What are box squats? Here’s everything fitness buffs need to know about proper box squat form, what muscles they work, and how they stack against standard barbell squats.
RELATED: How To Do A Bulgarian Split Squat
In this article:
A Beginner’s Complete Guide to Box Squats
What Is a Box Squat?
The box squat is a popular squat variation that allows gym-goers to safely explore heavier weights and numerous rep counts without sacrificing proper form. Trainers often use box squats to teach beginners how to squat, but this doesn’t mean advanced lifters should avoid this exercise.
How to Do Box Squats
Step 1: Prepare the Equipment
First, prepare the equipment. Find a squat rack and load it with enough plates to make the squat more challenging.
Next, position a knee-high bench or box inside the squat rack. Make sure it’s sturdy enough to support the weight of both the body and the barbell.
Note: Beginners who aren’t used to weightlifting yet should use an empty bar. Similarly, experienced lifters shouldn’t try to break their personal record (PR) without the help of a spotter.
Step 2: Warm Up the Muscles
Warming up before doing box squats is important to boost sports performance and reduce the risk of injuring the legs. In fact, doing a series of HIIT exercises before squatting boosts the body’s strength and flexibility.
Some good dynamic exercises to include are high knees, burpees, jumping jacks, and jump rope drills. Try not to do more than 10 to 12 reps per set to avoid tiring out the muscles right away.
Step 3: Get into Squat Position
After warming up the muscles, it’s time to get into the proper box squat position. Stand in front of the squat rack with the bench or box behind the legs.
Next, go under the rack with the bar lying across the shoulders just behind the neck. Place the weight on the traps and shoulders, but do not place excessive stress on the tip of the spine.
Grab the bar with an overhand grip — palms facing away from the body — and then lift the bar off of the rack. After doing this, slightly bend the knees, assume a shoulder-width apart foot stance, keep the back straight, and lock the eyes forward.
This is the starting position.
Step 4: Do the Box Squats
Box Squats GIF by Giphy
From the starting position, bend the knees to lower the body down. Continue squatting until the glutes hit the bench or box.
Afterward, pause for one count and then drive the heels through the ground to push the body all the way back up. Make sure to keep the back straight and eyes locked forward all throughout the exercise to avoid back injuries.
Continue squatting up and down to complete three to four sets of 12 to 16 reps. Keep in mind that the number of sets and reps, as well as the weight on the bar, depends on one’s goal.
Bodybuilders who want to pack on size can experiment with low reps and a heavy barbell and focus on contracting the muscles to achieve a solid pump. Meanwhile, athletes who want to improve muscle power and flexibility should do high reps with a light barbell to boost jumping power, endurance, and overall athleticism.
Note: Do not sit on the bench when going down. Keep the muscles tense and contracted even when the glutes touch the bench or box.
Box Squats vs Barbell Squats: Which Is Better?
Fitness buffs who are hearing about box squats for the first time might wonder how it’s different from standard barbell squats. Overall, it really depends on what one wants to achieve in fitness.
Here are some of the ways how box squats and barbell squats differ from each other:
While squats are generally easy to perform, they can be a bit dangerous if one is trying to experiment with heavier weights. The same thing applies to beginners who aren’t yet used to weightlifting.
Gym-goers can reduce the risk of injury by positioning a box behind the body. If they ever fail to push the weight back up, the box will be there to support them.
As a general rule, fitness buffs shouldn’t lift a weight they’re not confident they can push or pull unless they have the help of a strong spotter.
Winner: Box squats
When it comes to mobility, barbell squats allow a deeper, lower range of motion. Box squats only allow one to hit a 90-degree angle.
This shouldn’t be an issue because gym-goers don’t really need to go any lower than that for most squat variations. In fact, some coaches argue that going beyond 90 degrees is bad for the knees.
As such, barbell squats allow a deeper range of motion but one can work their quads, glutes, and hamstrings just fine with the box squat.
Winner: Barbell squats
3. Learning the Proper Form
Squats are perhaps the best exercise to build lower body muscles. The only problem is a lot of beginners can’t seem to learn the proper form.
Luckily, box squats allow gym-goers to learn the proper form much faster. It can solve some of the most common leg day issues like not going deep enough and arching the back.
After mastering the proper form, one can try squatting without the help of a box or bench. This will help fitness buffs get a more accurate estimate of how much their legs can actually push.
Winner: Box squats
Check out how to do a box squat in this video from Brandon courtesy of Total Fitness Bodybuilding:
Overall, the box squat is a great compound exercise that allows all kinds of gym-goers to experiment with different rep volumes, set numbers, and barbell weight. It hits the exact same exercises as barbell squats do so one can perform these exercises interchangeably.
For best results, gym-goers should always combine box squats with other intense lower body exercises that will help them develop a killer set of legs. Also, bodybuilders who want to speed up the process can experiment with effective bodybuilding supplement stacks.
What do you think is better: box squats or barbell squats? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
- How To Properly Execute A Split Squat Jump
- OH, OH QUADZILLA – Top Moves for Killer Quads Muscles
- The Ultimate Guide To Andarine (S4)