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22 Strength and Conditioning Journal February 2003
© National Strength & Conditioning Association
Volume 25, Number 1, pages 22–23
Performance Box Squats
Lee E. Brown, EdD, CSCS, *D; FACSM
California State University, Fullerton
Fullerton, California
squat appears to have warranted
concerns with low back safety. I
can understand being nervous
about having athletes doing them.
I have heard the arguments about
spinal compressions. However, in
my exercise in working with liter-
ally tens of thousands of athletes,
I believe the box squat to be safe
for all athletes at any level. It is
time to put any perceived dangers
to rest. In fact, from our perspec-
tive, the box squat is so safe, it is
the first thing we do and is one of
our core lifts.
The box squat gives any ath-
lete and team 5 huge advantages
over their competition. The follow-
ing is an illustration of just one of
these advantages. At high school
clinics, we usually select a junior
running back and put him/her
through an intense, all out box
squat effort. The last of the 3 sets
is done with 350—500 lb. The goal
is to select a weight high enough
so that it takes everything the ath-
lete has to get 11 reps. We have
everyone cheering and clapping in
unison for supreme motivation. It
is one amazing scene.
Before this event, we test his
or her vertical jump. We want to
know how high he or she can go or
has gone. Then about an hour
after the box squat, he or she
jumps again. Guess what? He or
she will jump as high or higher
than ever before.
This has far reaching implica-
tions. This vertical jump result
would have been absolutely im-
possible with parallel squats,
which would have left the legs
wobbly and drained even on the
next day. Because of the rapid re-
covery of the box squat, in-season
and off-season training can now
take on a whole new perspective.
This one advantage alone can give
any team a real winning edge.
Greg Shepard, EdD
President, Bigger, Faster, Stronger
Lee E. Brown
Column Editor
of competition, nearly every sport
requires explosive power of the
lower extremities. Squats are an
excellent exercise for laying the
foundation of speed and power.
There are many variations of the
squat, while one potentially dan-
gerous form being done today is
the box squat.
When performing the box
squat, the athlete descends to a
predetermined point, commonly a
box placed under the lifter’s be-
hind. The lifter then touches the
box with his or her behind and as-
cends. The problem arises when
the athlete relaxes the legs at the
bottom of the lift. This places ex-
treme, potentially damaging force
on the knees when the lifter be-
gins the upward phase. Also, stop-
ping the lift, for even a fraction of
a minute at the bottom, causes
unloading of the legs and lumbar
musculature. This means the
muscles are no longer working
and are not receiving an overload
stimulus, and therefore hyper-
trophic adaptation will not occur.
Finally, momentary unloading of a
muscle during an exercise does
not follow the rule of specificity of
exercise because fractional un-
February 2003 Strength and Conditioning Journal 23
loading does not occur in a sport-
ing environment.
It has also been reported that
football teams using the box squat
as part of their lower body regimen
have had an increased number of
lumbar disk herniations. These her-
niations are a result of extreme
compression of the spinal column
when performing the box squat. The
possible structural damage that
may occur at the vertebral level is
inappropriate in most weight rooms.
It is always important to main-
tain proper form when performing
any type of lift, especially an exer-
cise using such heavy weights as
a squat. It may be that the inher-
ent risk of performing box squats
outweighs any benefits that might
arise from including it in an ath-
lete’s exercise program.
Tara Sjostrom, MS
Arkansas State University
Jonesboro, AR
The purpose of this study was to compare the biomechanics of the traditional squat with 2 popular exercise variations commonly referred to as the powerlifting squat and box squat. Twelve male powerlifters performed the exercises with 30, 50, and 70% of their measured 1 repetition maximum (1RM), with instruction to lift the loads as fast as possible. Inverse dynamics and spatial tracking of the external resistance were used to quantify biomechanical variables. A range of significant kinematic and kinetic differences (p < 0.05) emerged between the exercises. The traditional squat was performed with a narrow stance, whereas the powerlifting squat and box squat were performed with similar wide stances (48.3 ± 3.8, 89.6 ± 4.9, 92.1 ± 5.1 cm, respectively). During the eccentric phase of the traditional squat, the knee traveled past the toes resulting in anterior displacement of the system center of mass (COM). In contrast, during the powerlifting squat and box squat, a more vertical shin position was maintained, resulting in posterior displacements of the system COM. These differences in linear displacements had a significant effect (p < 0.05) on a number of peak joint moments, with the greatest effects measured at the spine and ankle. For both joints, the largest peak moment was produced during the traditional squat, followed by the powerlifting squat, then box squat. Significant differences (p < 0.05) were also noted at the hip joint where the largest moment in all 3 planes were produced during the powerlifting squat. Coaches and athletes should be aware of the biomechanical differences between the squatting variations and select according to the kinematic and kinetic profile that best match the training goals.
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