Last night we did a live Q&A on the Instagrams (@tpsmalden), the only social media I don’t hate.

We got a few really good questions, such as how many emergency hundo’s should you carry from Bob Youngs, and while I felt this was one of the better ones, a question from Mike Galante peaked my interest.

Box Squatting for Raw Lifters


“For a raw lifter, do you think there is an optimal ratio of box squats to competition squats to build strength but still keep the skill of doing the competition squat?”


Great question and I think it can use a slightly longer answer than Instagram let me post.
Let’s begin with this:

I will probably get roasted by a few guys for this, but hey, it’s my column so…..

I don’t think the box squat builds skill for a raw competition squat.

I say this because the question can lead you to believe that he thinks they build the specifics of the comp squat or it can also be interpreted as him asking how much box squatting will deteriorate the comp skill.
Or maybe a few more ways, but that was my take.

So, let me also say that I LOVE box squats and use them with ALL of my lifters.
However, the form and technique for a proper box squat is different than a raw comp squat.
Therefore, I believe they should be treated as two separate but useful exercises for raw lifters.

The movement pattern on a box squat is different than a raw squat. On a box squat you need to sit back, back, back, up!
This makes it virtually identical to an equipped squat.

Dave box with bands
The box squat smashes the hamstrings much more than the raw comp squat too.
It also needs less quad to do it well. Sure, it needs some quad, but not as much as raw.
The movement on a raw squat is back, down, up.
If you try to sit as far back on a raw squat as on a box squat you’ll probably not fare too well.
And, the raw squat uses more quad than a box squat.

And, let me also say that unlike many of the Instagram/Internet coaches who say box squats are stupid, useless, don’t apply or whatever pablum shit they puke out, for raw lifters due to the difference in the movement and lack of specificity , I strongly disagree.

I disagree for the exact reason they say they are useless.

The difference in the two movements makes them ideal to build STRENGTH for the raw squat.
Not skill per se, but strength.

Have you ever heard someone say “Shit, I’m just too strong, especially in the hammies.”?
Doubt it.

On the other hand, I’d argue that if you added proper box squats in, with proper box squat technique, your raw comp squat would go up.

And another thing.

You can usually squat more on a box squat than raw, so the overload will make you strong(er).
I don’t care what exercise makes you strong(er), as long as it does.

As an example, if you don’t do a lot of work on your bench, but get REALLY strong over the summer and build the crap out your deadlift, squat, maybe Farmer’s Walks and rows, do you think your bench will go up?
I bet it does.

But wait, you did nothing for the bench. How can this be?
Well dum dum, you got strong(er).

Same concept here.

So now that we know that I love box squats for raw and equipped lifters, and I know they will make your comp squat better, even though they build a different skill than the comp squat, how much should you do them?

That really depends on how you train.
Some people only Squat, Bench and Pull once a week.
Some twice, some three times, some more.
God knows why you’d do the three lifts this much and not expect injury or stagnation, but hey, do what you want.

Let’s use my Method.
We squat and deadlift once a week and perform squat and deadlift builders once a week.

Day 1:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift builder

Day 3:

  • Deadlift
  • Squat builder

Let’s get more specific and take a snapshot in time.

Day 1:

  • Pause Squat with Chain
  • 2” Opposite Stance Block Pull

Day 3:

  • Deadlift with chains
  • Yoke Bar Low Box Squat

Get it?
We don’t do the classic lifts more than once a week, but we do BUILD them.

As far as frequency of box squatting to raw classic squatting, I’d suggest that you treat them like any accessory exercise and wave them in and out.
I tend to keep accessory exercises in for two to three weeks before changing them to prevent adaptation.
We float between box squats, good mornings, Zercher Squats, Front Squats and a few others,  and we use different bars and forms of accommodating resistance.

Sounds like conjugate training but it isn’t. The similarity of specialty bars, and accommodating resistance to the uninformed coach can make it seem that way though.
(Author’s note: I Love Conjugate-I just don’t program that way for my lifters. This can be a topic for a whole ‘nuther article )

Back to frequency; for the raw lifter looking to add in box squats to improve strength and still retain skill on the classic comp squat, try this:

Add them in either as I suggested in the above example or as a second exercise.
Try adding in box squats with or without specialty bars and accommodating resistance for two to three weeks for sets of 5 to start.
5’s are nice. Not too many, not too few. Just right.
You can even keep them in after that, just change them a little.
Maybe lower the box, add a chain, change the bar. It’s all good.

When doing this, think of WHY you are doing it.
Try to correct a specific weakness.

Frequency really does depend on your programming and how many times per week you squat and pull. Using them as an Assistance  exercise is going to have a lot of carry over for you.

Hell, you can add them in for a few weeks as a main exercise as well if you want. Doing this can break up the monotony of doing the same thing ALL THE TIME, and give some areas a rest, while recruiting some areas that don’t get hit as hard.

When doing box squats, I highly suggest looking on this site for video and articles on how to perform them and then do them properly. Box squatting is a skill just like raw squatting and it has its own form and technique that is different than a raw squat. Don’t just toss a box under your arse and plop on it.

And for God’s sake, don’t do them in lifting shoes. Wear Chuck’s or Van’s and use your hamstrings!
Did you miss my last Coaching Log?

The Best Grip Tips for Deadlifts and Deadlift Accessory Movements

Read it here.

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Vincere vel mori

C.J. Murphy
August 16, 2018