WSBB Blog: Box Squat Success
If you know Westside Barbell, then you know that we have been utilizing dynamic effort box squats for years to increase the power and explosiveness of our athletes. By squatting to a box, we can control and manipulate joint angles to train specific ranges of motion while maximizing force production in these ranges of motion. This approach has led to countless max effort squat PRs, proving the effectiveness of box squats with accommodating resistance.
In recent years, some members of the strength training community have questioned the efficacy of box squatting, specifically box squatting with accommodating resistance attached. Many of those who consider themselves raw powerlifting experts have written box squatting off as something that only benefits geared athletes, dismissing the use of dynamic effort training completely. The problem is, these experts have rarely had success utilizing the Conjugate Method and have a minimal understanding of the successful implementation of dynamic effort box squats when formulating a training program.
Setup for Failure
Unfortunately, box squats have received a bad rap in the raw powerlifting community. We understand that some of this is because Westside Barbell will always have a group of folks who stand opposite of what we believe in just for the sake of being different; however, a large majority of those opposed to box squatting fail to understand the proper execution of a box squat.
The most common mistake athletes new to box squatting make is squatting to improper box heights with loose bands. As we know, powerlifters like to lift as heavy as possible as often as possible. However, DE box squatting requires a specific intensity range and box height to be maximally effective. Your first order of business is to get your box height, and band tension set correctly. If you are a competitive powerlifter, the box height should be set at competition legal depth or lower.
Squatting to a high box with loose bands will lead to weakness in the hole when free squatting because you have failed to train your competition squat range of motion. You'll have plenty of strength to lock the weight out, but you will lack the power and explosiveness necessary to reduce the time spent in the amortization phase and reverse the barbell's direction. Failure to attach bands to the rack and barbell correctly will lead to a whip effect caused by the band completely losing tension, then snapping back to moderate and full tension. Improper band setup will cause your box squats to be ineffective and could lead to injury.
Setup for Success
Success with box squats is simple, set your box height to competition depth and attach your bands properly. As long as you have your box height set to competition depth or lower, you will see no loss in performance when transitioning to competition-style squatting. Correctly attaching bands depends on the squat rack you are using.
You want the bands choked around the frame, with adequate tension applied throughout the entirety of the lift. Meaning, you should start with maximal band tension to accelerate the eccentric phase, moderate tension when on the box, and maximal band tension resistance during the concentric phase. At Westside, we choke our bands around the monolift base and a four-by-four block which provides the proper tension throughout the lift for most lifters.
As you begin to have success with box squats, you will inevitably have to change the stimulus to some degree. Box squats are no different than any other exercise, and the law of accommodation still applies. At Westside, we rotate our squat bar used once every three weeks, and we regularly change our box heights. We also change band tension, sometimes opting for heavy bands with less bar weight and heavier bar weight, and less band tension. Keep in mind our bar weight is always greater than our band tension during DE lower training.
Changes in box height will never be higher than competition legal depth; however, there is no limit to how low a box you can use as long as band tension remains optimal throughout the entire range of motion. Box squats will lead to increased levels of force production at different joint angles, so there is a benefit to low box squatting. By following the directions listed above, you will ensure you are setting your box squats up correctly, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise, which will ultimately lead to more max effort squat PRs.