Background and Importance of the Box Squat for Athletes

In our world squatting serves the purpose of developing phenomenal Hips, Glutes, Hamstrings, Groin and even abs. It takes out the argument of depth (when done properly) and teaches the athlete to develop their ability to use their posterior chain. They help us wage the war between building hamstrings that are the primary drivers in our athletes movements rather than the quads, and have massive positive Effect on the athletes Knee Health and most notably prevention of ACL injuries.  (SIMMONS)

Though we’ve often been seen taking “High Boxes” for records an on speed day – there is use-fullness in having a solid parallel box squat record for yourself / your athletes – as in a truly Parallel position – where the femur runs parallel to the floor, the knees are out and the shin angle is vertical or even negative – (we’ll talk about this in a moment) – this squat is one of the most challenging mechanical positions an athlete can enter;

This is because in this position the moment arm of the hip joint to the path of the bar is the longest – essentially this places more emphasis on hip extension, rather than knee extension. (SWINTON, LLOYD and KEOGH)

This will force the hamstrings and glutes to work in unison to cause the torso to extend and even CHANGES THE ROLE OF THE QUADS to create something called “lombards paradox” in where the quads will actually have to work with the hamstrings to force hip extension rather then knee extensions first. (D.G.E. Robertson)

This is a HUGE advantage as this is the fashion in which the athlete utilizes the lower half during a large majority of athletic function. SO now that we have a quick background on the function and importance of box squatting lets dig in on how to get a LEGIT measurement for a Parallel box, that NOT even the most jacked Gym Bro on Social Media can conjure up a valid argument against the depth of your / your athletes squats…

What you'll Need

  • A Solid Base level Box Squat Box (we start with 11inch Lattice stacked Box Squats)
  • Solid 3/4 Inch Mats (1 inch will work as well)
  • Laser Self-Leveling Level (Bosch Laser Levels - seem to be the best)
  • Tape Measure
  • iPhone Camera / Quality Camera (high quality cameras will pick up the laser line better)

How to Measure you / your Athletes Box Heights (Parallel)

Now we’ll dig into the method we’ve developed at S8 to measure and certify Parallel Box Heights for standardized testing and assessment. This also provides a great tool to base higher and lower box estimates from, and MOST importantly – figure out where you / your athletes box heights need to be for optimal transfer to sport.

In our population we often use boxes 2-4 inches higher than parallel on speed day as the knee and hip flexion in these positions is most similar to the angles and ROM the athlete will be required to perform in on the baseball or softball field.

American Football Offensive Lineman however may benefit from parallel or even lower box heights as their knee and hip flexion requirements during competition is generally greater than that of other athletes and conversely Basketball Athletes would benefit from using very high boxes or even quarter squat boxes as the game is played very tall at higher speeds and with much less hip flexion than tat of most sports.

So with out further ado, Follow these steps to get a solid Parallel Box as a reference and baseline for Squatting capabilities, then you can make the above adjustments to training box heights as you see fit.

Step 1: Sit the athlete on the Assumed Parallel Box

Step 2: Pull the athletes knees outward, and move the foot forward to get a strictly vertical or for advanced athletes a negative shin angle (a good marker is to see that the knee stacks directly over the ankle or slightly behind the heel)

Step 3: Require the athlete to arch hard as the would in the bottom of the squat slightly leaned forward and to make it even better have them squat with a bar on their back (unloaded)

Step 4: Take a laser level and aim the crosshairs of the laser directly at the center of the side of the athletes buttocks, estimating the point of the femoral head where it would plug into the hip socket

Step 5: hit the self level button on the leveler – the horizontal line should run directly through the middle of the thigh and through the center of the athletes knee joint

Step 6: Get level with the height of the Cross hair, and snap a photo of the Set up

Step 7: Adjust with 3/4 in Mats & repeat steps 1-6 until a general consensus among coaches is met.

Step 8: Post pictures and squat video on social media Tag @strongeight so we can defend you if the gym bros talk shit.


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D.G.E. Robertson, Jean-Marie J. Wilson, and Taunya A. St. Pierre. “Lower Extremity Muscle Functions During Full Squats.” Journal of Applied Biomechanics (2008): 333-339.

Simmons, Louie. Squat and Deadlift Manual. Columbus: Westside Barbell, 2008.