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Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Weightlifting: Box Squatting
Box squats are an exercise a lot of people have written off as useful only for geared powerlifters. Lifters who compete in squat suits have to fight against the elastic tension of the suit as they descend; they have to learn to sit back and use the stored energy of the suit for the ascent. Raw lifters don't have much to gain from box squats, since the movement removes the stretch reflex (the bounce out of the hole, so to speak). I agree that having a big box squat does not mean you'll be able to squat the same amount of weight without that box under your ass. However, if you don't care about your competition squat (and let's be honest: most people shouldn't) the box squat allows some advantages over the raw squat.
First, you can control how deep you descend. Deep squats can be very hard on your hips--for years I've done deep squats, and I've developed a hip issue on my left side where my hip cracks and pops painfully after working out. After stopping deep squats and replacing them with squats to a high bench, my hip pain has been greatly mitigated. Most of the great lifters in weightlifting and powerlifting eventually had hip surgery, including Ed Coan and John Grimek. If you're not chasing a world record, maybe you shouldn't go deep.
Second, deep squats really work the glutes and hip flexors more than the quads. If you're trying to build strong legs, squatting from a high box will really stress those muscles, in my experience. I do my squats to a high bench, with the bar in the high position. I keep tension in the muscles as I descend. When I touch the bench, I pause for about a second before pushing with the legs to lock out the weight.
You could just do half and quarter squats without the bench, however, I do think there are benefits to touching the box. If you favor one side when you squat, lowering to a box and then pushing off evenly with both legs is easier. Of course, hitting the depth that you want is also easier with a box under your ass.
In conclusion, I'd try box squats if you're having hip issues. At some point, you have to consider your general health. Weightlifting is fun, but you can't keep doing an exercise that's causing you pain and furthering the degeneration of a chronic issue. I ditched the bench press earlier this year because I couldn't press without pain. Now I've done the same to deep squats.