T Nation

Box Squat Depth and How to Use Them


#1

Hey everyone,

  1. Is this an appropriate depth for a box squat/ squat in general? It felt pretty high but at the same time very natural.

  2. I habe been really frustrated with my squats lately. I can’t get my hips/ glutes to fire correctly, my squat doen’t look good and it feels unnatural. I am also pretty sure I am not hitting depth at all of my squats, so it is inconsistend too. Even though I am still progressing in weight with my program I am unsatisfied with my squats. Right now (and for the last couple of training cycles) I am doing high bar squats because I wanted a break from low bar squats.

I thought about switching to box squat for my next program (not immediately). The plan is to build my hips and hamstrings and get a little confidence back in my squat. After that I might go back to low bar squats (like I did in the past).
I do not plan to compete in powerlifting in the near future but would still like your opinion on my thoughts.


#2

I don’t feel that the box squat lends itself well to the high bar style of squatting. Typically, the box is used as a means to train a lifter to sit further back, whereas the high bar squat tends to result in a more upright torso which does not permit as much sitting back.

Are you wanting to actually perform a box squat proper, or more just squat onto a box?


#3

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I don’t feel that the box squat lends itself well to the high bar style of squatting. Typically, the box is used as a means to train a lifter to sit further back, whereas the high bar squat tends to result in a more upright torso which does not permit as much sitting back.

Are you wanting to actually perform a box squat proper, or more just squat onto a box?[/quote]

The first one. As I do not compete in powerlifting any time soon and am generally more interested in competing in strongman I asked myself if it is a good option to replace the regular squat (high bar or low bar) with a box squat (low bar position, hips sitting back, pushing with glutes and hamstrings) to the depth shown in the picture (this is a bench and I can not adjust it). Like I said, I feel like I need a break from regular squatting but don’t want to give up the pattern. I still want to develop lower body strength. That said, I will continue squatting the way I do it now until my program stops working or stops working particularly for squats.


#4

I think box squats would be a great movement for strongman. I do perform them exactly, but I do perform chain suspended squats of various heights with a safety squat bar, and find they carry over well to the events. Clint Darden has spoken pretty positively of them as well.


#5

my tip would be that if you aren’t happy with your depth DO NOT do box squats. while they are a great exercise they will only harm your squat depth more as the box is stopping you and supporting you right where you would need to drop your hips to hit depth, try squatting like an Olympic lifter if you already are squatting high bar, cut the weight down to like 50% and go ATG all the way. add 10lbs a week and youll be hitting depth with your old numbers and a bigger pair of legs in no time


#6

[quote]PlutoTheGod wrote:
my tip would be that if you aren’t happy with your depth DO NOT do box squats. while they are a great exercise they will only harm your squat depth more as the box is stopping you and supporting you right where you would need to drop your hips to hit depth, try squatting like an Olympic lifter if you already are squatting high bar, cut the weight down to like 50% and go ATG all the way. add 10lbs a week and youll be hitting depth with your old numbers and a bigger pair of legs in no time[/quote]

I think I did explain myself wrong. I can hit depth if I want to without a problem, especially high bar. What really bothers me is being inconsistent with my form. Including depth. I used to squat really deep at the beginning but found that this makes it harder for me to stay tight and use my hips. Then I started squatting higher which felt extremely strange. It felt like I was doing half squats while I was still hitting slightly below parallel. I lost the feeling for where I was depth-wise and could only know if I asked someone.

I do not want the box to improve my depth, I just want to strengthen my lower body with the hips as a focus. But since we are discussing depth - would the picture count as parallel?


#7

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I think box squats would be a great movement for strongman. I do perform them exactly, but I do perform chain suspended squats of various heights with a safety squat bar, and find they carry over well to the events. Clint Darden has spoken pretty positively of them as well.[/quote]

When squatting onto the box, do you squat how you normally would without one? Or do you sit back more than normal?


#8

Well, again, the question is, are you squatting onto a box, or are you doing the box squat? In the case of the former, you utilize whatever you need to do, but in the case of the latter, the box squat is traditionally employs sitting back far and loading up the hips. You’ll then want to explode off the box by tightly contracting your hips/glutes, rather than rocking forward.

That said, there are a lot of techniques out there, and as long as they get you bigger and stronger, they’re good.


#9

[quote]Koestrizer wrote:
Hey everyone,

  1. Is this an appropriate depth for a box squat/ squat in general? It felt pretty high but at the same time very natural.

  2. I habe been really frustrated with my squats lately. I can’t get my hips/ glutes to fire correctly, my squat doen’t look good and it feels unnatural. I am also pretty sure I am not hitting depth at all of my squats, so it is inconsistend too. Even though I am still progressing in weight with my program I am unsatisfied with my squats. Right now (and for the last couple of training cycles) I am doing high bar squats because I wanted a break from low bar squats.

I thought about switching to box squat for my next program (not immediately). The plan is to build my hips and hamstrings and get a little confidence back in my squat. After that I might go back to low bar squats (like I did in the past).
I do not plan to compete in powerlifting in the near future but would still like your opinion on my thoughts.[/quote]

High bar can make it easier to fire the glutes so it probably isn’t necessary to use box squats unless you feel like it’s the best option.

Another way to get the glutes firing is to do seated good mornings, which can be done before or after your main squat work. While sitting, place yourself in the same position as the bottom of your squat with your knees in front of your ankles. It’s important to get your knees forward of the ankles and hips open so that you rely more on your glutes than your hamstrings to keep yourself upright as you lean forward for the good morning. If that doesn’t work then you may have to use more of a front load with either an SSB or holding a weight in front of you to better engage your abs which will also help with getting your hips involved.


#10

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
Well, again, the question is, are you squatting onto a box, or are you doing the box squat? In the case of the former, you utilize whatever you need to do, but in the case of the latter, the box squat is traditionally employs sitting back far and loading up the hips. You’ll then want to explode off the box by tightly contracting your hips/glutes, rather than rocking forward.

That said, there are a lot of techniques out there, and as long as they get you bigger and stronger, they’re good. [/quote]

Yeah, I was just wondering if you get a lot of carryover as you deviate more from your normal squat technique. But I guess that depends on weaknesses as well so it probably varies.

I definitely rocked forward when I tried them back in the day and it had absolutely no carryover, haha.


#11

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I think box squats would be a great movement for strongman. I do perform them exactly, but I do perform chain suspended squats of various heights with a safety squat bar, and find they carry over well to the events. Clint Darden has spoken pretty positively of them as well.[/quote]

I’ve found SSB squats to a box (NOT box squats) had excellent carryover to my straight bar free squat. I’m not sure about box squats. I’ve done them but found what they mostly did was help my sumo deadlift.


#12

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I think box squats would be a great movement for strongman. I do perform them exactly, but I do perform chain suspended squats of various heights with a safety squat bar, and find they carry over well to the events. Clint Darden has spoken pretty positively of them as well.[/quote]

I’ve found SSB squats to a box (NOT box squats) had excellent carryover to my straight bar free squat. I’m not sure about box squats. I’ve done them but found what they mostly did was help my sumo deadlift. [/quote]

In the past I did really high box squat with a very wide stance as a assistence for my sumo deadlifts and I liked it.


#13

How did I do form wise? It was a lot more difficult than I thought. I concentrated on sitting my hips back as far as possible and stay in position/ prevent rocking forward.



#14

[quote]Koestrizer wrote:
How did I do form wise? It was a lot more difficult than I thought. I concentrated on sitting my hips back as far as possible and stay in position/ prevent rocking forward.


That looks pretty decent.


#15

It’s a really good squat to a box, but it is not a box squat.

You’re going to have to push your hips further back. In fact, you’ll push your hips so far back that your knees will either be vertically in line with your heels or even further back.
You’ll have to push your hips back the entire time you’re descending onto the box.
This will leave your torso more leaned over than you’re probably used to.
This may or may not be a good thing depending on your squat style and weaknesses.
To keep yourself from getting too bent over, you’ll really have to push your knees out hard and use a very wide stance.

You are landing on the box very softly. That’s good!
I always cringe when I see people do them incorrectly and just plop on the box and watch their torso and back collapse and rock back forward for momentum to get off the box.

But you need to relax your hip flexors when you’re on the box.
To get this down, just do like you would for a box squat with barbell, except with just your bodyweight. When you sit on the box lift your knees up. When this is done, all of your weight is on the box. This is what should happen in a regular box squat. This is something I learned from a Clint Darden video and worked great for me.
All of your of weight will be on the box, but you shouldn’t lift your knees up for the actual lift. That’s just to understand the concept. Keep in mind that when your hip flexors are relaxed, your torso will tilt to be more upright and the bar will go back a little but when you initiate the ascent the bar will be over your midfoot again if done properly.

That’s at least part of why you relax your hips flexors, so all of your weight is on the box. It’ll make it much more difficult to get off the box because it will be closer to being a deadweight. You’re torso and back has to remain very tight when this happens. This is very important for both training effect and safety.

When you try to get back up, you do this by contracting your hamstrings from both ends (like a glute ham raise or swiss ball leg curl) and squeezing your glutes as hard as you can. Because of how far back your knees are, there will be almost zero knee extension. Think of the box squat as a big hip abduction with hip extension.

By doing these things, you get all of the benefits of a box squat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a hardon for box squats, but I do find them very useful as one of the tools I use to build my squat and deadlift.

For me personally, they’re best for developing that ‘pop’ when getting out of the hole by teaching me how to stretch and load my hams and hips when descending and transferring that energy to powering out of the hole so I bounce back out from the stretch reflex. But this only works if I include regular squat work with it.

For improved positioning and feeling more comfortable with my squat and learning how to recruit my quads better, I prefer paused squats. But I don’t find them as useful for power out of the hole.

One more thing, lose the Oly shoes. They make it a lot harder to sit as far back as you need to. I personally prefer oly shoes for free squatting, but I hate them for box squatting.


#16

[quote]Fletch1986 wrote:
It’s a really good squat to a box, but it is not a box squat.

You’re going to have to push your hips further back. In fact, you’ll push your hips so far back that your knees will either be vertically in line with your heels or even further back.
You’ll have to push your hips back the entire time you’re descending onto the box.
This will leave your torso more leaned over than you’re probably used to.
This may or may not be a good thing depending on your squat style and weaknesses.
To keep yourself from getting too bent over, you’ll really have to push your knees out hard and use a very wide stance.

You are landing on the box very softly. That’s good!
I always cringe when I see people do them incorrectly and just plop on the box and watch their torso and back collapse and rock back forward for momentum to get off the box.

But you need to relax your hip flexors when you’re on the box.
To get this down, just do like you would for a box squat with barbell, except with just your bodyweight. When you sit on the box lift your knees up. When this is done, all of your weight is on the box. This is what should happen in a regular box squat. This is something I learned from a Clint Darden video and worked great for me.
All of your of weight will be on the box, but you shouldn’t lift your knees up for the actual lift. That’s just to understand the concept. Keep in mind that when your hip flexors are relaxed, your torso will tilt to be more upright and the bar will go back a little but when you initiate the ascent the bar will be over your midfoot again if done properly.

That’s at least part of why you relax your hips flexors, so all of your weight is on the box. It’ll make it much more difficult to get off the box because it will be closer to being a deadweight. You’re torso and back has to remain very tight when this happens. This is very important for both training effect and safety.

When you try to get back up, you do this by contracting your hamstrings from both ends (like a glute ham raise or swiss ball leg curl) and squeezing your glutes as hard as you can. Because of how far back your knees are, there will be almost zero knee extension. Think of the box squat as a big hip abduction with hip extension.

By doing these things, you get all of the benefits of a box squat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a hardon for box squats, but I do find them very useful as one of the tools I use to build my squat and deadlift.

For me personally, they’re best for developing that ‘pop’ when getting out of the hole by teaching me how to stretch and load my hams and hips when descending and transferring that energy to powering out of the hole so I bounce back out from the stretch reflex. But this only works if I include regular squat work with it.

For improved positioning and feeling more comfortable with my squat and learning how to recruit my quads better, I prefer paused squats. But I don’t find them as useful for power out of the hole.

One more thing, lose the Oly shoes. They make it a lot harder to sit as far back as you need to. I personally prefer oly shoes for free squatting, but I hate them for box squatting. [/quote]

Thanks for the detailed response, I will try to follow your instructions and post another video shortly so you can see if I got everything right.


#17

Followed your instructions, used a little bit lower box, widened my stance significantly, released tension in hip flexors when seated on the box. When squatting up I felt tension in my glutes and hamstrings and pretty much no activation in my quads. Unfortunately my phone broke and I do not have a video.

I feel like the box squat is agreat movement in general however the way I did it is not suited to do high reps. Because I control the eccentric portion so much, then release tension in hip flexors while keeping my core tight and then squatting up the movement takes a lot of time and I hold my breath the whole time. Because I hold my breath for so long I can not do a lot of reps with these. I did my squats with a medium weight for a lot of sets and 1 to 3 reps each set.

So now the question is hot to incorporate box squats into my routine? I feel like I could really get a benefit from these but how do I fit them in?


#18

[quote]Koestrizer wrote:
Followed your instructions, used a little bit lower box, widened my stance significantly, released tension in hip flexors when seated on the box. When squatting up I felt tension in my glutes and hamstrings and pretty much no activation in my quads. Unfortunately my phone broke and I do not have a video.

I feel like the box squat is agreat movement in general however the way I did it is not suited to do high reps. Because I control the eccentric portion so much, then release tension in hip flexors while keeping my core tight and then squatting up the movement takes a lot of time and I hold my breath the whole time. Because I hold my breath for so long I can not do a lot of reps with these. I did my squats with a medium weight for a lot of sets and 1 to 3 reps each set.

So now the question is hot to incorporate box squats into my routine? I feel like I could really get a benefit from these but how do I fit them in? [/quote]

I’m currently using them instead of deadlifts on one of my deadlift days.


#19

Can’t do box squats for reps…?

Its also good form when Dave Tate squats at about the 5-6 minute mark.

You don’t have to do a prolonged pause on the box, only long enough to relax and then re-engage the hip flexors.

I’ve done it before and I have to use fairly light weights. For me a max box squat has always been between 87-93 percent of my free squat. And just to change things up or focus on other weaknesses, you can change the bar height. The manta ray will even let you place it higher still. For athleticism, front squat box squats are a goody. Doing Zercher box squats works my thoracic and upper back.