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The Importance of Box Squats for Strength and Technique

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

The squat is the classic lower body exercise for many people that lift weights. It is a compound exercise that involves stabilizing your core and using the power of your leg muscles to move the weight. There are several variations to the movement to focus on different objectives. If you’re looking for a way to take your lower body workout to the next level, consider incorporating box squats into your routine.

Box squats can add variations to your lifting or help you to concentrate on various aspects of the squatting movement. This can help you to improve your basic barbell squat ability, mainly if you are experiencing a workout plateau.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the topic and discuss the benefits of using box squats to hammer your legs during your next leg day.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is recommended that you speak to your doctor before engaging in any workout program or exercise.

What Are Box Squats?

Box squats are a variation of the squat exercise where you lower your body until your glutes make contact with a box or bench placed behind you. The height of the box or bench used is based on your individual range of motion, typically resulting in your thighs being parallel to the floor upon touching the box (think along the lines of your legs being 90 degrees or your upper legs parallel with the floor).

Adjusting the height of the box or bench can modify the exercise’s range of motion. For instance, using a lower box can help you squat deeper, while a higher box may reduce your range of motion, making it a suitable option for those with knee injuries.

During a box squat, you lower your body until you reach the box or bench, upon which you sit briefly before standing back up to the starting position.

 

The Benefits of Box Squats

Here are a few reasons why you should consider incorporating box squats into your leg day routine.

1.      Strengthens hamstrings and glutes

Compared to regular air squats, box squats require you to shift your center of gravity further back toward the box or bench you’ll be sitting on. This results in your hips moving further back, causing your shins to be perpendicular to the ground. By doing so, you activate your posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings and glutes, to a greater extent.

With consistent training, box squats can yield up to three to four times more force development than any other squat variation.

2.      Box squats work your posterior chain

During box squats, it’s essential to push your lower body back more than you would during a regular squat. This motion is critical to engage multiple muscle groups across your lower body, such as the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, spinal erectors, and lower back muscles.

The specific movement pattern of box squats can help activate and strengthen these muscles, increasing power and overall lower body strength.

3.      Puts less stress on your knees

If you have a history of knee pain or injuries, the box squat can be an excellent exercise option for you. This is due to the fact that the movement allows you to sit back further into the squat, which can reduce the amount of stress placed on your quads. This is beneficial because excessive quad activation during a regular squat can potentially strain your knees if your joints are not yet strong enough.

By reducing the stress on your knees, the box squat may be a safer option for those with knee pain or injury history who are looking to build lower body strength.

4.      Targets more muscles

Box squats are often associated with targeting the glutes and backside muscles. However, when executed properly and consistently, this compound exercise can provide a comprehensive workout for various muscle groups, including the hamstrings, quads, calves, and core.

Engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously during box squats can result in a greater metabolic response, leading to increased calorie burn even when at rest.

5.      You can boost your mobility

For some individuals, achieving proper squat mobility can be a significant challenge. If you notice that your knees cave in or your heels lift off the ground during a squat, it may be an indication of limited mobility. However, by regularly performing box squats with proper form, you can work on improving your flexibility and range of motion. This is important because squats are not just an exercise, they’re a functional movement that we perform in daily life.

Incorporating box squats into your workout routine can help you maintain or even improve your range of motion as you age, which can make tasks such as standing up from a seated position easier. Building functional strength and mobility at a younger age can help you maintain these capabilities as you get older.

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