Abs, Adductors, Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Hip Flexors, Lower Back
Box Squat Overview
The box squat is a variation of the barbell back squat and used to strengthen the muscles of the legs. Primarily, the box squat targets the quadriceps, but will also indirectly work the muscles of the hamstrings, calves, glutes, and core.
Box squats serve a couple of purposes. They can be used to help beginners learn the proper form of a back squat by providing an external cue to let lifters know when to reverse the movement.
Box squats also serve rehabilitation purposes, especially for those coming off knee injuries or those learning how to eliminate the butt wink during squats.
Lastly, box squats are also used by the powerlifting community to train the top portion of the lift with a maximal load.
Box Squat Instructions
- Position the bar just below shoulder level and adjust the safety stops right above knee height. Find a box set just above parallel and position 2-3 feet behind you.
- Place your pinkies on the smooth ring of the barbell.
- Get under the bar and position at the top of your rear deltoids.
- Unrack the bar, take 2-3 steps back and position your feet at shoulder width.
- Take a deep breath and keep your elbows in line with your torso.
- Descend by simultaneously pushing the hips back and bending the knees.
- Once your butt touches the box, begin to reverse the movement.
- Keep your abs braced and drive your feet through the floor.
- Finish the lift by exhaling as you fully extend the hips and knees.
Box Squat Tips
- Toe angle is highly individual - experiment to see what feels best for you.
- Bend the bar over your back by pulling it down into your traps.
- Experiment with a “false” (i.e. thumbless) grip as this helps to eliminate elbow and wrist issues in some folks.
- Drive through the whole foot - you want 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.
- Imagine you’re trying to drop your back pockets straight towards your heels. Down, not back.
- Some forward translation of the knees over the toes is alright provided that the knees don’t deviate excessively inward or outward. Those with longer femurs will have to allow their knees to come farther forward if they want to remain upright.
- Drive your traps into the bar and try to squeeze your elbows in towards your body as you reverse the movement out of the hole.
- Neck position is highly individual as well - some prefer a neutral neck position (i.e. keeping the chin tucked throughout the lift) while others do well with looking straight ahead. Experiment with each and see which one works best for your anatomy.
- Low bar positioning will require the lifter to sit back into the hips with more forward lean at the torso to recruit the posterior chain more effectively.
- Don’t push the knees out excessively but ensure they track roughly over or slightly outside the 2nd toe.