Working The Bottom End Of The Squat

Create: 03/20/2006 - 08:47
A Dr. Squat poster has a weakness coming out of the hole when squatting and is considering a few different options for working that weakness. He's specifically looking at band squats, box squats and paused squats and wants opinions. The original poster:

The top of my squat is very strong compared to the bottom part. If I get stuck anywhere it's in the hole. Some questions: 1.) Is a box squat with bands a good way to provide alot of tension (effort?) throughout the movement as opposed to just at the top? 2.) How long should the pause on the box be? 3.) How effective are pause squats for working the bottom?

The replies:

1.) Is a box squat with bands a good way to provide alot of tension (effort?) throughout the movement as opposed to just at the top? It depends on how you have the bands has been shown that using the bands on the box squat improves the effectiveness of the variation. 2.) How long should the pause on the box be? Just long enough to break the eccentric / concentric chain. It does not take long to loose the kinetic energy stored in the body once you touch the box. "For average box squatting, a box should have the lifter go just barely below parallel. The height of the box can be between 10 and 14 inches depending on the height of the person. You may build one or more boxes. Many build a 10 inch box and add boards to correct the height. The average 5ƌ'' to 5Ə " lifter will need a 12" box to achieve parallel. Six feet and over may use up to a 14"box. Sometimes lifters will use a "sub box" to go well below parallel. To do a box squat you simply squat down to the box as if sitting on a chair, relax the hip flexors, rock back slightly, then forward. you then fire off with the hips and with the legs contributing. Done like this, it will really help a lifter fire out of the bottom of a squat." 3.) How effective are pause squats for working the bottom? "Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell Club do the box squat with jump stretch bands. This is the best exercise for overall power. The bands are arranged so that they will pull somewhat at the bottom and increasingly more as the lifter rises. Since a squat gets easier as one rises, the bands pull more and the lift is worked evenly throughout the full range of motion, When the lifter sits on the box and gets ready to rise, they know that they will have to explode to push through the bands. Thus the blastoff is really worked hard. Since chains add a uniform amount of additional resistance, box squats with chains will be good for a slightly lower sticking point" You also need to remember that with bands, you are being pulled to earth at a greater rate than with weight alone. The weight on your back is being pulled to the ground at about 2-3 times the normal rate of gravity.

remember that the harder (faster) you hit the hole, the more stretch reflex you build...of course that is traded off against the fact that there is more bar momentum to reverse....but it would seem that being more agressive with stretch reflex is going to be part of the answer (same thing I am working on with my bench)

I actually got westside to e-mail me back on some box squat questions. Louie talks about using 50-60% of your competition max. He does mention using dynamic resistance but he doesn't say how much. They add enough band tension so the lifter is lifting their competiton max at the top. So their 800 lb squaters have 400 on the bar and another 400 in band tension when they train.

I used to have my team box squat off a 6 inch box. Why? Great power out of the hole. Over kill? debateable at best. When I trained at Westside Barbell with Louie and his guys, the used a higher box (appeared slightly above parallel, parallel at best). Also, they "NEVER" paused. Each rep was touch and go and everyone wore a belt. I think its better to box squat off a Slightly below parallel box. That way, you are immulating the depth and strength needed to stand from a competition squat anyway. I Dont think bands do much good (Even using mini bands) for the bottom of the squat. HOWEVER, the are #1 for building the last 1,3/ rd lockout power.

Pausing on the box is an effecive training method. However, as Randy noted, it pausing does not develop the stretch reflex. The stretch reflex provides you with more fire power out of the hole. To develop the stretch reflex, some type of plyometric squatting movement must be performed.

I would never do a pause squat in any case. I can not give information about pause squats because I have never done them. Skip the pause squats and get the benefit of a pause on the is the safer route with no doubt. Kenny, the idea of the box squat is to eliminate the stretch reflex. If you want optimize the stretch reflex, you would chose any squat variation without a box and without a pause. Here is a little more about box squats that may contradict some of the claims made about "no pause"... This is from Westside barbell!!! "Now, how do you do a box squat? Fill your abdomen with air, and push out against your belt. Push your knees out as far as possible to the sides and with a tightly arched back, squat back, not down, until you completely sit on the box. Every muscle is kept tight while on the box with the exception of the hip flexors. By releasing and then contracting the hip flexors and arching the upper back, you will jump off the box, building tremendous starting strength. Remember to sit back and down, not straight down. Your hamstrings will be strengthened to a high degree, which is essential. Many don't know this, but the hamstrings are hip extensors. Some great squatters have large quads and some do not, but they all have large hamstrings where they tie into the glutes. Remember to sit on the box completely and flex off." " To perform a correct box squat, you should set up that squat in a position that is wider than normal stance with your feet pointed straight ahead. Arch your back, pull your shoulder blades together, and drive your head into the bar, push your knees apart as well as pushing your abdominal wall against your belt. During the decent push the hips back first, then bend the knees. Make sure to sit way back onto the box (do not drop fast, and stay in control). While on the box your position should be: arched back, abdominal against belt, knees out, shoulder blades together, your knees should be in line or behind your heals. Now, you pause on the box (notice I said pause, do not bounce), then explode up to the starting position. Why box squat? This is because it breaks up the eccentric/concentric chain which builds explosive strength."

1.) Is a box squat with bands a good way to provide alot of tension (effort?) throughout the movement as opposed to just at the top? ### I wouldn't say the benefits are just at the top, but obviously, the resistance is greater as you go up. This would only reinforce the problem. However, it could increase overall strength in which case you would get stuck in the whole with a heavier weight. An option, but a better one after you've improved strength coming out of the hole. 2.) How long should the pause on the box be? ### Until Tuesday. Depends on who you ask. Some will say for a count of two, others just long enough to relax the hip flexors, some say touch and go. I wouldn't get caught up in trying to figure out if 1.8 seconds is better or worse than 2.2. seconds. Examine why you are using the box. To judge depth? Touch and go is appropriate, but not a good way to learn depth IMO. To pause between the eccentric and concentric contractions. If so, I would say relaxing the hip flexors is sufficient, but that is more important (if that is the goal) than merely pausing on the box for a count. I.e., there's a difference. 3.) How effective are pause squats for working the bottom? ### Very effective. It increases TUT in the weakest position in your case. Hence you increase strength at the weakest joint angle. It's how weightlifters have trained to get out of the whole for years. Granted, the style is different, but the principle that increases strength is the same. Additionally, examine what muscles need to be brought up when improving getting out of the whole in the power squat. The hips, just above parallel become flexed as much as they will be flexed generally. Therefore where does the movement that brings the thighs below parallel come from? The knee. Therefore, the quadriceps initially allow one to get out of the whole (i.e., they're moving the knee joint into extension until one get's high enough for the posterior chain to concentrically contract to finish the movement. From just above to below parallel, the posterior chain is simply statically holding it's place. Therefore, some attention to some quadricep strengthening movements would obviously be adviseable. Therefore some squats with a more upright stance may need to be incorporated, full squats, front squats, or even split squats and/or step ups if spinal loading is a concern. Most powerlifting sites online would never recommend that, but plenty of older powerlifters used many other squat variations (for example Doc), lunges (RDC if I'm not mistaken, has always been a big fan of walking lunges), etc. Even Ed Coan would finish off workouts with a few sets of ful squats. But equipment has partially changed the need for specific attention to either direct quadricep work or training the bottom position, as generally they get enough with the power squat to have enough strength with the suits.

Dr. Squat's opinion:

I cannot conceive how box squats help a lifter get out of the hole any better than regular squats! I have given box squats many, many trials over my years in the sport, dating back to the 50s, and have nothing but bad experiences from doing so! I have watched many great PLrs FALL -- careers ended -- from doing them! I myself never gained a POUND on total from doing them! I have given box squats a very rigorous trial, and find them lacking! Not only that, I find them dangerous. Not only that, I find them less than effective. Not only that, I find them nowhere near as effective as CAT movements out of the hole!