The box squat is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles in the lower body, most notably, the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The box squat is a great option for women who want to learn how to do barbell back or front squats, but don't currently have the technical proficiency, strength, stability, or mobility to perform these more advanced variations.
A barbell and a bench/box should be used for this exercise. A traditional barbell may be used and to increase the resistance users may add weight plates to each side. Some gyms have fixed weight barbells which are shorter than a traditional barbell and the resistance is not adjustable. These fixed weight barbells often increase in resistance by 5-10 pounds (50 lbs, 55 lbs, 60 lbs, 65 lbs, and so on). As for the bench/box, the height will dictate the difficulty of the exercise. The lower the bench/box, the more challenging it will be. Make sure you select a height of bench/box that will allow you to use good box squat technique.
The box squat is a great option for beginners who are looking to master the basic squatting movement pattern, and are looking to develop the strength, mobility, and technical proficiency to be able to perform more advanced barbell squatting variations. In some instances, the barbell box squat might be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. If this is the case, you might prefer to start with the bodyweight box squat, or the goblet box squat.
The box squat is a great option for the intermediate lifter. You can perform this exercise on its own, you can pair it with another upper body pushing or pulling exercise as part of a superset, or can you even make it part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. However, if you are planning on using heavy resistance, it should be done towards the beginning of the workout when the body is fresh. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the box squat.
Women who are comfortable with the box squat can choose to perform negative box squats where the lowering phase is increased to 3-5 seconds. This trains the muscles eccentrically. You can also perform the pause box squat variation, pausing for 3-5 seconds when you are halfway down to the box, or you can combine the negative and pause squat variations. You can also increase the weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). You can also challenge the glutes by placing a resistance band both above and below the knees, and actively pressing both knees out against the bands while performing the box squat.
There are many box squat benefits. The box squat is very beneficial for someone who might not currently have the requisite levels of technical proficiency, strength, stability and mobility to perform barbell back squats. How a woman chooses to use the box squat is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where the exercise falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, the box squat can be used to do any or all of the following:
At Girls Gone Strong we get a lot of questions about how to squat properly. While squats are a fantastic exercise, there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things to think about so it is important that you know the really simple variations before you move on to something that is a little bit more complicated.
The way that we generally start people off is with a bodyweight box squat. You’re going to set up a bench or box - something behind you. You are going to set up with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. One thing to keep in mind, as with every exercise but especially your squats, is that your squat form is going to look a little bit different than everybody else's just based on your unique leverages, and your movement history, and your ability, your limb length. But in general starting with your feet a little wider than shoulders width apart and toes turned out slightly is going to work really well for most woman. Now there are a lot of girls we have seen who may have been taught how to lift by their boyfriends, who are powerlifters or something. We see them starting with their stance really really wide and their toes turned out a lot. While this squat stance works for certain people and certain instances (for example, powerlifters) for our general population, women just want to look good and feel good, we find that a moderate stance makes more sense.
So start with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, toes turned out slightly, you are going to set your core by taking a big, deep breath in through your nose, blowing your air out and getting your stomach nice and tight, then you are going to breathe in again to help stabilize your core. It's going to look something like this: big breath in, blow your air out and get your rib cage down, get the core nice and braced, fill up with air and then you are ready to squat. This is what helps stabilize your spine throughout the squat. Now we like having the bench or box behind you, because it teaches woman to sit back into their hips. A lot of women, if they come from a dance background or are really quad dominant, will find that they either try to plie down into their squat or they get pulled forward because they are more quad dominant when they really need to be sitting back into their hips, so that's what that's for.
A big breath in, blow your air out, fill up with air, I generally put my hands right here because eventually you will be holding a kettlebell here. Drive your knees out and sit back into your hips. You are going to sit all the way onto the box or the bench but you're not going to relax, you are just going to put your weight on there, you are going to brace your core, and you are going to stand up. You will have a little bit more of a forward lean on a box squat then you would a free squat and that's ok. You will especially have a more of a forward lean if you are like me and your torso is really short and your legs are really long. I am going to demonstrate this again. Big deep breath in, blow my air out, set the rib cage, brace my core, breathe in again, fill up circumferentially, sit back and drag my knees out and brace my core and stand up.
A couple of things that you will notice:
-- I am not slamming down into the box. That's really important, especially if you end up box squatting with weight on your back, the last thing you need is to slam all your weight down on the box. I’m keeping it under control by keeping my core nice and tight. I am going to show you again. Big breathe in, blow your air out, breathe in again and sit back.
-- You will notice I am driving my knees out. A lot of woman, especially if their glutes are a little too weak or their hips are weak, have a tendency to let their knees cave. Drive your knees out, brace your core and stand up. Again we find that this stance works really well for woman who just want to look good, feel good, feel healthy and strong.
-- When it comes to bracing your core - when you are doing a bodyweight squat it is not that important to be super, super tense because you want to reserve that for times when you are lifting really heavy weight. But if you haven't gotten use to bracing your core before then starting to brace a little bit harder on this exercise is totally fine and then eventually keeping the core nice and tight will come a little bit more naturally. But again you generally want to reserve the really hard brace for when you are using a lot of weight.
Now I am going to show you what it looks like from the side. Get my stance set up, set my core, sit back, (you will notice that I’ve got a little bit of a forward lean), brace my core, and stand up. One thing that is really important is that you don't want to let your butt tuck under and then fling yourself up off the bench. You will see a lot of woman sit back, tuck their butt under, then fling themselves up like this. This is not what you want to do. You are going to keep this nice and braced the whole time, sit back, stay nice and tight, and stand up.
The other thing that is really different about a box squat that people need to keep in mind is that there is a difference between a box squat and a squat to box. A box squat is where you actually put your weight on the box, whereas a squat to box is where you just tap it with your butt to gauge depth. This is a squat to box and this is a box squat.
Once you have mastered the bodyweight box squat you are free to move on to a bodyweight squat without the box.
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