Muscles worked, benefits and how
The squat is the go-to lower body exercise for many people who lift weights. It involves stabilizing your core and using the power of your leg muscles to move the weight. There are many variations of the movement to emphasize different goals.
The box squat is one such variation. It was popularized in powerlifting circles and was used by many weight lifters.
Controlling the lowering phase of the movement can be a great option when focusing on eccentric muscle work.
Conversely, the weightlifter can work on explosiveness during the concentric or lifting phase of the movement.
Box squats can add variety to your lift or help you focus on different aspects of the squat movement. This can help improve your standard barbell squat ability, especially if you’re hitting a workout plateau.
If the box squat is something you want to try, it’s important to know what it is, how to perform it, and the benefits you can get from it.
The box squat is exactly like a standard squat, except there is a dedicated pause at the bottom of the movement. This involves using a knee-high box that allows you to lower yourself until your thighs are relatively parallel to the ground.
The box squat generally involves a more upright shin position than a traditional squat. Also, the core is usually straighter than in the traditional squat and you stand with a wider stance. This positioning emphasizes the hip extensors during both phases of the movement.
The lift requires a squat rack and a plyometric box or bench at the appropriate height. The height of the box should allow your thighs to be parallel to the floor when seated.
Place a plyometric box about 3 feet behind the squat rack. This allows enough distance for you to squat comfortably without the barbell hitting the rack.
Also, start with the barbell or a very light weight to practice good form. This movement uses less weight than the regular squat.
Next, get under the bar and position yourself so that the bar is on your upper back (not directly on your neck). You will feel like the bar is on the natural shelf made by your shoulders. Place your feet wider than shoulder width. Take the weight off and step back so the box is right behind your feet.
Keep your core tight and your feet wide with slightly pointed toes. Unlock your hips to sit up, then bend your knees as you lower your body back to the box with good control. Keep your weight (center of mass) above your feet and lower until you are seated.
Remember to spread your knees slightly apart when lowering to keep them aligned with your feet. Some lifters refer to this as screwing your feet into the ground. This ensures that your knees will not collapse as you bend down and rise, which will put excessive pressure on your knees.
Allow yourself to sit on the box for a count of 1 to 2, but keep your core high and active to continue supporting the weight.
Next, lean forward slightly at your hips as you drive up, squeezing your glutes and hamstrings to lift yourself up. Return to an upright position.
Perform 6-12 reps for 3-4 sets.
The height of the box you use will depend on your height and the length of your legs. Select a box height that allows your thighs to be nearly parallel to the floor when seated.
The height of the box will also help you modify or progress the exercise. Use a taller box to make the exercise easier or a shorter box to add more difficulty. A higher box reduces joint range of motion, while a lower box increases it.
However, it is important to know that the joints also have more force on them the further down you go (
More joint strength isn’t always a bad thing. However, if you feel pain, it is advisable to select a higher box. If you also have pain with other squat movements or when using a higher box, it would be a good idea to consult a medical professional before working on this movement.
The box squat targets the gluteal muscles of the buttocks. However, the hamstrings, quadriceps (front of the thigh), and front muscles of the shin also work to perform the movement.
Your core muscles in the abdomen and back extensors stabilize your core during the movement. This keeps your spine neutral during movement to prevent back injury.
Hip abductors also work to stabilize the hips and knees during movement. This decreases excessive torque at the knees when lowering and raising. Put simply, it keeps your knees from collapsing as you lower and raise during the squat.
The box squat allows you to focus on the concentric (upward pressing) and eccentric (lowering) portions of the squat separately. It also helps slow down your movements and helps you refine and control the full range of motion.
The box squat emphasizes your gluteal and back extensor muscles as well as the rest of the posterior chain muscles.
Finally, the box squat may be easier on the knees given the pause in the middle of the movement. The angles are different at the knee joint and may be easier to tolerate than a standard squat.
The box squat is a variation of the standard squat. Nevertheless, you can make some variations to it that can add variety to this movement. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.
You can always replace one or two of your sets with these variations that target the muscle in different ways.
Note that these variations are more difficult and therefore are usually performed as bodyweight exercises.
One leg box squat
The single-leg box squat is performed like a typical box squat. This version is more difficult and is usually done without using weights. This challenges hip stability much more. The goal is to keep the hips level as you descend and ascend (
Also, keep the knee aligned with the foot when going up and down. You can verify this by performing the exercise in front of a mirror.
Stand in front of the box, facing it, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to one leg and lift the other foot slightly off the floor.
Bend your hips back and slowly lower back to the bench. Your leg in the air will move in front of you as you lower. Remember to keep your pelvis level when descending.
Pause for a count of 1-2. Then lean forward slightly at the hips as you return to a standing position. Keep the leg in the air in front of you throughout the movement.
If you have difficulty controlling the movement, you can reach your hands in front of you to keep your center of gravity forward.
Perform 2-3 sets of 4-8 reps on each leg.
box squat jumps
The box squat jump is a more dynamic movement than the box squat. Instead of just going up with force, you add the ballistic nature to the top. This is usually done without weights, but can be done with a weighted vest. Just keep the weight light.
The emphasis is on jumping in this version. So good form and mechanics are essential.
Start and perform as you would the regular box squat. However, after sitting down and taking a break, continue driving yourself up adding a jump at the end. Pause for a 1-2 count after the jump, then perform another rep.
Perform 4-8 reps for 3 sets.
Box squats are good for adding variety to a workout if your lower body routine has become stale or if you want to vary the squat exercise.
They are also good for helping to get past a plateau in your squats. If you can’t add weight to your squats, try adding this movement. Building momentum from the regular squat means you’ll have to work harder on the rising phase of the movement.
People who have difficulty performing a regular squat may be able to do box squats because they require a longer break between sitting and standing.
What is the difference between a box squat and a normal squat?
The box squat uses a sitting pause between the lowering and rising phases of a squat.
Does a box squat ‘cheat’?
No. The box squat removes momentum from the rebound at the lowest point of the squat. This can be more difficult as it requires more control.
Is the box squat easier or more difficult than normal squats?
Box squats tend to be more difficult than a standard squat. They suppress momentum, which increases the challenge.
What equipment can be used in a box squat?
Typically, people use a plyometric box, but you can definitely use a weight bench, chair, or coffee table. Any surface strong enough to support your body weight, plus any extra weight you are holding, will work.
The box squat is a great way to add variety to your workout and help you break a plateau in your standard squat routine.