T Nation

Box Squats


So this was brought on by a couple things.
1) I read this article recently and it got me to thinking...

2) I have lately been identifying a noticeable sticking point in my FS and BS. I got out some plate to make a "box" so that I could work from a dead start at this sticking point. It hit my hips hard! I did my usual high-bar placement, I did not go to a Powerlifting style backsquat for the box work.

Everything I have read about Louie tells me that one of the huge reasons he uses the box is because of the dead start and he believes in training the hips hard. If this is the case, wouldn't box squats be of value for the olympic lifter?

Also, Louie got most of his stuff reading the old Russian olympic lifter coach's texts, some that he had painstakingly translated back in the day. Isn't he possibly a very good source of olympic lifting knowledge?


I ain't no expert...

but when I had my latest sticky point in my front/back squats I did:
(1)Russian Back Squat Cycle.

After that I played with Front Squat 2x a week and Back squat 1x... but my legs did not respond at all. So I:
(2)Moved up my squatting volume to 4x a week, 2xBacksquat & 2xFront Squat. The weights I use depend on how i feel that day, usually 2x5, 1x6, or 3x3. And it has been working :slight_smile:


Screw box squats. I don't think he's a good source of Olympic lifting knowledge... if I recall correctly, he hasn't dabbled in that (trained/coached) since the early 80s.

If box squats were good for Oly lifters, elite weightlifters would be doing them. But they don't.


I haven't heard of any good OLifters doing box squats...

It may work for you though.



I'm a little surprised to see the responses so far, it seems to me Dan John thought working through sticking points on his squat was a huge help to him with his olympic lifting. A quick search turned up these two:


Looking at these two, I'd say that doing box squats would be of benefit, especially if you've got a distinct sticking spot.


From that first link it seemed that Dan John wasn't using 'box squats' like me and Koing, and the OP, are talking about. The box squat generally refers to the powerlifting box squat that geared up powerlifters use training for a meet. Dan John was talking about a normal front squat, with normal front squat mechanics, but with a deadstop. And I would agree with him... removing the stretch reflex of the back or front squat by using a pause in the hole, or a box, is very effective.


As I read the OP, he's looking to do exactly what Dan was doing: keeping his normal technique and using the box to work from a dead stop.

Anyhow, we're in agreement here, using isometrics to work on weaknesses is effective, but they're very specific. Using a powerlifting style box squat isn't going to be very effective for improving olympic lifts.


You're right, sorry my mistake! I missed this from the OP

"I did my usual high-bar placement, I did not go to a Powerlifting style backsquat for the box work."


Where did you put the box, then? Between your legs? I've been thinking about trying the dead-stop ones to help with my sticking point (transition to quads on the ascent). But maybe I'll just keep squatting for a while, first...


you leave the box in Home Depot, instead buy 2 adjustable saw horses. Then put the loaded barbell on the saw horses. Squat down to reach the bar, get in position, and squat up.
--> That's what Dan John said to do.


Why not squat with a pause at the bottom?! I don't think sitting on a box would be hugely safe with moderately heavy weights. A pause would be much better imo.

OR do bottom up front squats. Sit pins at the bottom position and then squat up.



If you are weak at the bottom of a squat then learn to dip fast at the bottom, the faster you go the better the rebound.


The reason powerlifters use the box is because it lets you deload the hips. I don't think pausing at the bottom of the squat would have the same effect. It would remove the stretch reflex, but it wouldn't let you remove the tension from the hips because you would still have to support all of your weight. Granted, I don't think that would really matter as far as Olympic lifting is concerned, and I'm sure you can drive up your olympic squat numbers using pause squats. But, I don't think there's anything wrong with box squats. I do them all the time with no problems at all. You just have to make sure the box is a proper height so you can control the descent onto it, rather than falling onto it (I like to pretend there is no box under me), and I would advise using a rack with pins even if you have spotters because if you miss from the box you're fucked if you don't have safeties. But ya, I think an Olympic lifter could use box squats to target a specific sticking point in their squat, so long as they do them properly and safely. Just a few thoughts.



I thought powerlifters used the box mostly to teach people to sit their butts back, and to teach them competition depth. The last doesn't seem to apply here. The former doesn't either since oly squats are more sitting down between your legs (is that where the box is supposed to go?) than back (onto a box that is placed behind you).

With respect to deloading the hip...

If you suggest using safeties anyway...

Why not just set the safeties to the appropriate height so that you aren't supporting the weight once you get to whatever depth. Then you can collect the bar on your way back up?

I don't see what the box is doing for you...


The box squat teaches you to explode out of the hole, one of the reasons they use the box squat is so they can come out of the hole fast enough to not have sticking points later on which is really something that olifters really don't need to do. powerlifters try to start the concentric as fast as possible while olifters really want to pick up speed until the top of the pull is as fast as possible. but even though the box squat might not have the greatest carry over to olifting its still a good exercise so unless your training for the olympics there shouldn't be a problem with throwing them in.


The box is used to teach people to sit back, but that would be for someone who is learning how to power squat. Assuming somebody can already perform a proper a power squat, the box can still be beneficial because it allows you to deload the hips, while still keeping everything else tight (at least that's my understanding). If you're simply performing a bottom up squat from the pins, or a regular squat where you stop and pause on the pins instead of the box, it's just not the same in my opinion. When you lower the bar to the pins there is no loading whatsoever on your body, but when you lower your body onto a box where the bar remains on your back, your body is still loaded, but the box allows you to relax certain muscle groups, while still keeping other ones tight, such as the back, and then reactivate those muscle groups, thereby teaching you to "explode," so to speak.

With respect to Olympic lifting, I'm sure you could use your regular Oly style squat on the box to drive up your squat numbers if they happen to be stalled. Also, I would be curious to see the effect of actual powerlifting style box squatting on an Olympic lifter. Considering that power squats are almost entirely hip dominant and really trash the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, etc., muscles that are of prime importance in the second pull of the Olifts, it would be interesting to see if the strength gains from this style of squatting had a carryover to Olympic lifting. Though the time required to learn and perform the lift may outweigh the potential benefits of it.



You thought wrong. Try reading a Louie Simmons or Dave Tate article on the box squat.


And here's one from this site.


"The box squat also breaks the eccentric/concentric chain. This is one of the best ways to build explosive strength. The box squat also causes you to squat from a static contraction to a dynamic concentric contraction, another very effective way to build explosive strength."

Squatting onto a box vs squatting and deloading the weight onto pins in the rack are two completely different movements. The box squat is much more natural and has better carryover to the free squat, the same way that block pulls are more natural than rack pulls and board presses are more natural than pin presses.

The box does a lot more for the lifter than just develop technique. It builds up the posterior chain and many important muscles used in the squat that aren't as effectively built up by free squatting alone.

Using the olympic squat onto a low box would be the best way for it to transfer over to the olympic squat. A powerlifting style box squat would have much less carryover than just performing an olympic squat onto a box would. However, it would have some carryover to the snatch/C&J because of the posterior chain work you get as a result. So, while a powerlifting style box squat probably wouldn't be the best way to drive up your olympic squat, it still would benefit the olympic lifts.

Also, of all the compound movememnts a weightlifter might perform, I guarantee that a powerlifting style box squat would take the least amount of time to become proficient in. That's why it's so commonly used to teach beginners to squat. Someone who's never squatted in their life and is unable to free squat could do a few sets of box squats, pick up the technique and become good enough with the movement to remove the box all in a matter of one workout. It's extremely easy to learn and perform correctly, and anyone who is performing lifts like the snatch or C&J will have it down in no time.


Does this sound like something benefit to snatch/C&J?

From the Louie Simmons article-

"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. Our advanced squatters use all below parallel boxes. This builds so much power out of the hole that there will be no sticking points.
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."

The only part of that article I disagree with is that he says you will be able to free squat more than you box squat by only training the box squat. It's applicable to geared lifters but raw lifters are different. In fact, when most Westside Barbell members are answering questions about how strong their raw squat is, I've only ever seen them answer how strong their raw box squat is. I have to assume this is because their raw box squat max is heavier than their raw free squat max.

When I first started box squatting, I had weak hamstrings and a weak posterior chain altogether so my heaviest box squat was less than my heaviest free squat. It didn't take long for my box squat to get much stronger though, and when this happened I found I was no longer able to outsquat my box squat while free squatting. I still do feel it's a very useful exercise. For the raw lifter however, once you've built up any posterior chain weaknesses you previously had, you should return to free squatting the majority of the time and using the box squat as an assistance exercise.

I know the box squat helps the olympic lifts, I'm just not sure to what extent it does. I'm going to keep using it and try to figure out how benefitial it really is to those movements because if it does help the snatch/C&J that much, then it doesn't matter if it doesn't have a ton of carryover to the olympic squat. If the box squat is a better assistance exercise for the olympic lifts than the olympic/free squat is, that's what you should be focusing on.


For a weightlifter, how can you assess your quad vs posterior chain strength?


In powerlifting, the style of squatting you're strongest at and use in competition is probably the best indicator of where your weak points are, but pretty much all weightlifters will use the olympic squat in training so you'll have to look at other exercises to determine your posterior chain strength compared to quad strength.

You could look at your max box squat vs your max free squat. Your ability to perform bodyweight glute-ham raises are a good indicator of hamstring/posterior chain strength. Also, you could look at the weight and form you use when performing good mornings.