Box Squats- Techniques, Benefits, And Variations

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.

Let us now take a detailed look at how to perform the basic box squats and the variants of the same.

Box squat variations

There isn’t a rigid way to execute box squat exercise. While there are basic box squats, other variations accommodate beginners who can’t carry heavy weight just yet. The following are how to do a squat properly through different box squat forms:

1. Basic box squat

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

How to do

  • Hold the barbell across the back of your shoulders with a wide grip.
  • Step back a bit and position your feet at a distance slightly wider than your shoulder width, with your toes pointing out slightly.
  • Stand upright at a distance of about a foot in front of the box and keep your head up.
  • Slowly lower yourself to sit on the box, pushing your glutes and hips back.
  • Bend your knees to lower yourself on the box.
  • Push through your feet to rise again and return to the starting position.
  • As you stand, focus on pushing your hips forward with your upper legs.
  • Contract your core muscles as you do the squats but don’t lean your torso forward.
  • Pause for a second before repeating the movement.
  • 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.

2. 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 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.

3. 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.

4. Front box squats

Target muscles: Glutes, pectoral muscles, deltoids, and hamstrings.

How to do

  • Get a plyo box and a loaded barbell.
  • Take position in front of the box with your back towards the box.
  • Maintain a foot distance and keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Hold the barbell in front of your shoulder.
  • Follow the basic box squat routine.
  • You can do 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps for this variation.

Summary: The front box squat is slightly different from the basic box squat as instead of holding the barbell across your shoulder, you will be holding it in the front. This squat variation also targets your upper body and engages your core. It helps to train your movements for your squats.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

How is a box squat different from a regular squat? 

A regular squat and a box squat are different in a couple of ways. This may make you wonder, “what are box squats good for?” And why you shouldn’t just stick to regular basic squats. Both squats variations are good for you. But what’s the difference between both?

Equipment

The equipment involved in both variations is different. Box squats need a box or raised platform, barbell, and power rack or squat stands. This gives you a more intense workout each time. On the other hand, regular squats or sometimes known as back squats, require a power rack and a barbell or a dumbbell.

Muscles worked

The target muscles of both the squats’ variations are also a bit different. Box squats, for example, target glutes, lumbar muscles, hamstrings, and the posterior chain. On the contrary , regular squats focus more on the quadriceps, adductor magnus, and glutes.

Range of motion

The range of motion in a box squat is lesser than in a regular squat. Box squats have a shorter range of motion as you pause on the box, which increases time under tension (TUT). 

Box squats involve using a box or a raised platform that’s parallel to the lifter, which is not up to the powerlifting squat depth in squat technique rules. Regular squats have more powerlifting depth than box squats.

Movement pattern

The movement pattern of box squats is different from regular squats. Box squats are more explosive and dynamic exercises. They engage your core and upper body. 

Regular squats involve more knee movement and less hip movement. Box squat requires more hip movement than knee movement.

Weight used

Box squats are specifically weight-based exercises. They are performed using a barbell. In fact, these squats were initially popularized by powerlifters. On the other hand, regular squats can be done without any weights. 

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. Target more muscles

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 in your body.

3. Help you better with your squat form and height

Many people get air squats wrong during their workout routine. They are probably not squatting enough or not engaging their muscles as they should. Thankfully, box squats help you get the right form and height during your workouts.

In addition, 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.

4. Works your lower body

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.

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.

Tips to prevent injury and do box squats correctly

While box squats aren’t complicated, some people may still get them wrong. They could make common box squat mistakes and end up harming themselves in the process.

Sure, it’s not easy carrying the weight behind you and squatting, but you won’t have any such issues if you follow the tips below. Here’s how to do box squats correctly to prevent injuries:

  • Keep the box stable and ensure proper height. 
  • Don’t squat too deep, else you could strain your muscles or injure yourself.
  • Stay in control and avoid slamming on the box as you lower your body.
  • Keep your core tight and chest tall, and hinge your hips during the exercise.
  • 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.
  • Coordinate your movement in slow motion. Know your limit and when to stop.
  • Be careful when choosing the weights. Use a weight that’s challenging enough but comfortable.
  • Don’t bend or slouch your shoulders and back while doing the exercises.
  • Don’t hold your breath. Breathe naturally throughout the exercise.

Conclusion

Box squats make up a good exercise routine, even for beginners starting 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.

If you have suffered an injury, trying box squats will help you greatly. However, it is a good idea to consult a physical therapist before starting out on a box squat workout routine after injury or if you have some physical illnesses. Ensure you follow safety tips when working out, and you’re all good.

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