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LAVERA STEWARTEditor-in-Chief of the Gym Expert
These days many people decide to join the gym. If it is possible to say that the pandemic brought something good, then we would say that this is it. The fact that even those people who never cared about physical fitness before, now work out several times per week is indeed phenomenal.
We have noticed that there are several types of people who come to the gym. You have those who want to drop some weight ad get in better shape. Then, some people don’t have a clear goal but wander around testing different equipment, lifting weights a bit. Some of the folks are focused on becomes ultra muscular, so you see them working with heavy loads all day long. And finally some, and we see ourselves I that group, who want everything – strength and anabolic training at the same time!
“Is it even possible?” you may ask! Yes, it is, and we found it in bodybuilding?
“But wait, I thought bodybuilding is only for building super-sized muscles, isn’t it?” You are not the only one thinking that!
But we have to tell you that it is a pure myth!
People have this idea because of the images of ultra muscular men posing and flexing on stage. Some people find that intimidating, others repulsive, and they think bodybuilding isn’t for them.
But this is not the essence of bodybuilding! These people are competitive bodybuilders, and there are as many women as there are men among them. Regardless of what we think, they work very hard to get where they are.
But let’s get back to bodybuilding in general! The reality is that anyone can be a bodybuilder. It doesn’t matter whether you want to play some other sports, or to look and feel good, if you spend time and energy to improve your body, you are a bodybuilder. This activity is much more than anabolic training. For example, encyclopedia Britannica defines it as a regimen of exercises created to improve muscular development and promote overall human health and fitness. It is necessary to mention that bodybuilding also positively affects mental health.
Okay, it is also necessary to point out that engaging in bodybuilding doesn’t mean that you will lift heavier and heavier loads till you reach the point of exhaustion. It is very far from that. This sport includes plenty of exercises and weight training sets. Many of these workouts are biomechanically challenging, compound exercises that require a lot of patience and practice, not just strength. We especially like box squats. And these would be the focus of today’s article.
- 1 What is a Box Squat?
- 2 How to Box Squat
- 3 Box Squats Safety Tips
- 4 Box Squat Variations
- 5 Box Squat Alternatives
- 6 Conclusion
What is a Box Squat?
To understand what box squat is, you first have to know what squats are in general. Squatting is a strength exercise that requires you to lower your hips from a standing position and then stand back up. Squats are seen as an essential workout for strengthening muscles of the core and lower body. When squatting, you are primarily targeting the gluteus maximus, quadriceps femoris, and adductor magnus. But other muscles are also targeted, such as erector spinae and many others.
So what is box squatting? It is nothing more than a squat variation. The difference is that for performing a box squat form, you need a box or a bench. This item has to be behind you during the exercise. The box has to be high enough so your thighs are parallel with the ground when you are in the position of the squat. Then you squat down until your butt reaches the top of the box and go back up. The box squat form is popular among bodybuilders and powerlifters because it combines two critical methods. One is a static dynamic method, which involves different muscle activities. The other method is relaxed overcome by dynamic work. It happens when you are sitting on the box and then switch to a concentric phase.
Experienced builders say that this form enables you to perfect the squat in general and teaches you how to sit back. Apart from that, it improves squat strength and overall strength.
And there’s more to it. We often have people asking whether they can squat and deadlift on the same day. Generally yes. Though we’d suggest first perform the deadlift training and then move to squats.
Who Should Do the Box Squats?
When people engage in some activity, they have a bunch of questions. One of those questions is about who should do the box squat technique. Now, we would say that everyone with the desire to do it and feeling that it does them good, should do it. But of course, some people benefit in more than one aspect from doing these exercises.
Some people say that box squats are created for powerlifters and not bodybuilders, to begin with! We don’t agree with this thesis, but we agree that powerlifters see plenty of benefits of box squats. The point of powerlifting is to lift as heavy loads as possible, right? Now the problem is that the more you lift and stronger you get, the progress becomes slower. May lifters encounter issues in some phases of their workout – top, middle, or bottom? That is where box squats become super practical because they allow you to perfect the lift at top of the squat. Apart from that, this exercise enables you to get stronger because you can lift heavier loads with it. That is particularly important for strongmen.
Weightlifters usually don’t do box squat. That is because they see better results from performing regular squats.
As we mentioned, several times, squatting is a generally beneficial exercise. People, exercising without any desire to enter competitions, should learn how to do the conventional squats. And box squats can be an excellent tool to improve loading mechanics and hip drive. These squats primarily target hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae. The quads are more emphasized when doing standard squats. Because this movement requires a wider stance, it strengthens posterior chain muscles.
Box Squat Benefits
It Makes a Proper Technique Compulsory
Box squatting forces you to break parallel if you want to reach the box when you are doing the eccentric phase of the lift. The fact is that when doing regular squats, we tend to squat higher as the weight increases. However, whether you are doing back or front box squats it isn’t possible to do that. Now, and if you wonder why do box squats, we have another reason for you. Box squatting helps you understand what a proper technique is, and it makes you sit back completely when descending. When free-style squatting, we drop down and bounce back up.
It Improves Mobility and Motion Rage
It is considered a ballistic stretching exercise, and as such, it can be of great use for people who have issues with flexibility and range of motion. Besides that, it allows you to monitor the progress. So if you can’t break the parallel when squatting, use the box. If it is still challenging, then you can add something to increase the height of the box. However, as your descend progresses, you should take away the things until only the box remains.
It Builds Power and Strength
Unlike regular, front box squat makes you squat backward. Because of this, you can sit further back on the box, and your shins can be at 90 degrees angle to the ground. It puts a greater load on the posterior chain muscles. Apart from that, these exercises enable you to break the eccentric–concentric chain. What does it mean? That you are dealing with a lot of power when you are using a dynamic concentric contraction to lift from a sitting and relaxed position.
It is Safer
The thing is that sometimes the weights are too heavy regardless of how strong you are. Sometimes you can be too tired and need to bail. Or you reach your maximum for the day, and you feel that you need to go out of the exercise. But bailing, effectively, can be complex even for experienced lifters. If you need to bail during a box squat, you can. There is a box as a safety net behind or in front of you.
Box Squats vs. Regular Squats
So, now we know that box squat is not just the name, but people use the actual box when performing this exercise. We also know that regular squats don’t involve the box. But, are there any other differences? Although people use both workouts to maximize strength effectively, we have to say that athletes see more benefits from using the box. As we know, both movements are working the quads and contributing to muscle hypertrophy. However, box squat variation varies the emphasis on some ranges by adjusting the box. It is something that can be pretty beneficial if you are experiencing muscle weakness at any point during the movement. This squat variation is also more effective for those who want to focus on posterior chain muscles.
How to Box Squat
Now, when we established what it is, how it differs from the regular squat, it is time to learn how to box squat. Below you will see detailed step-by-step instructions. So get ready and put on your shorts for squats and grab some water!
Step in the squat rack the same way as you do when you perform regular squats. Determine the adequate box height. For most people, it is until their knees are perpendicular to the floor. Put the box a few feet away from the bar so you have enough space to take the bar and sit without hitting yourself.
Take the Barbell from the Rack
Stabilize your core and lift the barbell from the rack. Then take a step back to come closer to the box. You should be able to touch the box with your calves.
Push the Hips Back and Squat Down
Now it is time to do the squat. So push the hip backward and go down in a squat. Remember, the point is that you sit on the box. The more your hips go back, the more you work the hamstrings, glutes, and erectors.
Pause And Go Back Up
Pause after you reach the box. Keep in mind that the idea is not that you have a rest. This pause is there to allow you to get ready to use all of your strength to go back up. Once you are up, pause to prepare for the next rep.
Box Squats Safety Tips
When talking about exercises, we often focus on proper technique. However, whichever exercise we are doing, it is necessary to think about safety. It especially stands for complex compound exercises such as box squats. Hence, we prepared some safety tips for you.
- Adjust the box so it suits your specific needs.
- If possible, turn the box a bit so the edge is under you.
- Make sure to keep the tension in your body. You don’t want to throw yourself in the box. It is not only about the proper technique. If you lose the tension the spine will be under too much pressure, which can cause injury.
- Don’t bounce back. Stay tense during the pause, and explode on your way up.
Box Squat Variations
Pause Box Squat
So, this movement is the same. The only difference is that, in this case, you are using deliberate pause. It means, as we mentioned, that you make a pause once you sit on the box. You should use this time to increase the tension in your core and quadriceps, and hips. A lot of people make a mistake and get totally relaxed because they are in a static position. It is vital to avoid this because tension allows you to develop concentric strength and overload the eccentric phase.
Low Box Squat
Same as other exercises, box squats, whether you do back squat or front squat alternative, have their limits. If you do them too often, or for too long, chances are they will become too simple. But don’t worry, there is a solution.
You can start using lower boxes. It will make your muscles even stronger. Besides that, it will help people who are struggling to maintain stability in a lower position.
Box Squat Alternatives
Hatfield Squat is a box squat alternative used by strongmen, powerlifters, and bodybuilders. If you want to do this back squat variation, you are going to need a safety bar. This type of barbell comes with pads for the shoulders and neck. It means that this barbell can sit on your back without you having to hold it. Same as other squats, this one focuses on quads and glutes the most. We use it to increase lower body hypertrophy. It is also beneficial for people who have back injuries.
½ to ¾ Depth Back Squat
If you don’t want to use the box, you can program your range of motion. It means that you decide how deep you want to go. It is difficult to do, and it may lead to the development of incorrect squatting habits. It is not recommended for beginners.
It is one of the best and most effective exercises for people who want to build the muscles ad the strength of their lower body. When doing this squat, you are holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest. Keep in mind that you need to grab it with both hands. You squat while holding the dumbbell/kettlebell. This squat is super easy to learn, and it does require a lot of space or specific equipment. It is ideal for beginners regardless of the fitness level. When compared to regular squats, this variation comes with fewer risks. Ideally, goblet squats should be combined with other strength exercises. The goblet squat works all the muscles as the regular movement does – quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
And that’s all on the box squats for today! And what more can be said that box squats with bands (or just the regular ones) are a phenomenal exercise! And while it is super beneficial for powerlifters, it’s also great for people who don’t want to enter any competition but only to improve their overall strength.
We usually think of squats and deadlifts as lower body workouts. But considering that these exercises involve weight, we can say that they are full-body workouts, that would most certainly be a great addition to your workout regime.
So, have you ever tried box squats? What are your experiences?