using the proper muscles and sitting back as their hamstrings and glutes are not properly developed.  Box squats will fix that in no time whereas regular squats could take months.
  2. Develop hip power: They allow you to use more of your squatting muscles (hips, glutes, hamstring) and take much stress off of the quads.  They also cause you to start in a dead stop in the bottom position which will help you develop a strong posterior chain.
  3. Safer: Rounding your back on back squats is common.  While you can do it during box squats, it is much harder and goes away much quicker.
  4. Proper depth: You never have to guess how low your squatting because it will always be the same.  Especially for males, the more weight you add the less depth you get so by hitting the proper depth, your weight will increase and you will maintain proper form.

There are a few changes you should make if you are used to doing traditional back squats and if you have never back squatted before then pay attention because this is important.

  1. Start with the bar lower on top of your scapular spine rather than your upper traps.  This can be achieved by using a narrower grip which will pull your scapulae together.
  2. Use a wider stance than normal, outside shoulder width.  Also turn your feet slightly out 30 degrees.
  3. Chest up, eyes forward, and brace your core just like a traditional squat.

Now that you know how to stand there with a bar on your back I guess I will teach you how to actually perform the squat.  Keep in mind, your shins and knees should barely move as you want all the movement to come from your hips.  If you are not able to do this then give up, you fail.  Kidding!  But in all seriousness there could be many reasons that I have not written about yet so email me and we will talk.  Back to the descent:

  1. Lead with your hips by pushing your butt back as far as you can.  Think about sitting on a toilet.
  2. Keep your shins perpendicular by using your hips to push yourself back.
  3. Keep your knees over your toes by pushing them out.  This will save your knees from much pain.
  4. Sit on the box in a controlled manner.  You are actually going to sit, not tap, so you need to stay tight and not relax to avoid injury.
  5. Use your heels and press up on the outside of your feet to begin the ascent.  The flatter your shoes the better, I prefer barefoot but Chuck Taylors work well.
  6. Explode up to develop strength and power.

If you have been paying attention then you should be able to box squat with perfection after a few sessions.  Here are some absolute don’ts when it comes to this lift:

  1. Don’t bounce off the box.
  2. Don’t relax on the box.
  3. Don’t bring your knees forward.
  4. Don’t press off your toes.
  5. Don’t rock forward.
  6. Don’t lean forward.
  7. Don’t let your knees cave in.
  8. Don’t A.C. Slater the box. (I hope you all know what this means)

check out these videos:

Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell describes this exercise in full.  Louie started developing this exercise back in the 60’s and is still doing them today.  Nuff said.

EliteFts Box Squat here is just a video of a heavy ass box squat.

Natalie Smith box squats 270lbs, I don’t know this girl but I already like her.

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About s2bfitness

I am a Certified Health and Fitness Specialist and Strength and Conditioning Coach working out of Fitcorp in the Financial District. I have a no-nonsense approach to training and desire to provide the most up-to-date, results based, and fun training environment for my clients. I specialize in fat loss, strength training, program design, corrective exercise, and nutrition. View all posts by s2bfitness

4 responses to “Exercise of the Week: Box Squats

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