Exercises You Should Be Doing: Box Squats

In my last article, I talked about trap bar deadlifts, and why they’re such a fantastic alternative to conventional deadlifts.

Today we’re switching gears and talking about squats.

Deadlifts and squats are consistently thought of as the two best exercises known to man…and it’s hard to argue that setiment.

When it comes to building lower body strength, power, muscle, and endurance, nothing beats the squat. Not only does it work glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calfs, but it’s also great at building core strength.

And while the squat is a basic human movement pattern we’ve performed since we could learn to walk, many adults have problems performing a proper squat with any sort of depth.


What’s great about the squat is it has a lot of variations, but one of my favorites for not only teaching people proper squat form and depth, but also help build strength and power, is the box squat.


The Box Squat



One of the things I like best about the box squat is its ability to help people get the feeling of depth. There are a lot of keyboard warriors out there who cry every time someone doesn’t squat past parallel.

The reality is that if you don’t have the mobility to squat past parallel you don’t need to. Squat depth is highly individual.

Now, don’t think I’m endorsing quarter squats here; everyone should strive to hit close to parallel. And this is where the box squat comes in handy.

By giving someone a target to hit you teach them to feel what it’s like to hit proper depth. You also remove the chance of them going too low and getting stuck in the bottom of their squat.

2. Proper Technique

Another advantage of the box squat is its enforcement of proper technique. And one of the biggest flaws in many people’s technique is their inability to “sit back” in the squat, which places a lot of stress on the knees.

Thankfully, the box squat will help people get the feel of this because in order to perform the movement correctly, you’ll need to sit back to be able to touch the box.

3. Power

The box squat is excellent for teaching you to load the hamstrings and build power out of the hole. It does this by taking what’s called the stretch-shortening cycle out of the movement.

During an ordinary squat, your muscles are able to transfer force between the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (raising) portions of the movement. This elasticity allows you to bounce up out of the bottom of the squat.

With the box squat however, this doesn’t exist. Instead you’re starting the second part of the movement from a dead stop. This isolates the glutes and hamstrings, helping you learn how fire those muscles more effectively, thus leading to a stronger overall squat.

4. Less Stress on the Knees

For people with beat up knees or an injury, the box squat is a great option.

In order to reach depth in a normal squat, the knees must travel forward over the toes. With a box squat however, this movement is minimized because the shins must stay more upright in order for you to sit back and reach the box.

Coaching Cues

  • Squeeze the bar as hard as possible. Think of it as trying to bend the bar over your back. This will help create proper tightness of the upper back and chest position.
  • Brace the abs. Take in a deep breath and tighten the abs. If you’re too loose, you’ll fall forward and your squat will look more like a good morning.
  • Sit back and reach for the box.
  • Force the knees out.
  • Spread the floor with your feet.
  • When you hit the box, don’t rock back. Hold position.
  • Explode up as fast as possible, firing through the glutes and hamstrings.

Squats are a natural human movement and should be a regular part of any exercise program. If you’re new to squatting however, or have trouble with form, the box squat is a fantastic teaching tool, and can be used to improve both your squat, and overall performance. Give it a try.

Want to know what other exercises you should be doing? Send me an email.