Comparing Box Squats vs Regular Squats - 1 Rep Max Benefits

Box Squats

Variation is the Spice of Weight Training

The box squat is a variation of the squat and, in my opinion, one of the best exercises to train the latter and help your one-rep squat max go through the roof. Actually many powerlifters do only the box squat when training and leave the regular squat just for competitions.

The box-squat exercise is the same as a regular squat except for the addition of a box behind the lifter. The height of the box is adjusted such that, when squatting, one would typically be just at or above parallel. At the beginning of the exercise unrack the barbell as you would for a regular squat. Place your feet in a wide stance with your toes pointed slightly outward. Try to keep your upper back tight by pulling your elbows under the bar. Push your abs out and pull your shoulder blades in to force your back into an arched position. You want to make sure the barbell is in line with your heels. This alignment can be accomplished only with an arched back. Be sure to stay in this arched position throughout. As you begin to squat, push your hips back to get them maximally involved in the movement. Once you reach the box sit on it, relax your hip flexors, and transfer your weight to the box. Stay seated for about a second and then explode back up to the starting position. As you head upward make sure again that your abs are out, your back is arched, and your glutes and hamstrings are taking you up. Many lifters have a habit of pushing with their quads, an action that directs most of the stress into the lower back and knees and away from the muscle fibers responsible for giving you a powerful lift.

Benefits of the Box Squat

1. Transferring your weight onto the box kills the spring energy most squatters use to drive themselves up at the bottom of a regular squat. Without the help of this spring energy, more muscle fibers need to be recruited to get you out of the hole. The use of more muscle fibers translates into more strength and growth.

2. Pausing at the bottom of the squat and then driving upward allow one to develop explosive strength. This type of strength is a measurement of the ability of the central nervous system and muscles to produce a maximal force after an intense muscular stretch. Explosive strength is a training element that many lifters fail to consider even though it plays a major role in determining whether they are going to make the lift. If you have great explosive strength you will find yourself up from the squat in no time. If your explosive strength is poor, pushing and grinding your way up back to the starting position will feel like an eternity.

3. Sitting back onto the box will actually force you to sit back further than you could if it wasn't under you. This position places more stress on the gluteus and hamstring muscles, the primary muscles responsible for giving you the power to squat those heavy weights.

4. You can accurately see how low your squat is going. When most people add more and more weight to the squat, the squat begins to get higher until they are performing quarter squats. With the box squat you always know you are going low enough.

5. The box squat is a great way to teach yourself how to squat correctly. Many lifters find sitting back properly and keeping good form very difficult to do. These problems are initially due to poor hamstring strength. When you do the box squat your form will be correct right from the start. As you continue doing the box squat you will then build your hamstring strength to the point you will be able to sit back properly on the regular squat.

Adding box-squat training to your routine can make a tremendous difference in the amount of weight you can lift during a regular squat. Most athletes I have worked with have added anywhere from 100 to 250 pounds to their squat shortly after being introduced to the box squat.

Try replacing your regular squat with the box squat for approximately three to four months. Once you go back to doing the regular squat you are sure to see a major improvement and a new max lift.

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