Squatting is the best exercise that you can do in the gym, other than perhaps deadlifts. It is the king of exercises and has many benefits. Increased strength and power, increased hypertrophy, the release of growth hormone and testosterone, and many more. Squats are the backbone of powerlifting, and there are very few bodybuilders who don’t have them in their routine, you’ll also see professional sportsmen and women utilising them too.
But how can you get the most out of squatting? You need a solid technique and to be able to lift a lot of weight. To do this you should squat often and concentrate on form. But performing assistance exercises can also help. In a 2009 study on British Powerlifters, 46% of participants reported using box squats alongside regular squats in their training .
The subjects described box squatting as one of the bets assistance exercises for powerlifting, alongside close-grip bench pressing and platform deadlifts. It is clear that there are benefits to adding box squats into your routine, but what are the benefits? And how do you perform them properly? In this article we will look to address both questions.
Benefits of Box Squats
The first benefit of box squats over regular barbell squats is that the box squat allows for a more vertical shin position while squatting down. This would result in less quadriceps activation and more focus on glutes and hamstrings – great for people who have a quadriceps/hamstring imbalance.
Another benefit of box squats is they require less recovery time. Dr Greg Shepard (author of the book “Bigger, Faster, Stronger”) talks about how much less impact box squats have on the legs when compared to barbell squats. Allowing his athletes to perform better vertical jumps afterwards – something that he says would be impossible with regular barbell squats .
There is also some evidence that people who add box squats into their routine can produce more power when regularly squatting than people who just stick to barbell squats.
Box squats are also the best way to introduce people to squatting in the first place. A common issue for most new squatters is an inability to keep the shins vertical, and a fear of falling that can lead to them raising their heels off the ground. Placing a box for them to squat onto can help them to squat backwards correctly and keep their heels on the floor. The reassuring presence of the box will also help with confidence issues, and may fix a lot of fear-induced bad techniques.
How to Perform Box Squats
The equipment you will need to perform a barbell box squat is a squat rack, barbell, and a plyometric box – one that is at knee height or slightly lower. Unrack the barbell as usual and walk backwards until you reach the box, place your feet slightly wider than you might usually do for a barbell squat. Your calves should be just about resting against the box.
Take a deep breath and then squat down, keeping your shins vertical and really sitting backwards. When your glutes touch the box you can begin to drive back upwards. As you do so bring your hips forward until you are fully upright. Pause and then repeat the movement. At the end you can re-rack the bar.
Unless your technique is flawless – and it almost certainly isn’t! You’ll need to supplement your sessions with box squats. They will help you fix issues such as heels rising up, not sitting back far enough, and fear of squatting low. Box squats will also help improve your power, help target hamstrings more, and help you break barbell squat plateaus. At the end of the day they will also help prevent tedium from affecting your sessions, and keep you motivated to train.