Top 7 Box Squat Benefits, Muscles Worked + How-To Do It Right
Benefits of Box Squats – Introduction
What are the top box squat benefits, the muscles worked + how do you do them the right way?
Whether you want to build muscle, get stronger, run faster, jump higher, or just get fit and lean, squats should be part of your workouts.
Squats are often called the “king of exercises,” and that’s a title they truly deserve.
There are lots of types of squats to choose from, and they can all be beneficial.
Squat options include:
- Front squat
- Back squat
- Goblet squat
- Zercher squat
- Air/bodyweight squat
- Bulgarian split squat
- Squat jump
There’s another type of squat that can be valuable too – the box squat – and that can be combined with many of the exercises listed above.
So, for example, you can do front, back, goblet, or Zercher box squats.
So, what are box squats, what are their benefits, and do they deserve a place in your workouts?
What Are Box Squats
As the name suggests, box squats involve squatting down until your backside touches a box placed behind you.
You can also use a bench.
The height of the box/bench depends on your natural range of motion but, usually, it means that your thighs are parallel to the floor when you touch it with your butt.
That said, you can use a lower box to teach you to squat a little deeper or a higher box to purposely reduce your range of motion, such as if you have a knee injury that prevents you from descending to parallel.
When you do box squats, you descend until you are sitting on the box.
There is then a slight pause before standing back up.
You do not relax on the box – you’re not sitting there for a rest!
Instead, you sit but stay tight.
Box Squat Benefits to Build Stronger Hamstrings & Glutes
What Muscles Do Box Squats Work?
Box squats are a compound exercise involving several joints and multiple muscles.
The exact muscles involved in box squats depend on the version you are doing, for example, back box squats vs. front box squats.
That said, the main muscles developed during box squats are:
- Quadriceps – the muscles on the fronts of your thighs
- Hamstrings – the muscles on the backs of your thighs
- Adductors – the muscles on the inside of your thighs
- Abductors – the muscles on the outside of your thighs
- Gluteus maximums – the muscles on the back of your hips
- Erector spinae – the lower back muscles
- Core – the muscles of your midsection
How to Do Box Squats
Before you try box squats, you should already be familiar with regular squats.
After all, box squats are a variation and not a replacement for regular squats.
So, if you are still learning how to squat correctly, you should probably keep practicing before progressing to box squats.
That said, if you are already a proficient squatter and are ready for a new challenge, box squats are a logical progression.
Follow these steps to ensure you are doing them correctly:
- Place your barbell in a squat rack set to roughly shoulder height.
- Position your appropriately sized box/bench behind you.
- Duck under the bar and hold it with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
- The bar should be across your upper back and not your neck.
- Pull your shoulders down and back, lift your chest, and brace your core.
- Unrack the bar, step out into your usual squat stance and get ready to squat.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees, and descend under control until your backside rests on the box.
- Do not round your lower back.
- Touch down lightly to avoid shock-loading your spine.
- Pause on the box for 1-2 seconds while staying tight.
- Do not relax!
- Drive off the box and stand up.
- Keep your core tight and your spine neutral throughout.
- Reset your core and repeat.
How to Box Squat With Powerlifter Donnie Thompson
The Top 7 Benefits of Box Squats
Not sure if box squats deserve a place in your workouts?
Consider these benefits and then decide!
#1. Consistent squat height
Even if you squat in front of a mirror, it’s not always easy to judge the depth of your squat.
You may even find that your squat gets shallower as your set goes on and you start to tire.
It could also be that you think you’re hitting parallel when you aren’t.
Box squats fix all these problems.
By always touching your derriere to the box, you ensure your last rep is as deep as the first.
Plus, by setting up a box that ensures you are at parallel or below, you can make sure you always squat to the depth that produces the best gains in muscle size and strength.
In short, box squats keep you honest!
#2. Make better use of your glutes and hamstrings
Box squats teach you to push your hips back as you “look” for the box with your butt.
This increases posterior chain engagement.
Making better use of your glutes and hamstrings will allow you to lift heavier weights.
Squats are generally considered a knee-dominant exercise, working your quads more than your hamstrings.
However, box squats are more 50/50, working the front and the back of your thighs pretty equally.
#3. Less knee stress
Pushing your hips back to reach the box helps keep your shins more vertical, which takes the pressure off your knee joints.
Regular squats tend to involve more forward knee travel, which places your knee joints in a more acute and potentially painful position.
Keeping your shins vertical could alleviate the joint stress that can cause knee pain during squats.
#4. More power “out the hole”
Box squats force you to decelerate and pause briefly at the bottom of each rep.
This breaks up the eccentric/concentric stretch cycle that uses the elasticity of your muscles to help you come back up.
By negating this advantage, every rep is more challenging, and that will make you stronger and more powerful.
Also, box squats force you to descend more slowly, and you’ll have to work harder to stand back up as you’re doing so from stationary.
These factors make box squats an excellent accessory exercise if you want to get better at regular squats.
#5. An excellent strength and power exercise
Box squats are popular with powerlifters and athletes because they’re so effective for building maximal strength and power.
In most cases, box squats are done for slow reps with heavy weights.
And while the lowering phase is done slowly, the lifting phase is best done explosively.
This makes box squats very functional and an excellent way to increase athletic performance.
#6. Fix your sticking points
Many lifters get stuck at the bottom of a heavy squat.
Descending is no problem, as gravity is your friend, and once you are halfway up, you’ll probably be able to power through and complete your rep.
But, at the bottom, reps can stall and leave you unable to stand back up.
Box squats train you to get stronger in this mechanically disadvantageous position.
If you always do the same exercises, your workouts will soon become boring.
That’s not just bad for workout motivation and enjoyment but could harm your progress, too.
If you keep doing the same exercises over and over, they’ll start to lose their potency, and that includes squats.
By swapping regular squats for box squats, you can add some variety to your workouts and maintain your progress.
The exercise is similar enough to have all the benefits of regular squats but is also different enough to keep your workouts productive and interesting.
All you need for box squats is a box or bench, so they’re an easy-to-implement variation.
Benefits of Box Squats to Increase Your Raw Squats
Box Squat Drawbacks
Box squats are mostly advantageous, but there are a couple of drawbacks to consider, too:
#1. Risk of back injury
Descending too fast or relaxing on the box could result in serious back injury.
Avoid both these problems by using light weights until you are confident you have perfected your box squat technique.
Also, consider placing a large sponge or folded gym mat on your box to provide an “early warning” that you are about to touch down on the unyielding surface.
#2. Over-reliance on the box to judge squat height
if you are a powerlifter, you need to be able to judge the height of your squat without mirrors or a box.
You have to do it by feel.
If you always use a box, you’ll never learn how to squat to the correct height without one and could bomb out of a powerlifting competition if the officials deem that you aren’t going deep enough.
So, if you have plans of competing in the sport of powerlifting, make sure you do plenty of squats without a box, so you can accurately judge the depth of your squat.
#3. Not so good for hypertrophy
Box squats are an excellent strength/power exercise but aren’t as beneficial for hypertrophy or muscle building.
That’s not to say they won’t lead to muscle growth, but that’s not the purpose of this particular exercise.
Regular squats are probably a better choice if you are training specifically for muscle size.
Box Squat Benefits – Wrapping Up
While there is nothing wrong with a steady diet of regular squats, you may find your progress starts to slow or even plateau if that’s all you ever do.
That’s why smart lifters use a variety of exercises to reach their strength and fitness goals.
Box squats are a very easy to implement squatting variation that you can do in almost any commercial or garage gym as all you really need to do them is an appropriate box or bench.
You can use box squats as an accessory exercise to improve your performance of regular squats or as a knee-friendly alternative if heavy squats bother your joints.
However, they’re arguably a better strength and power exercise than a muscle builder, so choose the squat that best meets your training needs.