An executive variant of the squat is the box squat, in which there is a “box” touched with the buttocks, on which a stop can be made.
So let’s see the correct execution, the muscles involved, and how you can insert it in your training schedule in the gym or on the day in which leg training is contemplated, even in the case of bodybuilding.
What Is The Box Squat?
The box squat is an exercise practiced in various contexts: in the weight room, in powerlifting, bodybuilding, and also in the clinical-rehabilitation field, performed by sitting down or touching support (a box, a step, discs). It is based on the movement of the squat and can have different functions:
- Preparatory exercise: as the first approach to squat movements.
- Corrective exercise: technical defects in the arrival and exit from the hole (the lower part of the squat).
- Executive variant: on specific days in powerlifting or athletic training.
It is a complex multi-joint exercise useful for developing muscle mass, strength, and toning your body; it is often used in the athletic training of many sports.
Initially, the box squat is performed with light loads (free body, dumbbells, kettlebells) that allow you to effectively learn the motor gesture, maintaining optimal execution.
The repetition of the box squat and an effective training program makes it possible to manage ever greater loads, achieving extraordinary athletic performance, this presupposes the knowledge and implementation of a correct execution technique.
Box Squat: Correct Execution, Technique And Tutorial
To perform the box squat correctly there are two modes with different objectives.
- Departure: from the standing position so as to feel the whole weight of the body on the center of the foot, fixing a point in front of you to maintain a neutral position of the head. Inhale trying to inflate the belly to increase the stability of the trunk and the whole body.
- Begin the descent: flex your hips, knees, and ankles at the same time, maintaining the physiological curves of the spine until you reach the box.
- Important: do not lose the lumbar or do not hunch down on the descent, be master of the load.
- When low: on the box keep muscle tension, do not put weight on the box by letting go.
- Climb: push your feet progressively against the floor, as if you want to move it away from you, without closing your knees inwards and without “running away” from the box, remember that shoulders and pelvis go up at the same time. Back in the starting position, exhale, and repeat.
You can perform the box squat by sitting fully on the box while maintaining tension on the core and unloading the weight on the box. The execution is identical to the first mode, except in the hole.
In both modes it is possible to make a stop at the bottom of variable duration, as well as to go up again as soon as you touch the block, this depends on the reason for which you perform the exercise.
Box Squat Height
Before performing the box squat make sure that the box is stable, positioned behind you, and that it does not hinder the execution of the exercise.
The height of the box depends on two factors:
- If this is your first time doing a box squat and you are unfamiliar with squatting, a high (over parallel) box is recommended.
- If you know the correct movement pattern of the squat, choose a low box (parallel or below).
Common Mistakes In Box Squats
The most common mistakes when performing the box squat are mainly 4:
- Wrong height for the subject: the height must allow an optimal and correct execution, do not be in a hurry to get to a certain depth immediately.
- Loss of muscle tension on the box: sitting by deactivating the muscles of the lower limbs creates problems in the ascent phase when the load used is consistent.
- Not maintaining physiological curves during movement.
Use the box as a source of ” momentum ” for the ascent by making a small bounce on it.
- Losing the correct trajectory of the lift by unbalancing yourself forward or backward during the movement.
Muscles Involved In The Box Squat
With the box squat you train all the muscles of the lower limbs, as well as obviously the stabilizer muscles:
- abdominal muscles;
- erectors of the spine.
Benefits Of The Box Squat
The box squat has different benefits based on the context in which it is used:
Preparation for the squatting movement in the novice – beginner: using a box gradually lower over time, up to at least the parallel, possibly trying to get even below the parallel, allows you to learn the squatting movement without the “fear of falling” by means of a fixed reference that makes the depth to be reached “objective”.
Technical improvement: in subjects who squat but do not perform the movement correctly, the use of a box helps to gradually correct the motor pattern, gradually reaching the suitable depth in the optimal position, both during the descent and the ascent.
Athletic preparation: by performing the box squat sitting on the box you train explosive strength since you start from a position with less muscle tension and to get back up you have to quickly reactivate the affected muscles. This second method of execution allows inhibiting the stretch reflex, expressing “ pure strength ” in the ascent phase.
Powerlifting: in this sport, it represents a real aid in the execution of the barbell squat. The box forces the athlete to tilt the torso more forward and to actively use the hamstrings and in general the whole rear kinetic chain. Furthermore, the box represents a reference to the depth in the hole.
It can be inserted in a training program in light sessions, to obtain positive feedback and transfer them to heavy sessions where there is no box, such as in maximum tests or in competitions.
Box Squat With The Barbell
The execution of this variant is that of a classic squat. We will then follow the points listed in the paragraph regarding correct execution. An important note concerns the fact that it is good to challenge so firmly in the rocker arm, which results in having a back more compact and contracted during movement.
How high or low to hold the bar is subjective, the advice is to position it so that it creates a few problems as possible in the elbows, wrists, and shoulders.
An ideal comfortable height is generally the one above the acromion. The important thing is not to have a very wide grip and the elbows “shifted up”, as this does not create the conditions for the back to be compact under load.
The goal is to have the shoulder blades close and depressed, the chest open, and the elbows parallel to the torso with a grip on the barbell slightly wider than the shoulders, clearly everyone has a different setup, but this type of position will make the back compact and strong during the lift. A clever trick mentioned is to use a grip in which the thumb wraps the bar in case of pain in the elbows.
Box Squat With Dumbbell
If you choose to perform the box squat using the dumbbells, three modes are recommended:
- Holding one dumbbell on each side near the shoulders (as the starting position for overhead thrusts).
- With only one dumbbell held between the legs with the arms extended.
- Goblet squat: in which the dumbbell is held near the chin with both hands.
The advice is to prefer the barbell execution, as it is more comfortable and effective in terms of transfer on the movement of the squat, it also allows the use of greater loads
Box Squat Variations
Single Leg Box Squat
This variant could make sense to perform it if you do not have overloads, actually going to perform a pistol squat with a reference box. The problems in this variant are 2:
- Lack of major overload.
- Balance: it limits the possibility of working with high intensities, we could use support to overcome this, but the first point would remain present.
Box Squat with Kettlebell
In this mode there are three options, which are the same as the variants with dumbbells:
- Perform a goblet squat: using a single kettlebell.
- Use two kettlebells, one in each hand, keeping them at shoulder level (as the starting position for overhead thrusts).
- Goblet squat: in which the dumbbell or kettlebell is held near the chin with both hands.
The limit, for both variants, of the fact that they are quite uncomfortable positions, in which you will be limited in terms of usable load, persists. In the case of beginners and novices, it can still be a first approach to the squat movement, especially when you do not have a barbell available or the subject is very weak, but still wants to use a load.
Bodyweight Box Squat
This variant can be used in people who are totally untrained and/or with low awareness of their own body, as well as in the elderly and children.
It is a first approach to the motor pattern of the squat, which is then gradually followed by the use of a gradually greater overload.
Box Squat with Resistance Bands
In the absence of external overload you can use an elastic band to provide, even if minimal, an overload using it as if we were doing a goblet squat: one end between the hands and the other under the feet.
The advice if we do not have dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, and discs is rather to use a backpack filled with heavy objects, working on isometric failure if we are forced to work with more than 15 repetitions.
Box Squat In Bodybuilding
The bodybuilder has as its aim the increase in lean mass and definition muscle, maintaining harmony and proportions according to certain aesthetic standards.
You can insert the box squat as a preparatory technique to learn/reset the correct squat movement, as well as use it as a real variant in programming at medium rep ranges (6-8) for example, in which we go to perform a stop at the bottom with the reference of the box to be sure to get in the hole at the desired level.
Being a squat exercise it certainly provides an excellent stimulus to the lower limbs and certainly has a lot of versatility in terms of muscle focus: for example, we could perform a box squat in a ” quad dominant ” version, therefore more vertical and with a focus on the quadriceps.
With a movement in which the hip prevails over that of the knee to involve more glutes and hamstrings together with the quadriceps. There are many variants and logic that can be implemented.
Box Squat Training
What loads and intensities to use?
The load is a specific context, it also depends a lot on the execution time chosen in terms of the cadence with which each repetition is performed, therefore not only on the rep range chosen. Thinking about these 3 points will help you choose the right load:
- Load: A lightweight will hardly give you the impression that you are actually lifting something heavy and will cause you to perceive fewer technical errors.
- If you are a beginner or novice: it is okay to start with a light load, once you understand the logic of movement, the first week, for example, then start using a load with which you feel you are lifting something heavy. It makes sense to work at medium rep ranges to repeat the gesture several times within the series: a range that can go from 8 to 10 repetitions.
- If you are intermediate and know the movement, but you need to correct technical defects, taking a step back and decreasing the weight to correct the defects is fine, as long as you use a load that makes the series perceived as training: a range that ranges from 5- 6 to 8 repetitions.
How many reps to do?
Hypothetically you can run a serial number ranging from 4 to 10 weekly on this variant, based on the level of the subject. Let’s see some examples:
- The intermediate-advanced person who uses the lift for technical purposes to correct technical deficiencies: 4-5 series in a day of squat in a ” heavy ” session, 4-5 series of box squats in the ” light-technical ” session.
- Beginner novice subject who performs the exercise to learn the squat movement: 4 series in a ” heavy ” day of box squats without bottom stop, 4 series in a ” light technical ” day in which he performs the same exercise, but with a stop lower and slower climb.
These are just suggestions of how we can adapt the work on this exercise according to the context.
Alternatives To The Box Squat
The alternative to this movement that involves the same muscles and the motor pattern is the squat with the use of pins (the protective sidebars of the rack) instead of the box as a reference.
The sensation is different and by touching the pins with the barbell the risk, if we are not masters of the movement, is to lose tension on the lower limbs ” resting ” the barbell on the lateral supports and lose the correct trajectory in the next ascent phase.
If you perform the box squat to learn how to go down to the right depth and correct any defects in the hole, the advice is to use the classic variant of the box squat with a barbell.
In conclusion, given this general overview regarding correct execution and possible variants of the box squat, with advice regarding its insertion and contextualization in the training.
You now have an overview that will help you use this exercise with logic and rationality, aware that it is not a necessary exercise, but it may have great use in different contexts: aesthetic and estimates.