Parallel Squats to a Box

To ensure the depth remains constant as poundages are increased in the parallel squat, what do forum members think of the use of a box (e.g. stacked Reebok boxes) as a guide to depth.

i.e. squat till butt touches boxes and immediately squat-up (no pause).

Any safety issues with this technique. Is it neccesary?


I almost always do it this way. If you are not actually trying to do a WS box squat, then the key is to not sit back on the box, but simply use the sensory cue of touching the box (lightly) as the indicator to explode back up.

Using this techinque, it is quite easy to adjust your squat depth and make sure that you achieve the same depth as the weights increase.

I always use this method and so does all my athletes. I think it is the best way to determine proper depth.

Kinesthetic awareness is the key! Hypothetically - you load up the bar with a new, increased weight and you fail! What then! The squat area should be clean of any object posing a risk to safety! I’ve personally seen this happen - 160kg on the bar, got to the bottom of the squat and could not move after 3 reps. His arse was only 3 inches above the box and his only option he felt, was to sit down on the box and ask for spotters help. With such a large load on his shoulders and a 3 inch slow fall, well let me just say this, lumbar surgery is not really very fun. He got the spotters attention by screaming by the way.

I suggest that if an athlete or indeed anyone who squats does not have any awareness of how deep they are squatting and need tactile sensation to help them with this, then it would be negligent to load the bar until the know where they are in space. Repetition is the mother of all skill, and repetition is all that required to acquire kinesthetic and joint angle awareness during squatting. It is no different from a child learning how to catch or kick. Moving the foot to strike the ball require an awareness of where the lower limb is in relation to the stimulus (the ball)in order to accurately make contact. With squatting we are squatting for squatting’s sake, not squatting to header a ball or anything like that. It is less complex as a task than kicking or catching and we don’t use any external guides when learning to do these tasks, we just practice until we get it accurate THEN WE LEARN HOW TO DO IT WITH FORCE AND POWER.

The cost-benefit ratio is the real question here, just like it is squatting on a Swiss ball or something equally as stupid.
Just my two cents - I just think it is more important to limit injury potential than speed the learing process, although if both can be done it is obviously better.

Number 1 - don’t go to failure! As a sprinter, there is really no reason to be working at over 100% of your RM.
Number 2 - if you are going to go to failure or get close, then make sure you have spotters who are going to pay attention. (This is really just common sense)
Number 3 - If he was at the bottom of the squat, then why was he 3 inches off the box. The bottom should be at box level and then if you can’t get back up, you can just wait there until the spotters can help you up. Do not drop onto the box and do not relax your core muscles.
Number 4 - if you have the right kind of box, then it really isn’t in the way for simply shrugging the bar off behind you. Better yet, do the squats in a power rack so that you can simply lean forward and let the bar hit the supports.

Stupidity on the part of one athlete does not mean that the exercise is inherently dangerous!

If you’re not trying to break the eccentric/concentric chain, instead of a box try using a length of elastic.

why not just set the power rack pins to the desired depth?

This could work if the lifter has the discipline to maintain his form, but he could easily cheat by leaning forward, thereby reducing the elevation of the bar relative to the hip joint. Clicking the pins with an upright stance might have the lifter at parallel, whereas clicking them while bending forward could have him a couple inches above.

Also, I find that tends to unbalance the weight on my shoulders more (one pin invariably touches a bit before the other and that tends to throw you off.)

if your friend got stapled without the box he would not have had a box to sit on until the spotters got there… if he had taken no other safety measures and did not know how to dump the squat he is in a more dangerous situation than with the box there!!!

Why didnt he just dump the attempt?

How is it different to not being able to get back up out of the whole, with a squat and no box?

If one insists on training by themselves and not using a spotter on a max attempt. I do this heheh :slight_smile: there are a number of things that can be done

most have already been said

do it in a powerrack

set the pins just below where the bar will be at its lowest point…
have some chains/ropehanging off the powerrack hanging so that the bars weight will be taken up by the rope just below the lowest point of the bar path during the exercise

if the box is sturdy and you have no powerrack learn how to dump the weight… ie just have it fall off the back of you while you move forward out of dangers way

I can see the problem with relaxing on the box etc causing problems but dont see how getting stapled with the weight will be significantly more dangerous than without the box…

Well you stop an inch above the pins :slight_smile:

otherwise wrap a towel around the pins, the soft contact is sufficient to signal turn around.

why not be kind to your back and do full squats instead!?

Different exercises for different results.

Why would box squats/partial squats be better for sprinting?

If you are relying on a box to regulate depth, you have to react to the touch of the box (around 0.2 seconds) or, even if you are using a mirror, you still slow the rebound, which is beneficial to use?

Box squats have a place in powerlifting, I accept that. If you want to regulate depth, why not just full squat?

A full squat is not a full squat. The depth I’ll catch a full squat clean in is lower than the position I’ll reach in an “full” back squat. Relaxing to hit “full squat depth” at the bottom of a squat could adversely stress ligaments and the knee joint. It’s also very difficult to judge with heavy weights on your back which I assume sprinters are using. When the hamstrings touch the calves you are not truly rock bottom and a “pump” or differences in hypertrophy of the hams and calves could alter the point at the squat in which the kinesthetic awareness is reached to go back up. With the box it’s simple. You touch the box and come back up. Since it provides your with a sensory cue after your first couple of sets you will know when the box will touch your rear and be able to reduce the “reaction time”. The weight room is not the place to be improving your elastic qualities for sprinting anyways. Plyos, drills, and actual sprinting does that. There are dozens of ways you can squat and if you’re doing it only one way it’s probably time for you to change. Altering the position of the box relative to the lifter is a great way to change the stresses induced in squatting and there is never any doubt as to whether or not proper depth was reached.

I see your point, just seems like splitting hairs to me. With practice I would expect a consistent depth in full squatting, i.e the same feel every time.

The same feel is meaningless. If the box is there you have no need to guess and most importantly a coach (who can’t feel what the athlete feels but is responsible for his/her wellbeing) or athlete can determine whether or not the load is too high. Not being able to properly decelerate before the box or touch the box would indicate a breakdown in the form and an immediate termination of the set. You can set the box to any height or even distance from the athlete. If you want an athlete to go to full squat depth set it at his full squat depth. But the coolest thing for me is that you can push the box back, thus forcing the athlete to box squat properly (westside style) in order to be able to touch it. If you totally dismiss powerlifter style squatting for athletes than you’ve lost a valuable tool.

I agree with david w. why not use an elastic band or rope. it seems to me that the use of a box could create a problem with unloading.

Just out of interest which top sprinters use/used box squatting?

It isn’t a panacea for sprinting, it’s a supplemental exercise hence I argue it wouldn’t really matter whether you box/full squat. I disagree that the same feeling is meaningless. I could give you near identical full depth squats, it’s not difficult. Not that it matters.

You still haven’t explained why box squatting would be specifically better for sprinters.

“There are dozens of ways you can squat and if you’re doing it only one way it’s probably time for you to change. Altering the position of the box relative to the lifter is a great way to change the stresses induced in squatting and there is never any doubt as to whether or not proper depth was reached.”

Why do sprinters need to squat more than one way? Why do we need to change the stresses? Why must we reach proper depth every rep? Why is squatting Westside style important?

I agree. Good squatting is a skill that is learnt and with practise becomes consistent in depth.