Squatting to a box? No box? High box? Low box?
Here we have @woahcammi box squatting 185kg for a double. He went on to hit 190kg on the next set. Cam plays rugby. Cam is strong. Cam lifts heavy throughout the season.
But the point of this post isn't about how great Cam is (sorry Cam). The point of this post is to help you understand the how to use a box to get the training stimulus you're looking for.
Hopefully this article gives you some practical ideas of the hows, whats, whens and whys of squatting. If you have any questions, swing us a message.
3 MAIN TYPES OF SQUATS:
1 - Box squat: this is what Cam is doing in the video. It's where you sit down on the box (while maintaining tension through legs and midline), rock back slightly then stand up.
2 - Squat-to-box: this is where you squat down, tap the box with your butt and then stand tall. We use this for technique, as a guide for range or to work the stretch-shortening or elastic energy of a squat a.k.a. the bounce (I'll talk about this soon). I like to use the cue "pretend there is an egg on the box, you're touching the egg with your butt but try not break it."
3 - No box: sometimes we use no box and an athlete can dictate their own depth.
You'll notice Cam is squatting to a relatively high box - 20 inches. He's also performing a "box squat." We do this in-season on Wednesdays (our heavy days). We want to get as much load on there as possible, but we don't want to pull up sore.
By sticking to 2 reps. Having a high-box and using the "box squat" style of squatting, we reduce soreness but keep the intensity (load) high. Ideal for in-season training.
On Monday this week, we squatted to a lower box 14 or 16 inches. We kept the same 2 reps, but we did a "squat-to-box." The purpose for this session was to use 60% of our max and squat the weight fast. We don't want to pull-up super sore from these sessions (and won't because we've trained to deal with the load of squatting twice a week), but increasing range like this puts you more at risk of DOMS.
Using a "squat-to-box" or "no-box squat" increases the reliance on elastic energy or the stretch shortening cycle. Elastic energy can be thought of as a coiled spring. Basically there is more of a bounce. This bounce is useful and more energy efficient for producing power. Think about this - could you jump higher by squatting down and jumping straight up or could you jump higher by squatting down, pausing for 5 seconds then jumping up? Obviously the first one.
By jumping with a bounce you use more elastic energy. But that doesn't mean there isn't a time and a place for box squats. As we mentioned, box squats are great for minimising soreness during the season. But they're also great for developing starting strength. This is the strength needed to bust out of a pack or take off over 5-10m. Sports is played in these small windows.
You could think of starting strength as the first 10-20m of a 100m sprint and elastic energy as the 40-70m period i.e. your top end speed.
We want our athletes to be as well rounded as possible so ideally they'd have great starting strength as well as great elastic energy. If we had someone that was really strong from a box squat but poor in the elastic department then they would do more "no-box" or "squat-to-box" squatting.
In pre-season, you can risk more soreness, so we prefer to do much more full range, "no-box" squatting.
Why? Because squatting full-range is important for athletic performance and general health or longevity. An athlete should have the potential to squat ass to grass and there's no better way for improving this then under load. It doesn't have to be heavy, we use goblet squats to work on range and that range carries over to our front or back squats.