Written by Pete Crawshaw
The Barbell Box Squat
It is well established that the squat is one of the single best exercises you can perform. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle or to improve strength and fitness the squat can play a pivotal role in your training plans.
There are many variations on the back squat and arguably the most effective of those variations is the box squat. The box squat is a pillar of the strength training community and is thankfully making its way into more mainstream gyms and I recommend it as something you should look at incorporating into your own workouts.
Benefits Of The Box Squat
1. Ensures Correct Squat Technique
One of the most common mistakes when attempting the back squat is to initiate the movement using the knees rather than the hips. The box squat eliminates this by forcing the hips back and down under control to meet the box at a predetermined height. This also fully eliminates the tendency to squat to a shallow depth as the weight increases meaning no more half squats.
2. Build More Power
The barbell box squat is a fundamental of building squat strength. Sitting on the box prevents the use of the ‘bounce’ to move heavy weights and therefore creates much more power development out of the hole. In the back-squat, tension is built in the muscles enabling an almost elastic effect at the base of the squat. The barbell box squat removes this ‘bounce’ by breaking the eccentric-concentric movement and forces the generation of force from the base of the squat. If you can box squat heavy, then you can squat heavy when the box is removed.
The barbell box also requires greater development of the posterior chain due to the perpendicular shin position (see Form) so if you are squatting to increase the size of your glutes then this could be the very exercise you have been looking for.
The thought of loading a large weight onto your back and squatting it can hold a lot of fear for many people. To bail out of a back squat is a skill and something which I recommend practicing. The box squat eliminates the need to bail out. If you fail a box squat you are sat in a much safer position and under much less pressure than during a back squat. The box squat also requires you to lift a lighter weight and therefore the very need to bail out at the bottom position is less likely to occur.
The Perfect Form
One of the main benefits of the box squat is that it enforces proper form therefore setting the box correctly is the priority.
Test and adjust different boxes, benches or even stacks of 20kg plates to make your ‘box’ the correct height for your desired squat depending on your personal mobility.
Once the box is at the set height and in position then approach the bar and unrack as you would for a back squat.
Pull the bar tight into the back almost trying to bend it around your shoulders and take up a slightly wider stance than normal in front of your box. As you prepare to squat create tension in the lower body by screwing the feet into the floor.
1) Take a deep breath and hold to keep your midsection tight. This will support the lower back throughout the movement.
2) Open the hips forcing the knees out to the side and push the glutes to the rear. As you sit back under control keep the chest high.
3) Sit onto the box, do not bounce off the box, do not drop to the box and do not perform a ‘touch and go’.
4) When sitting on the box, the shins should be at least vertical if not at a slightly negative angle to fully recruit the posterior chain. The action of fully sitting on the box breaks the movement into two very distinct parts.
5) To initiate the lift, take another deep breath in, once again screw the feet into the floor and squeeze the bar tightly into your traps. Now drive yourself upwards keeping the chest high and forcing the hips forward flexing the glutes to return to the standing position.
Barbell Box Squat Workout
10-minute general warm up of your choice
Specific warm up of:
3 sets of 10 bodyweight squats
3 sets of 10 goblet squats
3 sets of 10 walking lunges
6 sets of 2 reps Barbell Box Squat (at 80% of 1 rep max Back Squat)
5 sets of 10 reps Barbell Back Squat (at 50% of 1 rep max)
5 sets of 10 reps Straight leg deadlift
10 mins cool down and mobility work.