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Training with the Box Squat

Most people are well aware of the benefits of the normal standard squat but very few even know about the Box Squat.

Paul is a professional personal trainer specialising in strength conditioning and muscle hypertrophy techniques. His clients range from professional athletes and competitive bodybuilders to leading business men. As for himself, Paul has competed, and won, at several regional and national level natural bodybuilding events across the UK.

Why train with the Box Squat

Most people are well aware of the benefits of the normal standard squat but very few even know about the Box Squat. The box squat gets it name for the simple reason that a person basically squats down until they are sitting on a box (which can be anything from a pile of mats or some aerobics steps to a conventional powerlifting type box). Once the lifter is sat on the box they then flex off the box into the standing position.

There are many advantages to the box squats such as :

  • Enhanced Recovery box squats do not fatigue the body anywhere near as much as conventional squats, this means that people can even do them twice a week or for competitive athletes it means they can do them without experiencing unwanted soreness which could affect performance days later.

  • Overload of the key squatting muscles - It is generally accepted that you should keep your shins perpendicular to the floor when squatting. With box squatting, you can go past this point (that is, an imaginary line drawn from your ankle to your knee will point toward your body), which places all the stress on the major squatting muscles- hips, glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. This is a tremendous advantage.

  • Every rep is the same depth. With normal squats you generally find that when a person starts using heavier weights they start to squat higher and higher , with box squats every rep is the same depth.

  • Box squats help build/increase your Deadlift. As an added bonus, box squats will build the deadlift as well by overloading the hips and lower back muscles. Your ability to explode off the floor will increase greatly. Many powerlifters have built phenomenal deadlifts from doing a lot of box squatting but very little deadlifting.

  • They put less stress on you knees. this makes the exercise ideal for people who find conventional squatting tough on their knees or for athletes who are trying to build strength back up after a knee injury.

Performing the Box Squat correctly

Firstly fill your abdomen with air, and push out against your belt. Push your knees out as far as possible to the sides and with a tightly arched back, squat back, not down, until you completely sit on the box. Every muscle is kept tight while on the box with the exception of the hip flexors. By releasing and then contracting the hip flexors and arching the upper back, you will explode off the box, building tremendous starting strength. Remember to sit back and down, not straight down. Your hamstrings will be strengthened to a high degree, which is essential. Many don't know this, but the hamstrings are hip extensors. Remember to sit on the box completely and flex off.

Another advantage of the box squats is that you can change the height of the box you are squatting down onto, this means that you can target any weak areas. For example If your hips are weak, use a below parallel box with a wide stance. If you need low back power, use a close stance, below parallel. If your quads are weak, work on a parallel box. If you have a sticking point about 2 inches above parallel, as is common, then work on a box that is 2 inches above parallel.

A Final word

To get some idea as to how effective box squats can be, the world famous WESTSIDE BARBELL CLUB (which is basically a gym for powerlifters) has over 20 lifters who have squatted over 700lbs!!.....They very rarely if ever do conventional squats except in competitions and generally perform box squats twice a week.

From my own experience I have noticed how performing box squats has greatly improved my Deadlift and especially my explosiveness from pulling the bar off the floor. It is also great for improving technique as it teaches the sitting back aspect of the squat which some people find hard to master at first. I have witnessed people's conventional squatting technique improve dramatically after performing a few weeks of box squats.

So next time you are in the gym give the box squat a try for a change and start reaping the benefits of this exercise .At first it will feel completely different but before long it will feel as natural as conventional squatting. I would, however, advise that you start with a light weight at first as technique really is the key when you are first learning to box squat.

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