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The Box Squat vs. Traditional Squat



What is a box squat?

A box squat is a variation of a squat where a box or bench is placed behind you, enabling you to sit back onto it as if you were sitting back onto a chair. This movement can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells or even just bodyweight.


Box squat benefits

We love the box squat variation for the following reasons:


  • Reduced load on the lumbar spine. See the picture below- a more upright torso generally means reduced load on the lumbar spine when compared to a traditional squat without a box.

  • Reduced load on the knees. Because you sit back onto a box, the shins will usually stay more vertical which then means the knees do not flex as much as they would with a traditional squat. It is in this deep flexion that knee joint stress is at its highest.

  • Reduces the need for ankle mobility. Because you are sitting back onto a box keeping a fairly vertical shin position, the ankle does not need to bend (dorsiflex) at the bottom of a box squat as much as it would with a traditional squat.

  • Increase in muscular activity around the hips and quads relative to joint load when compared to a traditional squat.


Box Squat
Image 1. On the left is a box squat while on the right is a traditional squat. Note the more upright torso and greater sit back on the box squat. Rising from this position means less stress on the lumbar spine, knees and hips.

Coaching the box squat

The box squat should be performed with the following key points in mind:

  • The bar should be evenly placed on the shoulders

  • The pelvis and spine should be set in a neutral position- not too curved, not too rounded. See this article for more information how to do this!

  • You should sit back by breaking at the hips and pushing the hips back onto the box (as if sitting back onto a chair)

  • The shins should stay relatively vertical

  • When sitting on the box, you must stay tight and should only pause for a moment before driving back up

  • The hips should rise at the same time as the shoulders

  • You should fully extend the hips at the top while keeping the pelvis neutral (don't over-extend the lower back!)

The following cues should be used to coach a box squat:

  • Hips back or sit back

  • Core tight

  • Ribcage down

  • Neutral pelvis and spine (must first understand how to set a neutral pelvis!)

  • Weight through middle of foot


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