Box Squat – Muscles Worked, Exercise Technique, and Benefits

The box squat is an exercise that has a wide application for strength, power, and athletic sports training. Whether you are a strongman, Olympic weightlifters (yes, believe it or not), sports athlete, or fitness enthusiast; you can reap some serious strength and muscle building benefits of the box squat.

In this article, we will discuss the box squat in detail, covering box squat technique and set up variations, the muscles worked, and the benefits coaches/lifters can gain from integrating these into strength and/or accessory programs.

Muscles Worked

The box squat is a squat variation that can be altered (depth) to address various phases of the squat. IN doing so, a coach/liter can manipulate the primary muscle groups worked (or at least shift greater emphasis towards one group over the others). The below listing of muscles are they groups worked when performing box squats, each also accompanied by the typical depth at which emphasis is highest.

  • Quadriceps (parallel and above)
  • Glutes and Hamstrings (above and slightly below parallel)
  • Posterior Chain (as a whole, the glutes, hamstrings, and erectors are worked greatly in the box squat)

Box Squat Exercise Technique

The box squat is a squat variation (typically implies the back squat box squat, however can be done with most squat variations) that has a lifter squat to a predetermined depth using a box (or other strong, stable structure). In the below video, the box squat is demonstrated with a barbell back squat. Additionally, the box squat from the front squat position is included as well, demonstrating how the box squat can address various types of squatting exercises.

It is important to note that box squats can include squats to various depths, as this is part of the benefit of using box squats within a training program. Generally, the depth of the bow squat is set so that the lifters thighs are parallel to the floor which mimics similar depths seen in powerlifting standards. This however, can be changed to address other attributes a coach may want to develop, such as explosiveness (for sports athletes, the box is often set slightly higher than parallel, matching the athletic base position).

5 Benefits of Box Squats

Below are five benefits of the box squa that coaches and athletes can gain when integrating the partial range of motion squats into training programs.

Increase Concentric Strength

When box squatting, a lifter typically will pause on the box for a brief moment, often negating some or all of the stretch reflex at the bottom of the squat (negating it completely often requires longer pauses). In doing so, a lifter must overcome the load with maximal force contractions to accelerate the loan from the pause position. Building concentric strength via box squats (as well as pin squat, pause squats, Anderson squats, etc) can help lifter gain serious leg strength and mass and address sticking points in the squat.

Greater Posterior Chain Development

When performing box squats, a lifter engaging their glutes and hamstrings greatly for the increased strength and stability at the bottom of the squat (due to the lack of the stretch reflex). Greater posterior chain activation and development will have a significant impact on non-box squat strength and strength/power outputs.

Address Sticking Points in Squats

Sticking points occur throughout various phases of the squat (ranges of motion) for most lifters, however on common areas is at or slightly above parallel. The box squat can be set to a specific depth based on the lifters needs so that they can specifically train and develop strength, skill, and confidence working through (or just below) the sticking point range of motion.

Train Around Injury

Whether it be from an aggravating overuse injury or during a post-op training program, the squat can be a challenging movement to do in a full range. While lifters must not neglect achieving full range of motion in the squat for mobility and joint health reasons, there may be times where the box squat can be used to systematically train and develop strength and muscle control at various depths (working towards the full squat). In this case, the lifer can work the exact ranges of motion that are pain-free and/or do not place the body at risk until they develop better movement and control at deeper ranges of motion.

Quadriceps Development

As discussed in the muscles worked section, the box squat can be used to increase quadriceps force development and muscle mass when a lifter sets the depth to slightly above parallel. In doing so, you increase the dependiy on the quadriceps to extend the knee, rather than a joint effort from both the knee (quadriceps) and the hips (glutes, hamstrings, erectors).

Build Stronger Legs with These Squat Variations

Take a look below at the below squat variations (for intermediate and advanced lifters) to build serions leg strength, movement, and power.

Featured Image: @loganperformance on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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