Why Box Squat? – Jeromy Bryk

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Jeromy Bry – @Bryk_Squuaadd

Box squats are a staple in many powerlifting programs (especially conjugate style) and for good reason. They work! Although some argue that Box Squats are useless for raw powerlifters, I personally have found great success when they are in my program and I know that anyone who has run any of Zach Homol’s programming would agree with me. In this article I am going over a few of the benefits you can expect from using Box Squats, assuming they are done correctly.

1. Improved Hip Strength:

I have found tremendous improvement in my squat and deadlift ever since I started implementing box squats into my programming regularly. Since I began using them a little over a year ago when I did Zach’s 8 week peak, my sumo deadlift went from 540 to 600 lbs and my squat went from 520 wrapped to 585. I will be attempting 600+ lbs in a few weeks coming off of the best box squat cycle I have ever run the past 3 weeks. I attribute this to the hip, glute and hamstring strength that box squats help to develop. Since I am a wide stance squatter and sumo deadlifter, I rely heavily on my hamstrings and glutes to power my way through lifts, making the box squat a perfect builder exercise for both movements.

2. Improves Reversal Strength:

Implementing Box Squats will help to develop reversal strength out of the hole, very similar to the effects that we would see from pause squats. The reason being is that in the box squat we are required to sit back and stop ourselves on the box, this sitting back and stopping eliminates the stretch reflex that a free squat allows from “bouncing” out of the hole.  By eliminating this stretch reflex we are forced to reverse from a dead stop into the concentric phase as opposed to going from the eccentric phase directly into the concentric phase. While this makes the lift harder initially, this is teaching us how to better utilize the shorter stretch reflex during a free squat.

3. Gain Familiarity with Heavy Weights by Using Various Box Heights: 

One of my favorite benefits of the box squat is being able to decide how deep I am going to go with a weight by switching the box height. For example, by starting off on a high box and working down, we slowly become more acclimated with a weight while working to a deeper depth each time, rather than requiring the body to do it all at once. If we were to do this in a 3 week wave we may start with 550lbs on a high box, gradually lowering the box each week until  at depth, and then take the box away and hit a free squat with the same weight next time around. This helps a ton when preparing for competition where depth is a factor.

Using different box heights over time also serves to help with improved hip mobility, as each time you lower the box we are forcing the body to stretch further down and forcing it familiarize itself with getting lower with a heavy weight. This is a form of ballistic stretching.

4. Teaches Full Body Tightness

If you want to stand up with a heavy weight off a box you will need maximum muscle fiber recruitment to make this happen. Otherwise the weight will just bend you over on the box. And since there is no stretch reflex to take advantage of like in a free squat, you can’t really fight through the weight the same way. Box Squatting teaches us how to maintain full body tightness throughout the movement, and in turn we are forced to recruit more muscle fibers to move the weight. Maximum muscle fiber recruitment is what we need if we want to move big weights.

 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Box Squatting: 

  1. Losing Tightness and Dropping Onto the Box: Not only is this unsafe and brutal on your lower back,  but the idea of the box squat is to maintain tightness throughout the movement, and by dropping down onto the box we are losing the tension needed to push off of the box. Keep full body tightness and focus on control on the descent during the movement.
  2. Lunging Forward Off the Box Instead of Standing Straight Up: Our box squat form should mimic our free squat form. By lunging forward off the box we are creating bad habits for the free squat going forward, and is a result of relying too much on using the box as leverage to get out of the bottom. This is also a tell-tale sign that the hamstrings may need work going forward.
  3. Bouncing Off the Box: The purpose of the box squat is to build reversal strength out of the hole. By bouncing off the box we are using the stretch reflex, essentially making this movement into a free squat with a box there to help you tell depth, thus eliminating what makes it such a beneficial movement. Remember to sit back and pause before engaging your hips and exploding off of the box!
  4. Using a High Box Too Frequently: Like I mentioned in number two, our box squat form should mimic our free squat form. One mistake I used to make when box squatting was using a high box too frequently in training. By using a high box so frequently, I had a very difficult time getting a rebound out of the hole on my free squats, when required to squat lower. A good way to avoid this is to rotate between varying box heights, and remember to work in free squats between box squat cycles.

Sample Box Squat Cycle: 

Below is a 3 Week Box Squat wave that I have used in my training. Try it out for yourself and see how you like it!

Week 1: 

Box Squat in Sleeves: 10,8,6,4,4

Week 2:

Box Squat in Sleeves: 8,6,4,2

Week 3: 

Box Squats in Sleeves: 6,4,2,2

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