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New Box Squat- Gettin Back To The Old School

A picture of a Rogue adjustable Box Squat at Ironworks Gym in Binghamton, NY.

Hi, I’m DickFarm and I love Box Squats!

In fact, I love them so much, I decided to treat everyone to something a little more sturdy than what my dumbass can construct with 2x4s.

Isn’t it pretty?!

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know, I was once a wannabe powerlifter. In actuality, I just used the term “powerlifter” as an excuse to eat a lot of fast food.

As a powerlifter, I was exposed to Box Squats. However, I had a hell of a time getting them to have a positive carryover to my raw free squat.

Why?

Because I was doing them wrong.

The Old Way To Box Squat And Why It May Not Be The Best

Here’s how I did them and had clients perform them for a number of years.

And here’s an example with a little more weight.

What makes this wrong?

First, let me clarify. This isn’t wrong, per se. I’ve just found this style of Box Squatting to have a poor carry over to a raw free squat.

Why?

Because I’m sitting my hips so far back in an effort to keep my shins perpendicular to the ground.

Is this bad? Not necessarily. In fact, this is how it’s taught in videos made by various Westside Barbell lifters. It is the way you need to squat to maximize the performance of a squat suit.

On a side note, Laura has had success using the traditional box squat to bring up weak points. She’s used it as an accessory movement with lighter weight. However, we’ve just both found it doesn’t have as good of a carryover to a raw free squat when it’s done with heavier weight.

So then what’s a better way to use the box squat to improve your raw free squat?

The New And Improved Box Squat

The best piece of advice I ever got on how to Box Squat came from Jim Wendler. He said to squat as though the box wasn’t there.

In case you didn’t know, Jim Wendler is a genius.

It’s not until this suggestion hit me (years later unfortunately) that I really started to benefit from Box Squatting.

Here’s my take on Jim’s advice.

Now, compare it to a free squat.

See how the movements resemble one another? Does Jim’s suggestion now make sense?

Ok, now that we’ve established a better way to perform the exercise, let’s get into the benefits.

Benefit #1- You Don’t Get As Sore

Why is this good?

Because when we’re not in the gym kicking ass, many of us like to spend our time doing other things. Things like playing with our dogs and kids, playing sports, doing work around the house, or even just walking.

When you’re super sore, those things become difficult, right?

Wouldn’t you rather get strong and powerful legs with minimal impact on your every day life?

Benefit #2- You Hit Depth Consistently

Hitting a below parallel squat is a must for improved performance. In fact, it’s been proven in research.

Specifically, one study compared the effects of 3 types of squats on strength and power.

The researchers compared a below parallel Front Squat, a below parallel Back Squat, and a Quarter Squat.

All squatters followed a 2-day a week program as follows:

Weeks 1-4: 5 sets of 8-10 reps with 5 minutes rest.

Weeks 5-8: 5 sets of 6-8 reps with 5 minutes rest.

Weeks 9-10: 5 sets of 2-4 reps with 5 minutes rest.

There were 19 participants in the Quarter Squat group. 20 participants in the Front Squat group. 20 participants in the Back Squat group. 16 participants in the control group.

Here were the findings:

Front Squat- significant increases in maxes of all 3 squats. Additionally, there were significant increases in both counter-movement and paused Squat Jump.

Back Squat- same as the Front Squat results.

Quarter Squat- no significant increases in Front or Back Squat (same as control group). The only significant increase was in Quarter Squat. No significant changes in either jump tested.

Listen, this is a real quick breakdown. If you want to look into the study more, check out the reference below.

But, in a nutshell, if you want your squat to carryover to improvements in lower body strength and power, you need to be squatting below parallel.

What’s below parallel?

The crease of your hip should be below your knee. It doesn’t need to be super deep, just below parallel, according to this research.

A picture of Dickie White sitting on a box for Box Squats at a height that puts him in a slightly below parallel squat.

Obviously, squatting to a box makes it very easy to ensure you’re getting to a proper depth.

Don’t you agree?

Reference
Hartmann, H., K. Wirth, M. Klusemann, J. Dalic, C. Matuschek, D. Schmidtbleicher. Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 26(12), 3243-3261. 2012.

Benefit #3- They Are Safer

Typically when you miss a squat it’s at the bottom (although Kappler has at least one epic drop at the top).

Here’s a perfect example of how Box Squats are safer when a missed lift occurs.

If you can’t make it off the box, it’s really easy to get out from under the bar.

Benefit #4- Higher Rate of Force Development

Another research study. This is your lucky day!

Anyway, the researchers took 12 male, experienced powerlifters and had them test their 1 rep max. They all used their wide “powerlifting” style squat when testing.

The subjects were then tested a week later.

During the 2nd test, the researchers had the powerlifters perform 2 reps per style of squatting using 30%, 50%, and 70% of their max. In total, it worked out to 9 sets of squats with 2-4 minutes break in between. The rate of force development was measured on each rep.

Here are the results of the research:

Chart of Rate of Force Development of 3 types of squats, including Box Squats.

Reference
Swinton, P., R. Lloyd, J. Keogh, I. Agouris, A. Stewart. A biomechanical comparison of the traditional squat, powerlifting squat, and box squat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 26(7), 1805-1816. 2012.

Conclusion

Like I mentioned above, in the past, I’ve noticed that Box Squats didn’t really have a good carryover to my Free Squat. However, with the application of a Jim Wendler idea, I’ve had a lot more success with the 2 lifts building one another.

As a result, I’ve started to use them a lot more regularly because of some of the benefits I feel it has over the Free Squat.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the new box and Box Squatting in general?

Is it an important part of your training program or something you don’t think has helped you?

Leave a comment below with your input. Thanks!

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