Have you ever done this? Have you squatted and sat back onto a box before? Do you have any particular reason as to why you were doing that? Perhaps you saw it somewhere, maybe someone told you to. Well, here at NBS we have many people who box squat, and a variety of reasons for doing so. Let me start by saying that there is a difference between squatting to a box, and box squatting. I’m going to elaborate on this a bit more as we progress through this discussion. I’m going to approach this concept and explain it from a standpoint that is applicable to a person that is still somewhat fresh to squatting correctly, and is still working to correctly load, and strengthen up there hips. However, box squatting is not limited to just this group. Even the most elite squatters still use a box to train the movement.
To list some of the reasons why we here at NBS box squat, or why I may have some of my clients box squat is to reach proper depth depending on what that particular persons hips will allow at that time, to get a better feeling of loading weight and tension in your hips, to strengthen your hips, to be able to maintain core stability at the bottom of the squat movement, as well as at the reversal of direction in this movement. In addition to these, we sometimes even want to set the box to a height that will purposefully bring us below parallel. Box squatting is a really great movement to get a person in a far better position to be able to hip hinge. If you aren’t entirely sure what I mean by hip hinging, then please refer back to my last article.
To touch on what I mentioned earlier about there being a difference in squatting to a box, and box squatting. What I was saying is that if you are squatting and you have a box behind you and you are just plopping onto the box, and basically falling onto it loosely, or bouncing off of it with momentum, then you are not utilizing the box for squatting in the correct way. If you are completely relaxing onto the box, loosing intra-abdominal pressure, and having excessive rounding in your lower, and mid back, how is that going to have any carryover at all to squatting without a box? How well do you think you will do getting back up from a near max effort squat when you completely relax at the “bottom of the hole?” What is most peoples natural reaction when they sit down? They want to relax, however relaxing with 600lbs on your back may not be the best idea you’ve ever had. One thing that I see very often is that when the weight gets heavier, people want to cut their depth higher and higher. Well, if you are squatting down completely to the box, this cant happen. If the weight gets heavier and you are just floating above the box, you might as well not even have it under you because you aren’t even using it.
How do we fix this? Training yourself to properly maintain stability throughout your entire body, even while sitting back onto that box. If you spend all of that time and effort before you unrack the bar trying to build up tension and tightness, then why would you want to lose it at one of the most crucial points of that movement. Do not fall victim to this common mistake. If you find yourself completely collapsing and loosening at the touch of the box, or at the last 2 to 3 inches of the movement you may need to raise the box up a bit because it is too low for your body to allow it to get down to it in the proper position, or perhaps it is due to something as simple as you leg/foot positioning. You may need t bring your stance in. Another mistake could be that you are descending to the box entirely too fast, hitting the box with too high of an impact to maintain tightness, and are using the momentum of a bounce to get back up. Do not do this. You don’t want to fall into a normal squat without a box, so don’t do it with one behind you.
Using a box to squat on is a very effective progressive method for beginners because of all of these reasons stated. It will teach you to use your hips, all while strengthening them. It will teach you hip hinging. It will bring you to proper depth, and will get you accustomed to what that feels like. It will teach you to maintain stability, and core tightness throughout the entire movement. Why wouldn’t you want to start a beginner out with a box? Beginners tend to have a hard time with their knees shooting foreword in the squat to the lack of ability to hip hinge, but box squatting is a great solution to this problem.
One thing I want to touch on very quickly about box squatting is rocking back after you sit onto the box, and then rocking foreword to drive off of the box. This is definitely not a technique that I would use for any of my clients, nor would I suggest it to anyone who is box squatting. Some people do this in an effort to slightly release tension off their heels, then rock foreword and drive forcefully back into their heels to increase drive off of the box. Some people may have other reasons for doing this, but I would not advise it as a part of this movement. It isn’t possible to do this in a free squat, so don’t do it on a box.
If you are having issues with your regular squat, then you may need to add a box into the equation. If you choose to do so, just make sure that you are executing it properly, otherwise you are doing yourself no good. Box squats are typically done with a much wider stance to really use the hips, although this is not always the case, and the emphasis should always be on pushing the hips back and the knees out. It should be as if you are spreading the floor apart by twisting your feet into the ground and away from each other. Feel free to ask any of the trainers here, and myself included if you are performing the movement correctly. Just remember that you can get by doing just about anything incorrectly with light enough weights, but as they get heavier, your mistakes will become more and more clear. Some of the strongest squatters in the world use a box to squat, just ask Louie Simmons. I hope this helps all of you better understand the reasons for using a box to squat, and how you should be doing them.
Here is a video of myself during my last training cycle doing some box squats. This video probably isn’t the best example to share because this particular bar bends me over pretty good, but you get the idea here about how your hips should be moving, and the position of everything else.