How to Do Box Squats - Benefits, Muscles Worked and Variations
Many people focus on training their upper body, which comes at the cost of lower body strength. That's why you'll often hear people say that you shouldn't skip leg workouts. Although many lower body exercises promote muscle mass and strength, box squats hold their unique place.
The box squat bears a lot of resemblances to a standard squat but also has some notable differences. Instead of going all the way down, you use a knee-height box to parallel your thighs to the ground at the bottom of the movement.
This article will explain everything you need to know about a box squat, from the muscles it works to its benefits and variations. So, keep reading till the end if you want a strong lower body.
What are Box Squats?
Boxed squats resemble a standard squat, except that they involve a more vertical shin position. They also involve a wider stance and a more upright trunk, emphasizing the hip extensors. Squats are popular and effective for beginners and athletes because they improve your form and enhance the explosive power of your legs.
Box Squats Form and Technique
How to do Box Squats
- Step 1: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart but not too wide. Stabilize and tighten your core by breathing in and out.
- Step 2: Join your hands on your chest and go down slowly until you sit on the box. Make sure your knees point outward when sitting on the bench.
- Step 3: Don't relax your body while sitting on the box; come right back up while keeping your core engaged.
Box Squats Common Mistakes to Avoid
Relaxing at the Bottom
A boxed squat involves sitting on a box at the bottom of the movement. For many, it's pretty tempting to go down and relax for a while. It's highly unproductive and reduces the efficiency of the exercise.
You reduce the tension inside your leg muscles, which is necessary for their growth. Moreover, it also restricts you from generating enough force to return to the original position. Try to get back as soon as you touch the box to keep the muscles under tension.
Falling Back into Seated Position
Many people make the mistake of coming down and rocking back into a seated position. It changes the loading angle of the exercise and moves the tension away from your legs to your spine. The boxed squat is not for you to rest but to give you an idea of depth.
Keep all the tension in your leg muscles when you come down instead of rocking back and transferring it to your spine.
Another common mistake people make is to lift their feet during or at the bottom of the movement. Adjusting your feet is also tempting, just like sitting on the box for a while. However, it is a big mistake as it takes tension away from your legs.
To avoid this mistake, keep your foot firmly planted on the ground throughout the movement and maintain your posture.
Rounding the Lower Back
Rounding your lower back isn't optimal during any kind of squat, and box squatting is no different. If you do that, you put yourself at risk of spinal injury. Moreover, it diverts the tension away from the core muscles, compromising the results.
Letting the Knees Cave in
Your knees should point outwards and track the movement of your feet throughout the exercise. Some people cave in their knees, leading to unnecessary pressure on them and injuries. Moreover, it also relaxes your leg muscles and doesn't train them how you want.
Box Squats Muscles Worked
The quadriceps consist of four muscles in front of your thighs, which work together for knee joint extension and hip joint flexion. Squats are excellent for working out your quadriceps, especially the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. These three muscles support your upward movement during a box squat.
The glutes are a group of three muscles in the buttocks responsible for hip extension. Squats are great for training your glutes, especially the gluteus maximus, which extends the hip joint during upward movement.
Hamstrings are another muscle group containing three muscles at the back of the thigh that work in tandem to flex the knee joint and extend the hip joint. Squats target the hamstrings, specifically the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.
Calves are located at the lower part of the leg and are responsible for plantar flexion, which is the foot's downward movement. During a box squat, calf muscles work to stabilize the ankle joint. It trains calf muscles well and ensures your movement is always on point.
Box Squats Benefits
Training Your Lower Body
The squat is a great compound exercise that works multiple muscles, including the hamstrings, quads, glutes, claves, etc. Holding a weight such as a barbell while doing a box squat works your upper body, too, making it a whole-body workout.
Squat Depth Awareness
Beginner lifters usually don't have a good idea of squad depth. Boxed squats can help resolve this problem by providing them with a tangible depth and getting feedback from their trainer on how well they're approaching it. It really helps beginners learn about the squat pattern and master the movement before they move on to standard squats.
Get Rid of Sticking Points
Many people suffer from sticking points during squat movement, meaning they get stuck at specific points and cannot really overcome them. For instance, some people can go to the bottom of the squat, but returning is really hard for them. Squats help them overcome sticking points by assisting them to rely on their muscles instead of momentum.
People suffer from all kinds of lower body injuries, which prevent them from doing standard squats However, boxed squats help them get around it by letting them perform a partial movement without aggravating the problem. Slowly, they build enough strength and recover from the injury to perform full squats.
Box Squats Variations
Barbell Box Squats
- Step 1: Stand up with your core engaged and grab the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. You can push your hands even wider if you have poor shoulder mobility.
- Step 2: Squeeze your upper back slightly to create a shelf for your bar.
- Step 3: Get underneath the bar and place it on your shoulders. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step 4: Come down and sit while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Step 5: Stand up slowly and repeat until you have finished the set.
Dumbbell Box Squat
- Step 1: Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell with both hands in the goblet squat style.
- Step 2: Engage your core and keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step 3: Bring your body down slowly and sit on the box while holding the dumbbell and keeping your core engaged.
- Step 4: Return slowly to the top while embracing your core, and repeat to finish the set.
Lateral Box Squats
- Step 1: Stand up while keeping one leg bent and the other straight.
- Step 2: Come down to sit on the box while extending your arms in front of you.
- Step 3: Drive your feet into the ground to stand back up. Ensure that your knee doesn't track on the inside of your big toe of the working leg.
Single-Leg Box Squats
- Step 1: Stand straight before the box or bench while keeping one leg grounded and lifting the other.
- Step 2: Bend the knee of your stationary leg and push your hips and butt back to descend towards the box. The other leg will keep hovering above the ground.
- Step 3: Allow your butt to gently touch the box and push through your heels to return to the starting position.
- Step 4: Repeat until your set is completed, then switch legs.
Pause Box Squats
- Step 1: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged.
- Step 2: Place your hands before your chest and bring yourself down.
- Step 3: At the bottom of the movement, sit on the box, and pause for a few seconds.
- Step 4: Squeeze your glutes & abs and bring yourself back up.
Heavy Box Squats
- Step 1: Stand straight with the weight on your shoulders. Make sure you have someone to support you during the movement.
- Step 2: Come down slowly while keeping yourself stable and your core right. Make sure your spine stays neutral throughout the movement.
- Step 3: Don't be relaxed at the bottom, and return to the original position as soon as you touch the box. Keep your spine straight and your body stable.
- Step 4: Do more reps only if you can control the weight. If you cannot, ask for help and unload to avoid injuries.
Box Squats Alternatives
Goblet squats can serve as a great alternative to boxed squats. You can perform them by holding a weight (a dumbbell or a kettlebell) in front of your chest and squatting down. Make sure your core is engaged, and your back is straight.
They improve your stability and balance while allowing you to squat deep. As a result, you have excellent muscle growth and strength gains.
The sumo squat is a popular exercise that targets your adductors, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, etc. You can perform that by spreading your legs apart while squatting and pointing your feet outwards. Keep your back straight and core engaged while squatting to avoid any injuries.
It is an excellent alternative to a box squat because it improves your hip and leg strength while allowing you to stay stable throughout the movement.
Single-leg Squats (Pistols)
Single-leg squats, or pistols, are isolation exercises that work out one leg at a time. You keep the other leg elevated from the ground and hold it while putting the whole weight on the leg you bend.
It is an excellent alternative for those who want to activate one leg at a time. By isolating one leg, you eliminate muscle imbalances and activate more holistic muscle growth.
The Anderson Squat flips the script a bit and lets the lifter start from a concentric rather than an eccentric position. Since it focuses on concentric movement, it is a suitable choice to train for explosive strength, which is the ability to achieve quick muscular contraction.
You perform an Anderson squat by setting the barbell on the rack as low as possible. Put the bar on your shoulders and squat while keeping your core tight. After fully extending your body, bring it down and put the barbell back on the rack.
Box Squats FAQs
Q: What are the differences between box squats and squats?
Boxed squats limit the range of motion according to your strength level and experience. You can adjust the level of the box to change your range of motion and help address muscular weakness or sticking points. On the other hand, standard squats incorporate a full range of motion as you squat deep without any box.
Q: What's the right height for box squats?
Boxed squats have no standard height; you can adjust them according to size, strength level, and experience. However, the often recommended height is the one that makes your thighs parallel to the ground when you touch the box. However, those with injuries can set the box even higher than this limit.
Q: Who should do the box squats?
Both beginners and experienced lifters can do the boxed squats. However, they're more suited for beginners as they allow you to adjust the depth according to strength. Moreover, those returning from an injury can also try to get back into the squat movement without overexerting their muscles.
Q: How often should I do box squats?
The frequency of boxed squats depends upon your workout routine and split. You can do them twice weekly if you're doing a full-body workout. Similarly, those following bro splits will do them once a week. It is recommended that beginners train the same muscles twice weekly for better growth.
Q: How many reps and sets should I do for the box squats?
The reps and sets of boxed squats depend on your goals. If your goal is hypertrophy, go for three sets of 8-10 reps with 1-minute breaks. Those who want to focus on strength should opt for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with 30-second intervals.
Q: How to add the box squats to my routine?
You can add boxed squats to your routine by extending the duration of your legs day or by training your legs more than once a week. Doing leg training twice or thrice a week gives you a better chance of trying squats and adjusting your sets and reps. Moreover, you'll also be able to gain more muscles as a result.
Q: How do I progress with the box squats?
You can progress with the boxed squats by reducing the box height as you gain more strength. Start from a height where you can feel some tension in your legs but not too much. Once you're comfortable with that height and don't feel enough tension, move the box lower to challenge your muscles and activate growth.
Boxed squats are an excellent workout tool to activate growth and strength in your lower body. Where other leg exercises are strict, boxed squats are flexible, allowing you to go about them according to your strength and experience level. Avoiding the mistakes mentioned above is crucial to ensure you're not wasting your time and gaining the maximum amount of muscle.
They are an excellent standalone way of working your lower body, and you can also use them to transition towards more challenging exercises, such as standard squats. Staying consistent in your workouts is the key; if you do, boxed squats will definitely reward you.