Over the years I've analysed hundreds, if not thousands, of people's squats and it's fair to say that I think most people are probably squatting theirselves into pain. A combination of poor technique, poor understanding of what good technique should be and poor coaching often leads to excessive loading of the joints, such as the knees and the low back.
Enter the box squat
The box squat for me is the superior form of squat, it really teaches you to use your posterior chain a lot more and allow the hips to initiate the movement. The modern lifestyle, one where we are sat down for long periods of the day leads to us being very quad dominant and posterior chain weak. The box squat turns the squat into a posterior chain dominant movement
In a good box squat, what we're going to do is we're going to take our feet a little bit wider. We are going to basically lock our spine into natural lordotic curve with our abs and we're going to sit way back onto the box. Your knees should not travel forward, they should finish in a vertical position. By doing this, we're activating much more of the posterior chain, the hamstrings and the glutes are much more involved. The abs have to stay extremely strong, otherwise we're going to buckle and fall backwards onto the box, we need to stay tight and in control throughout. As we make contact with the box we are not relaxing, we stay tight and engaged.
Then to get up off the box, we are basically turning it into a hip drive. It’s much like a deadlift in the sense that you driving those hips forward whilst keeping the torso strong. The knees again shouldn't move from that vertical position. We don't want to see the knees travel forward, we want the knees to stay fixed into space and the hips to do all the driving off of the box.
The height of the box will be dependent on the individual's mobility and hamstring strength. We are looking to maintain a natural lordotic curve in the low back and to sit right back. If the pelvis tucks under then the box is too low. If you fall onto the box, the box is too low. Adjust the height of the box so that this doesn't happen and progress from there.
By doing this, we are actually activating a lot more hamstrings and glutes.
If you look at the work of Dr Tim Hewitt and Dr Stuart McGill a stronger posterior chain and stronger hips will result in less knee and back injuries by taking the stress off of them and using the hips as they we designed to be used.
Build Strong Hips
By changing the way we squat you will see a massive impact on the health of your joints, especially your knees and your low back. I urge everyone to try them. If you're experiencing knee pain when squatting then these are a great alternative that will not only keep you training but also address the reason you are getting the knee pain to begin with.
Let me know how you get on.