Box Squatting vs. Back Squat

Every serious athlete knows that they should be doing heavy squats. While there may be a few exceptions for some athletes, heavy squats are the foundation for a good strength training program. The real question is what type of squat, should you be box squatting or doing back squats?

From my personal experience in the trenches, the box squat has little to no carry over for athlete with an Olympic style squat (the style I teach my athletes). How is this possible since most powerlifters  swear by box squats? The answer is simple- a powerlifting squat is totally different than an Olympic style squat. A powerlifting squat consists of a wide stance, bar placement low on the upper back and a wide grip on the bar. Powerlifters are usually pretty tense under the bar. They also sit way back into the squat.  By using this stance, powerlifting minimize the movement needed to reach parallel. To some people it may even look like an odd lift. The Olympic style squat is a whole different dynamic. Olympic lifters use a narrower stance,  a high bar placement on the traps and are taught to relax under the bar. Olympic squats also go far below parallel. Personally I believe the Olympic squat is a true test of raw strength.

 

My experience has shown me that the box squat is more applicable to a powerlifting style squat. The problem with having Olympic style squatters box squatting all the time is that they will get crushed when they transition into a back squat. My goal for my athletes is to have them squat with an Olympic style squat to proper depth. I will take this any day over a box squat.

I have found that for an athlete that uses a modified squat stance-their stance is a hybrid between powerlifting and Olympic lifting, box squats can have a carryover to their regular squat.  Check out one of my athletes, Bill Winters, perform a max effort back squat. The bar placement is that of a powerlifters but his stance isn’t as wide as most powerlifters, it is somewhat modified. For him, box squatting is actually harder than back squats and thus has a great carryover. They key to remember is that every athlete is going to be different. If an athlete can box squat 405 but will get crushed by that same weight if you take away the box, chances are they should focus on squatting without the box.

If you use an Olympic style squat and want to improve your squat, than you need to back squat-not box squat.

Does this mean I never use a box to squat? NO WAY They are great for a couple of reasons why I use them:

  1. In Season Training- Simply put, box squatting is less strenuous on the body. It will not get you as sore as back squats and helps alleviate hip pain and some other muscular imbalances caused from your sport. It is especially good for catchers in season because most catchers have tight hips because they are constantly holding a static squatting stance during their games.
  2. Easy to Teach- Along with the trap bar deadlift (high handles), the box squat is the first major barbell lift I teach to my athletes. It is much easier to teach than the back squat because a lot less can go wrong. Since you need to sit on the box (should be set at parallel), you do not need to worry about going low enough. This is especially good for new athletes or an athlete who is coming off an injury and is ready to get back under the bar. Eventually I want all my athletes to progress to a back squat.
  3. Dynamic Effort Method- Dynamic box squats are awesome for improving explosive strength in the squat.  Add on some chains or bands to accommodate resistance. Dynamic box squats done with chains, bands or even by themselves are NOT FOR EVERYONE. They are only for advanced lifters. I do not use them in my program often but they are another tool to utilize.  Check out the video below of Bill Winters performing dynamic box squats with chains.

Training update- Week 5 Day 1

Yesterday my training session was heavy squats followed by heavy deadlifts. You may be saying WTF is he doing, he’s going hurt himself bla bla bla. First off, I haven’t deadlifted with a barbell in almost a year. Now let me tell you why I did this. I am prepping for my first powerlifting meet on December 11. On that day I am going to have to squat and deadlift in the same day so why not get use to doing it now? The one thing I have learned over the years is that there is no right way of doing things. As Zach Even-Esh would say, ” the ONLY rule: there are no rules”. Everybody is different and you need to figure things out for yourself or pay someone to figure it out for you. With that said, I wanted to experiment and actually try dealifting and squatting heavy in the same day. The results? I broke my back squat personal record AND my deadlift record. Check out the video below to see the lifts.

Conclusion

The moral of this story is that performing heavy a** squats will turn a boy into a MAN. It will build mental toughness like no other lift. Your physical strength will go through the roof and will give you great confidence in everything you do in the gym. Do you squat regularly? Share your stories with us below. Share with us why you love squatting and what it has done for you. If you liked this post please hit the “like” button below.

Joe Meglio

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Leave A Reply (1 comment so far)

  • Good Article. I like the fact that you point out that both oly back squats and box squats have their own place in training. I have never understood why people think you can only do one or another. It is just another example of Oly lifting vs. Powerlifting, but for an athletes programming they shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

    Solid PR’s BTW.

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