The box squat is a great tool for teaching people how to squat properly.
A lot of people can’t squat with passable form their first time out but just about everyone can box squat, as long as you set the box to an appropriate height.
That means the point at which they can maintain a neutral spine or where they start crashing into the box due to weak hamstrings.
It also teaches people to sit back a bit more and helps alleviate some of the knees forward, quad dominant squatting that is so prevalent in beginners.
It’s also a good exercise for those with bad knees who may not be able to free squat anymore.
Today I want to present some of the most commonly seen mistakes on the box squat so that if you choose to use them you actually do them properly and derive some benefit from the exercise.
Sitting Back Too Far-
Although I said that box squats teach you to sit back you will also see people overdoing this and making a huge mistake. I see it all the time.
What we have here is yet another case of people seeing what Westside does and applying it to their own training without changing a thing.
You only sit that far back if you are planning on competing in a squat suit. Otherwise your box squat should look pretty damn similar to your regular free squat.
The shins should NOT be perpendicular to the floor. They should be at very near the same angle they would be when free squatting. Unless you have bad knees and the box squat is the only form of squatting you ever intend to do.
If you intend to free squat sitting that far back with a negative shin angle will end up having zero transfer when you remove the box.
Taking Too Wide of a Stance-
Again, your box squat should look fairly similar to your free squat. There’s no need to spread your feet out so wide that they’re under each side of the power rack.
Unless you’re wearing squat briefs or a suit that’s a great way to destroy your hips and it’s not very sport specific in the least. A normal, slightly wider than shoulder width stance should suffice.
Leaning Forward Too Much-
At the bottom of a squat your torso should always be leaning forward a bit. It will never be perpendicular to the floor, nor would you want it to be.
Your strongest stance would an athletic stance; like if you were playing linebacker or guarding a guy in basketball. That’s how you should look at the bottom of a squat.
For some reason I see a lot of guys almost good morning their box squats. No need to do this. Keep the trunk at the same angle it would during a free squat.
Those lifters who lean forward too much will usually also be the ones who rock.
What happens is they lower themselves to the box with a forward lean, then they rock back so that they are almost sitting straight up then they quickly reverse the motion and rock forward again to generate some momentum before standing back up. Don’t do that.
The same guys that rock also sometimes do the seemingly impossible and let their feet come up off the ground or start skating around like they’re on ice in the bottom position.
In other words they are no longer bolted to the floor. They are completely sitting on the box while letting the pressure come up off their feet a bit while they rock back to generate momentum. When that happens your spine is bearing all the load in an unhealthy manner, being compressed between the bar and the box.
Crashing Onto the Box-
This is a pretty serious injury waiting to happen.
You want to lower yourself slowly to the box, sit on it, while staying very tight, pause for a second and then explode up. Do not crash on the box if you still want to be walking upright in twenty years.
“Releasing the Hips” or Relaxing at the Bottom-
Some people read that dynamic effort box squats had something to do with “static overcome by dynamic work” and started applying that information to every rep of box squats they did; heavy or not.
However, if you are going to use the box squat as a strength building exercise, I personally do not believe that you should ever release or relax anything at the bottom while sitting on the box.
EVERYTHING must remain tight.
Your upper back, lower back, abs, obliques, hips, legs, grip, everything. You should be sitting on the box like a motionless statue. The only thing you do is pause briefly and then you stand back up the exact same way you sat down.