Exercise selection is a big part of programming. However, I would argue that exercise selection is less important than the execution of an exercise. Hopefully, this blog post will leave you with a greater understanding of how to execute the box squat as a lifter that competes in raw/unequipped powerlifting.
Performing the 'Squat to a box' not box squat
The traditional box squat is usually performed with a wider stance, allowing the lifter to sit all the way back onto the box. If the box was not present, the lifter would completely lose balance. With my very limited understanding of equipped lifting, I believe this teaches the lifter how to sit back into the suit to get the most from it. For a raw lifter I believe the box squat has little to no carry-over into the competition squat. Whilst it might have some value for hip health and general strength development, it should not be considered as a primary squat assistance exercise for a lifter competing in the classic division.
Because of this, here at Desert Barbell we utilise an alternative variation on the classic box squat that we feel is an effective assistance exercise for the competition squat. We call this exercise the squat to a box. I was first exposed to this exercise whilst receiving coaching from the hugely experienced Lawrence Farncombe. (Former GB Powerlifting Head Coach and current owner of PB performance gym in Cardiff.)
Please see below the description of how to effectively perform this exercise.
When performing the squat to a box, focus on keeping the normal mechanics that you have in your competition style back squat. As an assistance exercise, the squat to a box is a more effective if you perform a low (or lower) bar squat in competition. You must keep the bar over the mid foot and focus on descending in a controlled fashion, reaching the hips back to the box. Once the box has been reached, remain tight and pause for at least 1 second. Finish the squat by explosively returning to the start position. The ultimate goal is to progress towards performing this movement with a full depth squat. However, when initially implementing it, it is acceptable to start a little higher than competition depth in order to ensure a neutral spine is maintained.
When looking to incorporate this movement into your own program, I would recommend that you start by using it as your lightest squat movement. Use it for technical improvements whilst initially getting comfortable with the movement.
If done correctly the box squat can be a fantastic way to fix pelvic control during the squat.
This is the first of many articles written to help you improve the execution of assistance exercises commonly used in our individualised programs at Desert Barbell Sports Club.