Danielle Wommack, Fitness Director
I recently introduced one of my personal training clients to box squats and she asked me why she was being regressed from traditional squats. I use box squats frequently in my own workouts and with my clients, but I realized I had never explained WHY to this particular client. And the answer was simple – because box squatting leads to improvements in traditional squatting. But why?
Box squatting is harder. You naturally lose momentum when your body comes to a halt on the box. You cannot rely on the stretch reflex and momentum to get yourself out of the hole at the bottom of a box squat like you would with a traditional squat. You body is forced to drive out of the bottom of the squat without momentum or speed. This will translate into an even stronger drive out of the hole once you take away the box and go back to traditional squats.
Box squats give your glutes an edge. Box squats set you up so that your body can't rely too heavily on your quads to simply stand up. Rather, you will have to activate more muscle fibers in your glutes and your hamstrings to help get you out of the bottom of the box squat.
Box squats improve your squat mechanics. This is because box squats force you to use more of the muscle fibers in your posterior chain (i.e., muscles on the backside of your body). Plus, box squats allow you to slow down the actual squat movement to allow you to truly focus on the way your body is moving. By stopping on the box you can double check things like: Is your chest up? Are your knees pointed out? Is your shin angle correct? Is your spine in the correct position? These are all great things to consider before driving out of the hole.
Box squats are a great squat for new lifters. As discussed in the previous paragraph, box squats will help new lifters learn good squat mechanics by allowing for time to focus on body mechanics. Such attention to detail will go along way in preventing injuries through the development of bad lifting habits.
Box squats may save your knees. By sitting a little further back as is done during box squats, the load is reduced on the quads. This in turn places less stress on your knee joints
Box squats build consistency. Whether you are a new lifter or an experienced gym rat, it can be difficult to stay consistent with your squat depth, especially as the barbell gets heavier. The box eliminates any inconsistency as you are touching the box each and every repetition. This should translate to more consistency with traditional squats also.
Box squats don't require a barbell. Nor do traditional squats. Remember, you can squat with just your bodyweight to the box. Or you can hold a dumbbell or kettlebell while box squatting. These all "count" as box squats.
So, if you feel like you have plateaued with your back squat and can't seem to improve, try mixing up your workout with box squats for 6 weeks. You may be pleasantly surprised at what it can do for you.