Your Ultimate Box Squat Guide: Learn Proper Form

Girl doing box squats

Squats will always be a staple of any exercise routine, but if you want to maximize your glute growth and develop your lower body to the next level, you’ll need to mix things up. This is where box squats come into the picture.

Consider incorporating the box squat into your weightlifting practice if you’re seeking a squat variation.

The box squat is a move that dedicated powerlifters use to squeeze every ounce of growth out of their squat. In fact, it’s a fantastic exercise that any lifter can use to increase their back squat, build leg muscle, and get used to higher loads. And the best part? It’s pretty straightforward to do once you get the technique right.

The box squat is a core training mainstay that can help you gain lower-body size and strength—but are you sure you’re doing it correctly?

How To Do Box Squats

To do a box squat, start by doing 3–4 sets of 3–5 repetitions with a weight you can handle. Select a weight that permits you to keep good form throughout all sets and repetitions.

  • Begin by placing a barbell in the squat rack that is appropriate for your height. The barbell should be about one inch below your shoulders.
  • A plyometric box should be placed a few feet behind the barbell. When you sit on the plyometric box, the height should allow your knees to be at a 90-degree angle. There should be enough room to take a couple of steps backward once you unrack the barbell.
  • Step below the barbell, facing it, and place your hands on both sides of the bar. The barbell should be resting on your upper back muscles.
  • Remove the barbell from the rack and take a few steps back until you’re a few inches away from the box.
  • Your feet should be wider than hip-width apart, and your knees should be slightly bent. With your head and neck in a neutral position, your shoulders should be squarely over your hips. Keep your chin tucked throughout the movement.

Muscles Worked

The box squat is a squat variation that engages almost every muscle in your lower body to some extent.

Quadriceps

The quads are largely engaged during the lifting portion of this movement because they extend the knee. (Keep in mind that the higher the box, the shorter your range of motion, which will reduce quadriceps involvement.)

Glutes and Hamstrings

In the box squat, the hamstrings and glutes are engaged, but their involvement varies depending on box height and barbell position. The lower the bar is on the back, the more hip flexion and extension happen throughout the moment, which increases hamstring and glute engagement.

Box Squat Benefits

girl doing box squat exercise

Box squats are equally effective for both newbie lifters and seasoned athletes. Some of the benefits of using box squats in your strength training program are:

Works Your Entire Lower Body

Squats in general, including box squats, are a powerful complex exercise that targets your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, and core. You’re also working your upper body if you’re holding a weight in front or behind you (think barbell back squat or goblet squat). In conclusion, box squats help to build strong bodies. And, in case you didn’t know, having more muscle on your body raises your metabolism and causes you to burn more calories even when you’re not working out. (These are only two of the numerous benefits of lifting bigger weights.)

Activates The Posterior Chain

Box squats require you to extend your lower body back further than you would in a standard squat. The hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, hip flexors, and lower back muscles are all activated by this movement pattern.

Become more conscious of your squat depth

Many inexperienced lifters are unaware of how far down they are squatting. Box squats are a great way for new athletes to discover what different depths feel like and get feedback on how low they’re going without having to rely on a coach (or film) to tell them. This makes it easier for new lifters to feel at ease and secure in the squat movement pattern.

Puts less stress on your knees

As opposed to front squats or back squats, the stance of box squats places slightly less pressure on your knee joints. This can prove to be a lifesaver for new lifters or those recovering from injuries.

Makes you become stronger at the bottom of the squat

Box squats have another benefit for experienced lifters who are very comfortable squatting and have excellent body awareness: they help them get stronger. In some circumstances, assisting them in breaking past strength plateaus. The transition from the concentric (down) to the eccentric (up) phase of the squat is typically what hinders folks from reaching a squat PR,  You can squat all the way to the bottom, but you can’t stand the bar back up.

Box squats help you gain strength in the area where you’re having trouble. Even really strong, good movers tend to use momentum to stand the weight back up during box-free squats, which limits them when they go heavy. You can’t use momentum in box squats. The box, on the other hand, forces you to come to a complete halt, forcing you to use all of your squat muscles and pure strength to return to standing.

Helps you break plateaus and hit PR

Building on to the previous point, box squats can help you break through a strength plateau. Let’s say you can back squat 200 pounds but can’t seem to get 210 pounds. To grow stronger at the bottom,  You should go for 5 sets of 5 reps of box squats (with a box roughly where the bottom of your squat usually is) at 75 to 85 percent of your one-rep max twice a week for six weeks. How about after six weeks? Well, but you could very well be ringing the PR bell.

Helps you with rehab injuries

Box squats are also an excellent rehab exercise. Certain knee or hamstring ailments, for example, may limit your squatting to four or five inches. Without aggravating the injury, box squats allow you to continue training the squat movement pattern in partial reps. Of course, if you’re recovering from an injury, see your physical therapist or trainer before incorporating these into your routine.

Box Squat Variations

If you want to change your box squat exercises, you may consider one of these variations.

Low Box Squats

Training primarily with the box squat has its own set of drawbacks, especially if you’re striving for maximum muscle gain (full range of motion). Lifters who fail to maintain stable low postures can be transformed into full-range-of-motion squatters by gradually lowering box heights.

Pause Box Squats

The pause box squat is performed in the same way as a conventional box squat. The only difference is that the lifter takes a deliberate pause. Despite being immobile at the bottom of the squat, the lifter must remain braced and loaded in the quads and hips during this pause. You can reduce the stretch reflex, develop concentric strength, and/or overload the eccentric phase by pausing (controlled lowering).

Box Squats With Added Resistance

You can add the benefits of accommodating resistance to a box squat by adding resistance bands and/or chains to this strong, strength-building squat variation. In other words, you can boost strength through sticking spots and address power output by adding accommodating resistance.

Takeaway

The box squat is a compound exercise that involves the use of a barbell and a plyometric box to train several muscle groups throughout the body. It’s one of the safest exercises and should be a part of every athlete’s training repertoire.

The primary difference between box squats and box-free squats is that the height of the box determines the “bottom” (lowest point) of your squat. The ideal depth for regular squats is with your hips below your knees, but this might vary based on your strength and ankle, hip, and thoracic spine mobility.

Box squats are a fantastic way to improve body awareness, break through a squat plateau, and sometimes even rehab an injury.

You shouldn’t settle for anything less than flawless form for this basic gym move, especially given it’s such a simple, vital exercise that should be one of the integral points of your workout.

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