Squatting has quickly grown to be the highlight of strength and conditioning and let’s be real, It should be. With all the different variations of the squat, it can be rather confusing as to which work and which don’t. But that’s not even what this article is about but who has the right to say what will or won’t work for any individual athlete. Not even the best coach on the planet can tell you that it won’t work for YOU!
However, I want to talk about 2 squat variations that seem to be relatives, the box squat and the pause squat. There are parties that believe one is better than the other and I am here as a mediator to say that both have a place in anyone’s strength program.
The Box Squat
The Box squat is just that, squatting onto a box. The purpose of this is to break up the eccentric and concentric of the movement. There is, however, a proper way and wrong way to perform the movement.
It first starts with the box height; we need to have the box at a height that has the crease of the hip below the top of the knee joint. This height will change for every athlete.
When squatting down onto the box it is important to push the butt back and down towards the back of the box. We want the movement to look like (if we put a point on the hip joint) a 45-degree line back and forth. All at the same time forcing the knees out and pushing the floor apart with your feet.
Once on the back, we want to let the hips relax slightly and then violently explode off the box by pulling yourself back into the groove with the hamstrings.
Another important aspect to box squatting (when doing it for dynamic effort work) is that it is something called relaxed overcome by dynamic. Meaning that your prime movers are relaxed before being dynamically contracted!
Why should it be part of your program?
The box squat is a great way to break up the Eccentric and concentric of the movement which all in all is a disadvantage to the squat. Okay, so why am I saying it is a good thing to train with disadvantages? Well because the harder you make things in your training then the easier a full squat will be when testing time comes.
The Box squat is also posterior chain dominant which is where all your power lives (glutes, hamstrings, and erectors) Training those muscle groups throughout a box squat movement will only make your free squat that much better. The fact that you need to do a “hamstring curl” out of the bottom is also a plus for building up the posterior chain. It is also training a relaxed overcome by dynamic or Strain (max effort) which is the “sister” of what the pause squat offers.
This movement can be trained both on Max effort days with varying bars, and box heights as well as be trained on dynamic effort days with accommodating resistance as well as varying bars and box heights. This movement is a great addition to ANY program and works perfectly well with the pause squat.
The Pause Squat
This movement is different than the box squat because there is no box. The entire movement is based on the isometric hold at the bottom or predetermined spot of the movement.
Now that brings me to where you should pause the squat. Well, that is going to change with the athlete just like the box height in the box squat. However, I am a big seller on pausing it in the point where the knee joint passed the hip crease.
On the descent of the squat, we want to keep everything tight. Do not let your air out of the belly because we will automatically lose said tightness. When you reach the pausing point it is important only pause for no more than 2 seconds because the kinetic energy from the eccentric is gone and pausing longer than that is just a draining on the energy you have for the concentric portion of the movement.
The concentric portion is more complicated than that of the box squat because if you explode ass first out of the hole you will be dumping the weight over your head. So remember to have a big chest and drive the traps into the bar. Then explode out of the hole.
Why should it be part of your program?
The reason that pause squats should be part of your program is not a complicated as I wish it were. It is a great way to train the isometric portion of the movement as well as working from a position of static and eliminating the stretch-shortening cycle, once again training in a disadvantage to get the most out of our free squat.
This movement is also more similar to a free squat so you are not going to be in a weird position while training it but you are adding a new component of the pause and isometric work.
Just like the box squat the movement can be used on both max effort and dynamic effort days; changing the metrics to suit those training styles.
This movement is something I like to call static overcome by dynamic/strain; because you have to hold everything tight in the pause position. It is a good contrast to the box squats relaxed overcome by dynamic/strain. It trains an entirely contractile muscle fiber; when you are trying to fight the law of accommodation changing up these metrics are great tools to beat it!
These two movements are like brothers, both are kind of the same but totally different at the same time. They both focus on training in a disadvantage but they both train a different style of contractile positioning. They cover both relaxed and static overcome by dynamic and strain.
So it is not about one of the other. It’s about incorporating both movements into your program in one way or another. Just like I have stated before no one can choose what is going to work for you or not work for you as an athlete. Experiment with these movements and decide how you can get the most benefit out of both of them!