“Why are we box squatting again? Why don’t we just back squat? Nobody ever asks you what your 1 RM box squat is!”
That was a legitimate complaint ‘slash’ question—from a client who has been around for five years, no less—fielded to me recently. So I figured it’s a topic most definitely worth addressing.
Believe it or not, you can get better at back squats without back squatting! The same way you can improve your deadlift without deadlifting. And your pull-up without doing pull-ups, and even your handstand push-ups without even going upside down! Crazy thoughts, right?
Don’t believe me? Listen to Sam Dancer then—a man with an all-time best deadlift of 695 lb. In this article (https://journal.crossfit.com/article/dancer-doesn-t-deadlift-2), he dives into how he rarely deadlifts—he deadlifts heavy maybe two or three times a year, he says—yet he continues to improve his deadlift through accessory work galore.
So yes, you’re right: Nobody will likely ask you what your 1RM box squat is, but box squatting will help you improve your back squat, and then you can brag about how strong you are.
If you’re still not sold on box squatting improving your box squat, here are 5 other proven benefits you will achieve through the box squat:
- It’s Analogous to life
In other words, your momentum will slow, and then you eventually stall (on the box). And then you’ll have to figure out how to get going from a dead stop: A valuable skill for both squatting, and life.
- It will Improve your Squat Technique
One of the most common mechanical problems with the back squat is not loading your hamstrings enough. Because you can sit back more during a box squat, it’s a great to train yourself to build hamstring tension during your squat, and build-up that all-important posterior chain.
- Increase Power from the Bottom
When you back squat, you get to use that stretch reflex to somewhat ‘bounce’ out of the hole—in other words, you can almost rely on elasticity, as opposed to strict strength, to get back up again when the squat feels heavy.
Such is not the case at the bottom of a box squat. Pausing on the box means you will come to a dead halt and have to pry yourself back up without relying on momentum. This will only build your strength coming out of the bottom, which will translate to your back squat, too.
- Decrease Knee Stress
If you have a history of knee injuries or knee pain, this is the squat for you. It will stop you from loading your quads too much and placing undo strain on your knees.
- Eliminate Depth Cheaters
Some of us are known to ‘cheat’ the depth on our back squats, especially as they get heavy. The box squat doesn’t let you cheat, as you’re forced to plant your ass and reach full depth on that box. Every. Single. Rep.