In this article we will compare the training outcomes between the box squat vs the regular squat, both of which are widely used throughout strength, power, and fitness sports training. In the sections below, we will detail out the individual differences between these two squat variations and offer guidance to strength, power, and fitness coaches/athletes when determining which movement is best for training goals and sport performance.
The box squat is a squat variation that can be used to increase general squat strength, enhance posterior chain engagement, and address weaknesses in squat performance due to sticking points. Below the box squat is performed using the regular back squat (low bar) patterning. Note, coaches and athletes can vary the height of the box to address weaknesses in a lifter’s squat performance.
The regular squat, also called the back squat, is one of (if not the) the most well-known and recognizable barbell strength movements. It is a foundational movement for general squat strength and lower body development. In addition, it is used throughout strength, power, and fitness sports to improve competitive performance. Below, the standard high bar back squat, which is one variation of the regular back squat (also can be done from the low bar back squat position) is shown below.
Box Squat vs Regular Squat
In the below section we break down three training outcomes coaches and athletes should consider when determining which squat movement is best for athletic and sport performance.
Both movements can be used effectively to increase maximal strength necessary for squatting and other general functional movements (pulling, carrying, etc). Strength and fitness athletes can benefit greatly from including box squats into training routines. Olympic weightlifters, who often may find some benefit including box squats into their program, may find a limitation in the direct application of the box squat (patterning) to movements like cleans, snatches, and jerks (generally speaking, the box squat involves a less vertical back angle).
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Throw back to before Arnolds prep and hitting a 140kg box squat!! That’s the largest amount of weight I’ve ever squated 👏👏😱🤪 It felt really good to make the body work hard for that kind of weight! . . . Top & tights: @grrrl_clothing Belt & sleeves: @fortify_gear Coach: @victorianstrengthclub . . . . . #VSC #grrrl #grrrlgang #fortifygear @smitty_powerbelly @thee_tank
Both movements can enhance quadriceps strength and muscle hypertrophy. The regular squat works the muscle throughout a full range of motion. The box squat however, has the ability to vary the emphasis on certain ranges by adjusting the level of the box itself, which can be helpful to address muscular weaknesses/sticking points in certain phases of the squat movement. Generally speaking, squatting to parallel and above places the highest demands on the quadriceps.
Posterior Chain Hypertrophy
In an earlier article we discussed how the box squat can be used to develop posterior chain strength and performance (hamstrings, glutes, erectors). By including this into squat training programs, you can increase a lifter’s ability to contract the hamstrings and hip muscles harder and remain in control at the bottom of the squat. In addition, by using a box you negate a stretch reflex (due to using a pause in the bottom of the squat) forcing higher contractile demands on the posterior chain (and the concentric strength abilities of the quadriceps).
Which is Best for You?
In the below section we will discuss four (4) types of athletes/goals, each breaking down which movement (box squat vs regular squat) would be most beneficial to boost sport-specific strength and performance.
General Squat Strength and Hypertrophy
Both the box squat and the regular squat have the ability to build strength and muscle hypertrophy, each in their own way (discussed above). Box squats can be used to increase quadriceps hypertrophy, address sticking points in the squat, and even allow for posterior chain development (increased hip engagement at bottom of the box squat). The regular squat can also help develop strength and hypertrophy in the squatting movement, and is the objective measure of squat strength in strength, power, and fitness sports. It is recommended that athletes spend the majority of their time regular squatting, and using the box squat as an accessory exercise during squat training programs.
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Competitive Fitness Athletes
Competitive fitness athletes can benefit from including both the box squat and regular squats into training programs on a regular basis, as they must express both strength, fitness, and weightlifting technique in competition. The ability to vary squat training should be used on a regular basis with competitive fitness athletes to address weaknesses in squat patterning, strength, and muscle development, which can play a role in improving overall athleticism.
Generally the regular squat is the premiere strength movement to develop leg and back strength for Olympic weightlifters. In addition to the front squat and various pulls, the regular squat is used to drive up strength in specific patterns (high bar back squat) to translate to increased clean, jerk, and snatch performance.
In some training systems, partial squats and pause squats are used, as well as box squatting to increase specific strength needed to certain positions. While athletes and coaches can use the box squat to address limitations in quadriceps development and/or sticking points, the regular squat is the ideal squat variation as it can develop dynamic strength (with the stretch reflex) and overall muscle development in similar squat pattenings needed for the competitive lifts.
Powerlifters and Strength Athletes
Powerlifters and strength athletes can benefits from both movements equally (much like the other groups above). In these strength sports, the regular squat (no pause, and no box) is the objective test performed in competition, and therefore holds a high value to practice and train it to develop necessary strength and technique. With that said, the box squat can be used to isolate specific ranges of force development that may be lacking in these athletes, address issues with achieving depth in a squat (proving a reference point for the lifter), and/or to isolate either greater quadriceps or posterior chain development (see above). In addition, absolute strength is key in these sports, making it beneficial for coaches/athletes to use both of the squat variations on a regular basis to allow a lifter to train hard and heavy and to build a well rounded squat strength base.
Build a Stronger Squat
Take a look at the below squat articles and maximize your programming and squatting skills.
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