Box Squats: The Why, What and How – All You Need to Know About Box Squats

Used by everyone from the world’s best athletes to absolute beginners, box squats offer something for all lifters. They’re easy to learn, you don’t need any fancy equipment, and they’re so god damn effective from the very first rep. Are you in? Here’s all you need to know about box squatting…

Article Brodown:

  • What it box squatting?
  • Why you should box squat
  • What is the benefit?
  • Are box squats bad for your knees?
  • How to box squat properly
  • Final rep – height and load

What is box squatting?

Box squatting is a variation of the squat where athletes descend glutes first onto a platform, rather than dropping down into thin air. The lifter sits backward until coming to a dead stop on the box before standing upright again.

Despite the name, box squats don’t have to be onto a box. Any kind of flat and sturdy structure will do, which is why they’re often carried out with small stools stacked with plates.

Just like the standard squat, the box variation can be loaded both anteriorly and posteriorly. Some strength coaches throw barbells across their athletes back whilst others might prefer a goblet variation.

Hell, you don’t even have to add weight if you don’t want to. So long as the lifter is sitting back onto the platform glutes first it’s legit – form depending.

Now, you might be thinking ‘why the hell not just hit a regular squat?’, but there’s method in the madness bro. Box squats have a ton of functions far beyond providing a halfway pitstop for lazy powerlifters.

powerlifter performing box squat
A not-so-lazy powerlifter training the box squat

Related article: Powerlifting Program for Novices: Boost Your Big Lifts


Why you should box squat

As already mentioned, there’s many reasons you should be box squatting. Yeah, we’re talking to you bro, because no matter who you are, box squats can change your life for the better.

Besides fixing your free squat they’re awesome for athletic development and improving raw strength. Yup, because the box squat requires you to hit a dead stop they’re better for getting you that gorilla strength in a man’s body. We’ll investigate this more in a minute.

[infobox]You should even consider crushing the box variation if you’re already a squatter. [/infobox]

It sounds stupidly obvious, but box squatting can help patch up any holes in your barbell game. Powerlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes interested in improving their power-rack performance take note.

Plus, you should totally try the box type if you’re squat-curious. Because you have a surface to support you, learning how to sit back with a barbell racked on your shoulders is much easier. Once you’ve mastered the box squat you can be let loose on the rack knowing your technique is on lockdown.

Sat on the sidelines thinking about getting back in the iron house? Box squats are awesome for re-learning your squat technique. Rather than follow the same path that put you out of the game, you can easily spot your flaws and fix them fast.

bodybuilder performing box squat 


What is the benefit?

We’ve already mentioned two benefits of box squatting. But, if you thought the bonuses ended there you need to change that bogus pre-workout, bro. Check these out…


Increased Raw Strength and Performance

According to the legendary strength coach Louie Simmons, he had over 19 members at his infamous Westside Barbell club who could squat over 1,000 lb. Guess what, bro? Every single one of them used box squats as a surefire way to build booming strength.

Because you’ve got to hit a dead stop, all the kinetic energy in your muscles is lost. Rather than stretching and bouncing like an elastic band, they must simply power up and start again. Now, consider how much harder they must work compared to a bouncing free squat and you’ll see how the box variation will make you stronger.

Also, let’s not forget you’ll be able to train more often. Due to the stretch shortening cycle cancelled out you won’t be able to bounce with a heavy weight. Consequently, because you must push a lower load you won’t be as sore post workout. Less DOMS equals faster recovery, meaning you can get back under the bar quicker. We’re all about them fast gainz, brah.

[infobox]For athletes the box squat can also be key to accelerated performance. [/infobox]

Studies have shown box squatting to be highly effective in conjuring a rate of force development compared to other variations. This is because you’re pushing without stored kinetic energy so there’s a greater need for starting strength. Think of how this kind of explosive strength can be transferred onto the football field and thank us later.

Better technique

It’s easy to throw a safety bar across your back and say you’re a squatter. All you’ve got to do it drop ass to grass, film it for Instagram, and count the likes rolling in. Yet, just going from A to B without wiping out six vertebrae doesn’t make you an instant technician.

Bro let’s be real. If there’s one key to lifting success, it’s sweating the technique. Forget what the old school rappers say, get your sh*t in order, and make sure you’re sticking around for a while. Fortunately for you the box squat is the perfect place to start.

[infobox]Firstly, you must always break parallel. [/infobox]

Rather than sort of getting half way and then bouncing back, you must meet the box at it’s set This will teach you how to fully exploit the depth of your squat by providing a physical cue.

Secondly, by starting on a box you can get your positioning just right. Rather than trying to readjust at the bottom of a free squat you can safely move your body. If you’re a beginner or trying to fix your form, you’ll find this makes learning much easier.

athlete performing box squat


Squat safety

We’re not saying the free squat isn’t safe, but it’s very easy to screw up. Box squats, on the other hand, don’t offer as many variables for things to go wrong. For example, a perpendicular shin angle puts less pressure on the knee tendons.

Plus, the added intra-abdominal pressure required to keep yourself sturdy adds more protection for the spine. If you’re new to lifting and don’t know how to properly activate your abdomen, this can be a massive advantage.

Then, of course, there’s a big ass box or stack behind you. Beginners are often sh*t scared of falling flat on their ass so overcompensate by leaning forward, putting strain on their lower back.

[infobox]With the box squat a fear of falling is almost eliminated. Newbies can therefore sit back with confidence whilst learning the basics of solid technique. [/infobox]

Related article: Deadlift or Squat: Which Is Best for Mass?


Are box squats bad for your knees?

When carried out correctly box squats aren’t bad for your knees. Hell, any kind of lower body exercise performed badly will jack up your knees. And as soon as you throw a barbell in there, you’ll destroy your knees quicker than cutting up a mafia boss during rush hour.

Fear not though, because by emphasizing a perpendicular shin, box squats do quite the opposite. By keeping the shins straight and toes pointed slightly outwards lifters can counteract twisting in the knees.

Sometimes squatters make the mistake of directing their toes too far forward. This results in the knees caving inwards on the descent, especially if the squat is loaded.

But with proper positioning of the feet, respecting the weight you’re using and keeping the shins upright you’re safe to go, bro.

[infobox]Tip: Push your knees out against a miniband during your squat to keep them in an ideal position. Then, if you’re still experiencing knee twisting, sweat the f*ck out of your technique and hire a reputable trainer. [/infobox]



How to box squat properly

Sold on making your old squat box fresh? You’re gonna need to know how to do it, bro. Follow these steps to master the box squat in minutes:

  1. Stand in front of the box, facing away from it with your feet a little wider than a standard free squat. This will help target the posterior chain more effectively and ensure a perpendicular shin
  2. Keeping your eyes facing forward, sit back into the descent. Remember to tighten up the back, core, and shoulders throughout the whole movement. Ensure the knees are pressed outwards (use a band if necessary)
  3. At this stage, your glutes should be pushing back and down towards the box. Really hone-in on this backward movement and take full advantage of the platform
  4. Land on the box slowly and under complete control. Do not drop down quickly with a jerk as this can injure your lower back
  5. Once you hit the box, slowly sit backward until upright. Your shins should now be perpendicular to the floor
  6. Relax the hips into a dead stop
  7. Now it’s time for the ascent. Lean forward slightly without creating momentum so you are set to stand. Drive through the heels, push the knees and feet out, and keep your core braced as you rise – lead with your head
  8. As you reach the summit of your squat, hit lockout and squeeze the glutes without hyperextending
  9. Repeat for the necessary number of reps

bodybuilder performing box squat technique



Final rep – Height and load

Find a box that is ideally the same height as your parallel squat or lower. If you need a taller platform stack on an Olympic style bumper plate or a series of rubber mats.

As your box squat progresses and mobility increases you can lower the height to suit. It’s all about taking things to the next level when we’re chasing gainz, bro.

Finally, it’s down to you how you load up. You could throw a trusty barbell across your delts, strap on a safety bar, or simply hold a dumbbell up front.

Just remember that whatever weight you choose, write that sh*t down, and employ progressive overload to get jacked as fwuark. Never sacrifice form for numbers, bro, but do push yourself to keep improving.

See you in the iron house!


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