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  • Kris Krotiris

The Box Squat vs. Traditional Squat

Updated: Jun 28

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

The box squat is an excellent variation of a traditional squat for the following reasons:

  • Reduced Load on the Lumbar Spine: As shown in the picture below, a more upright torso generally means reduced load on the lumbar spine compared to a traditional squat without a box.

  • Reduced Load on the Knees: Because you sit back onto a box, the shins stay more vertical, meaning the knees do not flex as much as they would with a traditional squat. Knee joint stress is highest in deep flexion, which is minimised in a box squat.

  • Reduced Need for Ankle Mobility: Sitting back onto a box keeps the shins fairly vertical, so the ankle does not need to bend (dorsiflex) as much at the bottom of a box squat compared to a traditional squat.

  • Increased Muscular Activity Around the Hips and Quads: Box squats increase muscular activity around the hips and quads relative to joint load when compared to traditional squats.


Box Squat
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.

When performing the box squat, keep 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. This will vary from person to person depending on their natural spinal curves.

  • 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, stay tight and pause only for a moment before driving back up.

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

  • Fully extend the hips at the top but don’t overextend the lower back.


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

  • Hips back or sit back

  • Core tight

  • Ribcage down

  • Neutral pelvis and spine

  • Weight through the middle of the feet


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