If you want to improve your squat, look no further than the old-school box squat.
These tips are especially helpful for the tactical athletes with knee pain.
TIP #1: Get mad at the bar
A quality box squat starts with a focused setup. Grab the bar and squeeze tight, like it just insulted you. Use a shoulder-width grip. Duck under and pull your shoulders back so the bar sits on the natural shelf created by your shoulder blades.
TIP #2: Now tear the bar apart
Pull your elbows forward, take a deep belly-breath, and tighten your midsection, like you’re preparing for a gut punch (from the barbell perhaps?). Rip apart the bar while pulling it into your shoulder blades. Really try to bend it. This creates tension in your lats, which is transferred to muscles that protect your spine.
Maintain this tightness in your upper body and unrack the bar. To conserve energy, take only two steps back. Make sure one corner of the box is angled forward so you can straddle the box. Set your feet wider than shoulder width and turn your toes out slightly.
TIP #3: Thrust your hips back
Keeping your core tight, back flat, and chest up, reach your hips back while driving your knees out. Think of someone standing behind you, pulling you by a rope that’s tied around your waist. When you can’t shove your hips back any farther, push a little more. Sitting way back on the box allows you to keep your shins perpendicular to the floor, which helps reduce knee pain.
TIP #4: Sit on “broken glass” (just pretend)
Slowly lower your hamstrings to the box without rounding your upper back or losing belly tension. Don’t just plop yourself down because this places excessive pressure on your lower spine. Instead, imagine you’re sitting on broken glass. Pause for a second or two in order to “turn off” the stretch-shortening cycle, thereby minimizing the rebound effect. For the budding strength coaches: This pause allows elastic energy, built up in your muscles and soft tissues, to dissipate as you change directions from squatting to standing. You’ll reduce injury risk while boosting the effectiveness of the exercise.
(For the visual learners)
TIP #5: Blast off the box
Drive your heels into the floor, push your knees out, and explode through your hips. Skyrocket off of the box, like you actually sat on broken glass. In order to build starting strength and remove the “slingshot” effect, avoid the temptation to rock off the box.
Tactical Bodyweight Workouts is based on the teachings of tactical strength and conditioning coach, Joseph Arangio, MS, CSCS.