All about the Box Squat with Coach Gladstone

Recently we sat down with Coach Jack Gladstone to talk about the box squat. This movement has become a part of the foundation for training our athletes and we wanted to share the knowledge to the what, how, and why of this movement. Without further ado, enjoy learning all about the box squat:

How is the box squat different from a traditional squat? 

We use the box squat as both a learning tool and a strength tool. By using the box, especially with youth athletes, we are giving them a physical reference point to cue their hips to. By doing this, we reinforce a squat mechanic that is now primarily loading the hips and hamstrings. Many young athletes come to us either a) not having squatted before, or b) have reinforced a quad dominant squat with previous training. This can be seen by an individual who squats with a forward shin angle, failing to target the glute and hamstring properly.

How would you start someone who is starting to learn the box squat? How would you know when it was time to progress someone to the next level of a box squat?

We start box squatting with an athlete the second they are prepared to complete a simple bodyweight squat. Usually, we do this for the simple reason that it takes the thought of depth out of the equation and allows the athlete to focus on shin/knee and torso positioning. When beginning with an athlete, we teach them to squat to the box, touch the box, and then immediately stand back up. As an athlete progresses to understanding torso positioning and gains more strength through their hips, we tend to widen out their stance and have them perform a true pause on the box before standing.

What are the benefits of utilizing the box squat?

The box squat is beneficial because it requires the athlete to squat in a more hip and hamstring dominant position. By sitting back onto the box, pausing, then coming back up we are hitting multiple different goals at once. As said before, on the eccentric phase of the lift, the athlete loads their hips and hamstrings back onto the box. Having the athlete sit and pause on the box, it forces the athlete to again utilize the hamstring to stand up off the box. This pause will lead to greater movement proficiency, stabilization of the spine, and will reduce stress on the knee. It is important to note that this is not a movement to train the stretch-shortening cycle, but instead a foundational prerequisite to other explosive actions.

Why have you liked using it with your athletes? Is there a scenario where you would opt out of using the box squat?

I have continued to talk about hip, glute, and hamstring strength while performing the box squat. The reason why this is so important to young athletes because of the incredible amount of quad dominant individuals we see coming to Athletes Warehouse. As coaches, we try to immediately build up hamstring and glute strength to prevent very common quad dominant knee injuries during sport such as ACL Tears, Patellar Tendonitis, or Meniscus tears. Secondly, in our gym, we have seen a strong correlation with athletes who have built up glute and hamstring strength through box squatting report faster 40 yard dash times, 20 yard dash times, broad and vertical jump scores. All of these values have lead to an increase in sports performance while simultaneously protecting the body from injury 

When would you use the front/back / vs. safety bar? In this video you cued the safety bar – what exactly were you saying?

With a new athlete, we perform the box squat first with bodyweight, then progressing to a goblet squat (single dumbbell or kettlebell in the front rack position). From there, we generally prefer to progress the newer athlete into a barbell front squat position, however we leave a fair amount of wiggle room to progressing the athlete to the position they feel most comfortable in. Training in the video you see two athletes who are fairly advanced in our system. We utilize the safety bar during the session in order to challenge these two athletes through different stimuli. In short, the safety bar provides a different stimulus to a traditional barbell because of its design to load the athlete down the center of the body.

Take Home:

It’s important to think that this is not the end all be all of how we teach the squat. However, it is a tool that we use to progress an athlete who may have muscular imbalances or movement deficiencies. While it’s a great rehabilitation and learning tool it is also a great variation to progress a well-trained athlete to develop greater power production.