How to Box Squat Correctly
By: Louie Simmons
Tags: squat, box squat, legs
Box squats have been around since the 1940s when a Mr. A used them. The Culver City Westside Barbell Club in California made them a standard training aid in the 1960s and early 1970s. That was a time when Bill West, George Frenn, and Pat Casey were breaking world squat records at a steady pace.
I was stuck in the squat for five years at 410 pounds, beginning when I was 14 years old. When I was 19-years-old, I read an article by Bill West and the Westside Boys in Muscle Power Builder magazine about box squatting. I had nothing to lose in following their advice, so I started box squatting. After three months, I tried a regular squat and did 450 pounds. In six months, I did my first 500-pound squat. This was 1968 while I was in the Army.
I was sold. I made a 630-pound squat with a 670-pound deadlift in 1973. That year there was no gear at all, not even wrist wraps, and a two-hour weigh-in at 181-pounds bodyweight.
At first, I did them with a close stance, but with boots. I changed to a very wide stance and Chuck Taylor’s, which was much better for building the hamstrings, hips, glutes, and lower back.
I was able to make a Top 10 squat in five weight classes, and was Top 10 Squatter from 1971 to 2002 with a 920-pound squat at 233 for the second-largest squat on the Top 10 List.
Let’s start explaining how to box-squat correctly by answering some of the common questions from our Westside Nation. The answers made it possible for eight men to hold world records in the 123, 148, 165, 181, 220, 248, 275, 308, and SHW classes.
1. How do you warm-up?
- At Westside, we do Reverse Hypers, abs, or pull a light-weight sled for six trips of 60 meters. Or, just start box squatting as our warm-up.
2. What bar does Westside use?
- Westside has many special bars to choose from for speed-strength work.
-Bulldog squat bar
-Safety squat bar
3. What about maxes?
- Their maxes are very close to each other.
- Our 80-85-90 percent work is based on our contest maxes.
- But, Westside also uses a Westside Front Squat Harness or a 14-inch chamber bar, based off the maxes. Westside will use a Bulldog squat bar for Circa-max or strength-speed work.
4. What about the stance?
- Use as wide a stance as possible to a slightly below parallel box to build good flexibility and hip mobility. The bar should set on top of the shoulders as to stand as erect as possible.
5. How tall a box?
- The box should be at just below parallel for speed work. But for M-E work, use very low boxes—eight or 10 inches with a close stance.
6. How about technique?
- To unrack the bar, push into the bar first while lifting your chest and pushing your feet apart to engage your hips.
- To box squat correctly, after unracking the bar, push your knees out to the side, almost picking up the big toe.
- Next, sit back at the hips as far as possible while sitting entirely on the box and releasing the hip muscles. At this point, the shins should be past vertical. This will overload the hamstrings, glutes, and hips to the max. This is not done in the regular squat.
- After sitting all the way on the box by rocking back, drive your feet out to the sides and stand straight up. Do not rock forward, but go straight up like a regular squat. (Note: Release the hips. This is most important during box squatting. This is the correct way to box squat. Westside has 34 men over 1,000 pounds in the squat officially, and a 775, 770, and a 730 for women. Proof enough?)
7. What’s the deal with training partners?
- You must have good training partners and spotters when training. First, they should act as a coach and make you feel safe when spotting. They also should run the mono-lift and change the height of the box by adding or subtracting a one or two-inch mat as well as load the plates and bands.
- After one group squats, the squatters now become the helpers.
8. Should I use bands?
- When box squatting, use a combination of band tension, roughly 33 percent, and the remaining load weights.
- For example: a 600-pound squatter would use 200 pounds of bands.
600 Max Contest Squat
80 percent 200 Bands, plus 280 bar weight
85 percent 200 Bands, plus 310 bar weight
90 percent 200 Bands, plus 340 bar weight
900 Max Contest Squat
80 percent 300 Bands, plus 420 bar weight
85 percent 300 Bands, plus 465 bar weight
90 percent 300 Bands, plus 510 bar weight
*as your training weights go up, the band tension percentage will go down as the bar weight grows.
9. What results should I expect?
- If you break your parallel box records by 25 pounds, you should expect to squat 25 pounds more in the meet.
10. What if I don’t?
- If your knees come inward, your hips and abductors are weak.
- If you cannot maintain an arch when you rack, your abs and spinal erectors are weak.
- If you find locking out the bar difficult, you must train your legs more with bands.
11. What about special exercises?
- Your main small special exercises for the back are Goodmorning back raises, Reverse Hypers, power cleans, and band Goodmornings.
- To train the hamstrings, use inverse curls, glute-ham raises, Russian leg curls, leg curls with bands, and ankle weight leg curls for soft tissue.
- Do Zercher squats, meaning hold the bar in your elbows and squat; leg raises hanging or laying and incline sit-ups.
12. What about speed-strength?
- For speed-strength, use 33 percent for circa max and 50 percent at minimum
- For strength-speed, use 70 percent
- You should have a greater amount of band tension than bar weight.