The box squat

This article has been on my mind for a while.  It will be from a purely unscientific perspective.  Science is not my strong point.  I like to keep things simple with plenty of common sense.  You can be the judge of that once you have finished reading this.

I am a huge fan of the box squat.  That won’t come as any surprise to those of you who know me or who have followed my training over the past couple of years or even longer.  My mild obsession with the box squat began several years ago when I started to follow Louie Simmons and the team at Westside Barbell.  But for me it is more about the posterior chain rather than just the box squat.  For me, the box squat is the key to developing a posterior chain of steel.

My posterior chain training takes place each Wednesday.  This is my maximum effort day in Westside speak.  On this day I will try to break a new record in a particular movement.  More often than not, this movement will be a box squat movement.  My focus on this movement will typically be 2-3 weeks.  As soon as I feel as though I have reached a peak and I am unlikely to be able to break a new record the next week, I will look to a new movement in the next week.  This is the Westside model.

Here is an example of a 3 week cycle:

1. Giant cambered bar box squats (15 inch box), Top set 280 kg plus 40 kg of chains

2. Giant cambered bar box squats (15 inch box), Top set 300 kg plus 40 kg of chains (PB)

3. Giant cambered bar box squats (15 inch box), Top set 320 kg plus 40 kg of chains (PB)

You can see from the above that I was a bit rusty in week one but had dramatic improvements resulting in PB
s in weeks 2 and 3.

Box squats are the basis of my max effort posterior chain days.  There are many advantages to the box squat in my view:

  • Consistency of reps.  Every rep is the same depth.  I sit on the box and come to a complete stop.  I do not rock backwards.  I follow the Westside practice of sitting back on the box.  If the box were taken away I would not fall over.
  • Building a posterior chain of steel.  The box squat develops the posterior chain like no other movement.  I believe that max effort box squatting has taken my raw lifting to another level.  I rarely deadlift but I have the confidence to do so at a high level because my posterior chain is continually reaching new levels of strength.
  • Variety of exercises.  Box squats allow much variation.  I use all available bars such as the regular bar, the safety squat bar and the giant cambered bar.  I can also vary by using different band tension and chains.
  • Keeping mentally sharp.  Setting goals and breaking new ground is important.  This is obviously our measure of improvement.  If I were just doing regular squats I would become mentally stale quickly.  My approach keeps me sharp as I am always changing the movement.

In a future article I will talk more about box squat technique and assistance exercises.  My philosophy around assistance exercises has changed since I took more of a bodybuilding approach.  I aim to improve weak points by choosing movements which I believe will help me reach a new PB in the next week.  I do a lot of work on the glute ham raise and reverse hyper extension.  We are luck to have this equipment at Eastside as it’s not something you usually see in commercial gyms.  Intensity is the key with assistance work.  I see a lot of powerlifters heading home after completing a max effort movement.  For me, this signals the start of the workout.  3-4 movements trained with real bodybuilding intensity is what needs to be done.

There you have my unscientific take on the box squat.  I know what works for me. Simple, common sense stuff.



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