Box Squat

I am a little concerned about my high school athletes not breaking parallel while squatting. It is not an ideal situation - I can’t be in the room with them all the time and I don’t trust the supervisors to enforce good technique in the lifts.
It seems like box squatting is the cure for this. I currently use boxes / mats to teach the squat to new lifters. However, it is more of a touch and go rather than actually sitting on the box (which as I understand deactivates the hip flexor and is the actual way to box squat).
As you all know, form starts to suffer as loads are increased. I really just want to make sure the guys are getting to parallel. Is the “touch and go” technique a problem?

No, I wouln’t say its a problem. We’ve done speed box squats before in that fashion. Its better to have them squat the way you mentioned rather than not squat at all or squat with terrible form creating bad motor patterns and even wind up with injuries.

You have to figure out why they aren’t getting down low enough.

I’ve found that flexibility is the biggest factor when people can’t go deep with the squat.

Watching Paul Chek’s squatology vid will really show you most reasons why people can’t go all the way down.

Also with the box squats, watch how hard they’re hitting the box on the bottom and with how much weight. This can cause some grief for the spine.

I find teaching them to start with their arms out straight in front of them without a bar will teach me a lot about the problems they may have.

Another great teaching cue is to get them to lift their big toes. This will get them to bring their weight back in their foot.

Another great teaching cue is to get them to lift their big toes. This will get them to bring their weight back in their foot

I will have to try and use that one.
The cues I have used for getting them to sit back has been “sit back”, head up, chest out,
back arched, and push off the mid foot and heels.

In the Westside videos they don’t actually “sit on the box” for that long. It is maybe a second tops. Also if you are concerned just get your kids to do it with max 65% 1RM and do it only for power.

I’ve found it really helps to teach good squatting technique but I do find it is easy to relax your torso as you touch down, which i feel may be dangerous for the spine.

To keep them from relaxing the torso I cue keep abs/core tight and relax hip flexors only for a quick second also and the breath in although you will breath a bit when relaxing the hip flexors only.

Nothing wrong with using that technique, thats exactly the technique I use and teach my clients. The idea you need to stress, is what has been said by Quick & Plook, I also employ those cues (ironic) and they work great. Understand that it is not a complete touch, even if only for a second, I never say “touch” to a client, I always use “brush”, as in, as soon as you feel the bench/mat/whatever brush yer butt, contract that butt and thighs, and push up.

The visual (imaginatory) cue I also use is to tell my clients to squat back the same way you squat back when you are about to sit on the toilet, obvioulsy one does not mount the toilet by stepping over it as if getting on a horse. The other is, and mainly to keep the toes in line with the knee, is to have them press down on the heels (like Quick said), I think this is the most adopted form of people have been employing with great success, so why not keep using it.

Thanks for the replies guys. I agree with your suggestions and comments. I feel pretty good with our squat technique with body weight and light loads, but unfortunately it seems to be human nature for us to load on the weight and sacrifice perfect technique, which in our case is getting depth in the squat. Would you say everyone should be able to squat on a 12 inch box? I’m looking for a depth that everyone can work towards.

Start with a 12 inch box and if necessary put a plate or 2 on top of it to decrease to depth and make the box higher.

Just my 2 cents here…

I’m not a big fan of “touching a box” to check your depth. Ideally you will want them to eventually sense their own squat depth. I would think that a mirror would be a good aid (so they can see their depth). I say “i’m not a big fan” because some of our coaches do the ‘touch the box’ thing. Many of the kids hit the box pretty hard and almost bounce off of it.
Also, the box will not guarantee their depth. For example, if a kid stands very close to the box, he will hit it with the middle of his hamstring resulting in a high squat. If he his the box with his butt/spine, his depth will be good.

I strongly believe in box squats ala Westside where you come down and sit on the box for about 1 second then explode up. We do them hooked up to a Tendo Unit (measures bar speed) and it has done wonders for dynamic lift motivation and ultimately sprint start&acceleration.

Regarding the safety issue…there are much more dangerous exercises than any type of box squat IMO (like heavy good mornings). I’ve done low box squats with 400 at 195 and I have no back problems. An important thing for spinal stability is to take a big breath of air before a squat rep and hold it until you are off of the box.

Hope that wasn’t too much rambling.

I totally agree with the fact that most people wanna go heavy and push themselves sacrificing technique.

If you have concerns with the spine and touching/hitting the box, you could put a sitfit on the box. This would give the touch but absorb some impact if the client drops like a lead weight.

I also find it’s much easier to go deep into a squat when your feet are wider. You can also keep your torso more erect.

If it makes you feel any better I use the same method with younger athletes, at times I’ve had clients who literally cannot squat to parallel without falling over due to not knowing how to squat properly. Once form is taught properly without going totally parallel I bring the box in and that alleviates their fear of falling it seems…I then progress the depth and ultimately remove the box.

before starting any kind of a squat workout, form i sof utmost importance, second to nothing. injury can occur quickly and gravely.

as a tip …ask him/her to sit at a curb hieght
then ask him/her to stand up, what happens?