Box Squats – How To Do, Variations, And Benefits

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a girl doing box squat with a barbell with the help of a fitness trainer

Box squats are a great way to strengthen your lower body and define major muscles. But just how good are box squats for you? Check out this article to find out.

Squats are a great workout addition for many fitness regimens. If squat exercises are part of your routine, you may sometimes want to take it up a notch and try something more challenging. So, why not try the box squats?

Box squats are great for strengthening your lower body muscles and improving your glutes and quads. But before you start stacking your barbells, you need to know how to do a box squat. Why should you even do box squats? Let’s find out!

What is a box squat?

Box squat is a weighted variant of the regular squat exercise. When performing box squats, you will need a squat rack, a barbell, and a plyometric box. You can choose the box height depending on the range of motion and depth of the squat movement you are looking forward to.

The distance between your squat box and the squat rack should be no more than 3-feet. This will ensure safety and ease of movement.

How to do a basic box squat?

  1. Place a box in front of a barbell rack. Position yourself in the middle of the rack.
  2. Adjust your height and position your feet at a distance slightly wider than your shoulder width, with your toes pointing out slightly.
  3. Unrack the barbell by holding it across the back of your shoulders with a wide grip.
  4. Move a bit closer to the box, and keep your head up.
  5. Bend your knees to lower yourself on the box while pushing your glutes and hips back.
  6. Push through your feet to rise again and return to the starting position.
  7. As you stand, focus on pushing your hips forward with your upper legs.
  8. Contract your core muscles as you do the squats but don’t lean your torso forward.
  9. Pause for a second before repeating the movement.
  10. Continue for 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Summary: To do a basic box squat, you must get the necessary equipment. You need an object like a box, bench, or chair. The height of the object should be chosen according to your body height. It should be high enough to break parallel when you sit upon it. Next, you need to load your barbell depending on the weight you can carry on your back. Once that’s ready, you can start with the squats.

What muscles do basic box squats work?

The box squat is a weighted variant of the regular squat exercise. Here are the primary and secondary muscles you can target performing a dumbbell squat.

Primary Muscles Worked

Quadricepsrectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis
Gluteal musclesgluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus

Secondary Muscles Activated

Hamstringsbiceps femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis
Calf musclesgastrocnemius and soleus
Abdominal musclesrectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques
Erector spinaeiliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis

Who should And should Not Do?

Box squats can be a beneficial exercise for a variety of individuals, but they may not be appropriate for everyone. Here are some general guidelines:

Who should do it?

  • Powerlifters and strength athletes looking to improve their squat strength and explosiveness.
  • Individuals with knee or back pain who may benefit from reduced range of motion during the squat.
  • Those looking to improve their form and technique for squats.

Who should not do it?

  • Beginners who have not yet mastered proper squat form and technique.
  • Individuals with mobility issues that prevent them from safely and comfortably performing box squats.
  • Those with injuries that may be aggravated by squatting, including knee or hip problems, lower back pain, or herniated discs.

As always, it is recommended to consult with a qualified fitness professional to determine whether box squats are appropriate for your individual needs and goals.

Tips to prevent injury and do box squats correctly

While box squats aren’t complicated, some people may still get them wrong. Here are some tips to do box squats correctly to prevent injuries:

  1. Keep the box stable and ensure proper height. 
  2. Don’t squat too deep, or you could strain your muscles or injure yourself.
  3. Stay in control and avoid slamming on the box as you lower your body.
  4. Keep your core tight and chest tall, and hinge your hips during the exercise.  Don’t pause too long on the box, either.
  5. Align your knees with your toes to protect your joints. Avoid turning your knees [1]National Library of Medicine: How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading inward.
  6. Be careful when choosing weights. Use a weight that’s challenging enough but comfortable.
  7. Don’t bend or slouch your shoulders and back while doing the exercises.
  8. Don’t hold your breath. Breathe naturally throughout the exercise.

Adding it to your routine

Here’s a sample workout plan for box squats that focuses on building strength and explosiveness in the lower body:

ExerciseSets x RepsRest between sets
Box Squats4 x 62-3 minutes
Romanian Deadlifts3 x 82-3 minutes
Glute Bridges3 x 121-2 minutes
Calf Raises3 x 151-2 minutes

Benefits of doing box squats

Box squats are great for fitness newbies, athletes, and anyone looking to be more fit. But why should you bother with box squats? The following box squat benefits will help you see the need to add them to your routine:

1. Strengthen hamstrings and glutes

Box squats help to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes even better than regular air squats. You engage your posterior chain when you squat while lifting the barbell. 

Your hips move back as you move closer to the box, engaging your glutes and hamstrings. You tap into the muscle strengths in that area, which makes them more defined.

2. Compound exercise for lower body

Box squats don’t only work for your back or bones. They target other muscles in your body as well. The more muscles you engage, the better your metabolism and the faster you can burn calories with these squats. If you need to work your lower body, you can incorporate box squats into your routine. It targets the muscles there and makes them more refined. It also works your shoulders, arms, chest, and upper back muscles.

3. Help you better with your squat form and depth

Box squats help you get the right form and depth during your workouts. It helps you to control your squat movements better since you have to sit down before returning to an upright position. It also helps you to find your squat depth as a beginner because your squat ends on the top of the box.

5. Great for physical recovery 

Box squats are great for post-injury recovery, especially for hamstring injuries that may prevent you from doing air squats. You can start your training with partial reps or set the box at a bearable level. You can keep changing the level as you get better. However, you have to check with your physician if it’s okay for you to do box squats.

6. Improve mobility 

Box squats are functional exercises and can greatly improve your mobility. If you keep up with it, mobility won’t be a problem when you become older.

Box squat variations to try

There isn’t a rigid way to execute the box squat exercises. While there are basic box squats, other variations accommodate beginners who can’t carry heavy weights just yet.

1. Bodyweight box squats

Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, hip flexors, and lower back.

How to do

  • Set up your equipment. Get a plyo box or any object of a height that allows your knees to be at a 90-degree angle when you sit on it.
  • Stand at a foot distance in front of the box.
  • Position your feet at a distance slightly wider than your shoulders’ width.
  • Stretch out your arms in front of you for balance.
  • Lower yourself on the box, pushing your hips back. Focus more on squatting backward than downward.
  • Sit on the box with your full weight and pause for a second.
  • Push through your feet and lift yourself back to the starting position, moving your hips instead of your knees.
  • Repeat for 2 to 3 sets of 18 to 20 reps.

Summary: Bodyweight box squats are great for beginners since they use body weight instead of barbells. You can try it at home without using the equipment. Start with this variant if you’re unsure of carrying weights. You can slowly build up the strength and power you need to carry barbells.

2. Prisoner box squats

Target muscles: Quads, glutes, hip flexors, and core.

How to do

  • Get a plyo box or bench high enough to break parallel when you sit on it.
  • Take position at a foot distance from the box and feet width apart at slightly wider shoulder width.
  • Place your hands behind your head and let them stay there till the exercise is over.
  • Squat back to lower your body on the box.
  • Pause for a second and slowly lift yourself off the box to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 2 to 3 sets of 18 to 20 reps.

Summary: This is another beginner-friendly box squat variation. It’s also very similar to the bodyweight box squat, and they have the same function. The major difference with this variation is that your hands go behind your head.

3. Goblet box squats

Target muscles: Glutes, quads, and core muscles.

How to do

  • Start by holding a kettlebell or dumbbell close to your chest with both hands.
  • Place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and position the box behind you.
  • Keeping your core engaged, lower your body towards the box until your glutes touch the box.
  • Pause for a second, then return to the starting position.

Summary: Goblet box squats help to build strength and power in your lower body. Plus, they also engage your core and upper body. This makes them a great all-round exercise.

4. Single leg box squats

Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, spinal erectors, and calves.

How to do

  • Stand in front of the box with one leg extended and your body weight transferred to the other leg.
  • Keeping your core engaged, lower your body down to the box.
  • Pause for a second, then return to the starting position.

Summary: The single-leg box squat is performed without a weight like you would with a typical bodyweight box squat. This version challenges your hip stability, strength, and movement. The goal is to balance your hips while performing the movement.

5. Box squat jumps

Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, and adductors.

How to do

  • Place the box behind you.
  • Put on a weighted vest.
  • Stand erect with a neutral spine and your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  • Lower your body as you would in basic or bodyweight squats.
  • As you rise, add a jump at the top of the movement.
  • Land lightly on the balls of your feet and descend into your next squat.

Summary: This is a dynamic exercise with slightly more explosive strength, which improves your power. The weighted vest increases the intensity of your workout. Make sure to use a vest of a lower weight range since this is a plyometric exercise, and too much weight might injure or strain your body.


Box squats make up a good exercise routine, even for beginners working towards their fitness goals. The good thing is there are nice beginner-friendly variations that don’t require equipment. 

Box squatting is a great way to work on your form, focus on certain muscles, and even as a recovery and rehabilitation tool after injury. But, you must be careful when using equipment to minimize your injury risk when working out.

It is a good idea to consult a physical therapist before starting out on a box squat workout routine, particularly after injury or if you have some physical illnesses.

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