The Box Squat

By Dave Tate

In Powerlifting, Videos

April 11, 2009

Video Article

Dave Tate of EliteFTS came to CrossFit San Diego for a private seminar on January 24, 2009. Dave was a successful competitive powerlifter for over two decades. He trained with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell Club. His best back squat was 930lbs, bench 610lbs, and deadlift 740lbs. Tate is a powerlifting specialist, and he doesn’t claim to be anything else.

This is the second video in a series from that seminar. Topics in the series will range from training philosophies, powerlifting techniques for the squat and deadlift, and Dave’s approach to a successful life.

Part 1 is a thorough introduction to why Dave uses the box squat. It’s a great tool for developing glute and hamstring strength, for teaching proper mechanics all the way through the squat, for developing explosive strength at the bottom of the squat, and for maximizing the load on the bar, which develops substantially greater core strength. 11min 4sec

Part 2 is a practical demonstration of how to actually do the box squat. He “gives away all his secrets” by explaining what he looks for in coaching the movement. He takes Rachel Medina through the movement with just the PVC, and it’s amazing how difficult it is to get the hamstrings to fire properly. 9min 40sec

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Part 1:
Part 2:


27 Comments on “The Box Squat”


wrote …

I really need a tshirt that says: Dave Tate hates Ass Sponges for box squats! Someone please make that for me.


Kevin Wood wrote …

Can't wait for part two of this video! Thanks for introducing Dave Tate to the CF Community!


wrote …

It’s always good to get other coach’s opinion on different exercises. Dave Tate has never said he is a weightlifter or even CrossFitter. He has clamed all along the he is a power lifter and that is what he specializes in “power lifts”. This was a great inside to the power lifting side of CrossFit. It would not surprise me at all if there is now a 1RM box squat in the games. Coach has said all along that there will be a event that not all have done before. Good Journal.

Lee Klein


wrote …

I like some of the ideas Mr. Tate has, but what is the opinion of other high-level trainers in the community (Ripp, Starret, Bergener, etc..)? From experience, I think there is benefit to the box squat, but as soon as you have gone one pound too heavy or one rep too much you know it. Or at least I do--my back starts screaming as I restart the upward momentum and that lever (hip to barbell) starts working against itself.

I look forward to the next part for more explanation that convinces me this another great Crossfit proffered idea.


replied to comment from Ryan Whitenack

IMHO box squat is what it is - a tool. Could I screw my back using box squat - if I use wrong technique and more than adequate weight - absolutely.
Could I achieve the same (to destroy my lower back) using back squat - if I use wrong technique and more than adequate weight - for sure.

If there are exercises with high potential for making one strong, fast and powerful IMHO those are also potentially very dangerous ones if done with wrong mechanics and using wrong poundage (squat, clean, press, DL etc.)


wrote …

I think this is cool that CF is becoming more exposed to some of these "powerlifting" techniques. As far as the rep ranges go, the Westside model of box squats usually follows 12 sets of 2 repetitions within 40-60% of your 1RM. This is to be completed for a speed day. Box squat variations may also be used on a max effort day depending on the choice of the lifter. So with these box squats you're never really doing a ton of reps. I think by staying in the lower rep ranges it certainly decreases for the chance of injury.

Also on the dynamic effort days or speed days a lot of the time bands and chains are used for an accommodating resistance training effect. It would be kind of cool if this was introduced to CrossFit as well. Anyway, their is my two cents for what it is worth! Thanks for the great video Dave and CF!



Ryan Powell wrote …

Great video, looking forward to his stuff. Been reading Dave's material for quite some time and it's exciting seeing it introduced to the CrossFit community.

Phil, I also like the idea of bands and chains introduced!


wrote …

A few of the more hardcore powerlifting types have said some unflattering things about CrossFit so Tate's involvement is interesting. I'm more suprised by his interest, in fact, than I am in interest shown in him by CrossFit; it's perfectly in keeping with the CF spirit of using whatever works to increase work capacity but so far it's rare for world class powerlifters the caliber of Dave Tate to get involved.


Matt Deminico wrote …

Is the box squat still a below parallel squat? It almost sounded like it wasn't, but most of the stuff I've read says it is. I'm just confused, I'll just wait for the next article.


The Beauty of a box squat is it can be at any height you want.
Need more hamstring and back strength? - squat on a 10" box!
The opposite is true in teaching athletes to sq; if you have someone who has trouble hitting depth you can have them sq on box with plates stacked on - take off plates and go lower as the athlete masters the movement/gains strength.



wrote …

I'm curious about his claim that a powerlifter with a wide squat has the flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles to get ass to ground. Do powerlifters regularly train that kind of flexibility, or is he saying that the strength is enough to squat deep?


wrote …

As a long time s&c coach I have used box squats with my student/athletes as a teaching tool only. The ability to quickly refine an athlete's technique in the hole is invaluable and near impossible without the box. I've had the great opportunity to work with some pretty damn good collegues over the past 18 years (Burgener, Kenyon, Tucker) and not one of us will ever put weight before technique. I have never allowed my student athletes to box squat with "training weight". I disagree with Coach Tate's that the box squat is a plyo for your ass. The stretch reflex will occur during the lift but when a physical barrier is encountered my experience tells me a new and strong stimulus is sent through the CNS. If the lifters technique is tight and the only concern is depth then verbal or tactile (ass to bungee cord) cues are installed.

Coach Tate mentioned that box squatting had gotten a bad rap. Check out some of old BFS clinic tapes and watch these kids rebounding off of the boxes and the rapid degredation of technique during the transition. All with maximal poundages! Check out the deadlift spotting techniques utilized too. All in the name of marketing.

As a s&c coach my charge is to get the athlete moving towards their individual potential. Growth for the athlete or client has to have a solid foundation. When the physical or mental foundation is rushed or cheated the end product is compromised and rarely dependable. I'm supposed to be getting athletes (or your clients) ready to utilize these new levels of performance for a purpose. If my teaching causes an injury, that athlete may miss field, court, mat time. Your client misses training, golf, surfing, etc. My kids have to come back to school. If you happen to be a CF coach, your paying clients have other options.


Michael Chase wrote …

Is the box a different height for different people? I'm 6'4" and wonder what the best height is for different size people.


wrote …

I have been using box squats for about 5 years now, and prior to using them I was very, very weak in the squat. I learned about box squating intitally from BFS, then did reasearch and Dave's web site was my major source. I have tried various "boxes", I am 6'1" tall with long limbs and torso. I have been using a 20" plyo box, two milk crates stacked and a heavy duty 85cm stability ball anchored between two dumbells to keep it from rolling around. Experience has taught me each "box" is used for a different purpose in training my squat. Over the years I have progressed very nicely in both form and overall strength.

Because each person is different in stature, it is important to find a way to stack extra material on the boxes to get to the proper squat depth to train without causing any injury.

I've used bath towels as my best stacking material, (no ass drenched bateria problem here because they just go through the laundry) just lay the towels over the box, or put a weight plate on the box and lay towels on top of that to achieve the desired squat depth.

I am also curious to see Part 2 of this video and I hope to see CF have Dave do videos on the deadlift and bench press.


I should have studied more in the journal before I posted that question about how high the box should be. Mark Rippitoe's article on going deep,, said it clear.
The box should be high enough so that the iliac fold is below the patella of the knee.

To quote Coach Rip, "The squat referred to here is the full, below-parallel squat, the style that is—at least theoretically—performed at a powerlifting meet, where the top of the patella and the iliac fold (the crease in the shorts that defines the position of the hip joint) form a plane below which the hips must drop. In a correct full squat, the femurs will be in line with the feet, the heels will be about shoulder-width apart and the toes pointed about 30 degrees out from straight ahead, so there is no twisting on the knee."


wrote …

In part 2 Coach Tate shows how to fire your hamstrings by adjusting the height of box. Once the hamstrings fired he decrease the height and makes you go deeper. That was a revelation on how to strengthening the posterior chain to boost your squat PR. Thanx.


wrote …

This might seem like a dumb ? And i tried to do some research on it but not a lot, but what is the thing with the no running sneakers issue, does it do something to mess up your alignment or not allow you to balance properly, i would very much appreciate a detailed answer because i'm having some foot problems and feel like it could stem from this, thank you


Aaron Dial wrote …

@Ryan Whitenack,

I can't vouch for the others, but I know Kelly has us practice with the box squat here @ SFCF from time to time. For "boxes" we just use various sizes of bumper plates to get the right height for each person. It really is a great technique to have the body learn what it feels like to explode up out of the bottom position. Last time we did it was the same day I PR'd in a regular back squat (immediately after an afternoon of practicing on the box).


wrote …

Rick Baylor,

Running shoes, typically, have an incredible amount of padding and shock absorbtion material throughout the sole. This equates to a loss in transfer of force when lifting heavy. If you watch someone perform a 1RM Deadlift you will be able to see a slight compression in the sole of the shoe before the weight is lifted. This means that all the intial force transfer from the posterior chain is going into compressing the sole instead of contributing to lifting the weight.


replied to comment from Ricky Baylor

Piggy backing on what Mr. Morgan said about your comment/question Ricky...also because of the shock absorbtion materials built into most running shoes and the "squishy/bouncy" feeling they produce under a heavy load (like your heel slamming into the ground when running), lifting (most definately squatting, deadlifting, and pressing [the CFT]) in running shoes would be like lifting on a mattress. I like to lift barefoot but I am learning to correct an overpronation in my feet (my heel rolls inward) and being barefoot gives me a better feel for where my ankle is relative to my heel. What kind of foot pain do you have?


wrote …

1st, Thank you Mr. Morgan and Mr. White for your responses, I appreciate it. To Mr. Morgan, the pain is on the inside of my foot, I injured it a few years ago playing basketball and seems to flare up when I do olympic lifts. So I was thinking not having the right shoes on would affect it, or maybe I should not have shoes on altogether. I was looking into those five fingers shoes, thinking they would be better but I wasn't sure if my shoes were even the reason for my pain. Whatever responses I could get to help would be appreciated. Thank You


wrote …

Interesting article and videos... if I wanted to work in some box squats to my current work outs should I just substitute them for my regular squats in terms of sets and reps (obviously not weight). I'm currently doing the CFStrength Bias cycle - with 3sets of 5 reps for back squats. An example workout in the article suggests 50-65% weight and 20 sets of 2 reps - is this how the dynamic lifting thing is programmed?


Max Shippee wrote …

The next time Dave Tate is even close to in town, I want to know....please?

I'd love to be able to get my clients to more fully engage that posterior chain.

Is there a part 3 coming?


replied to comment from Ricky Baylor

Ricky...If you have pain on the inside of your foot it could be alot of things, I had fallen arches when I was younger but that kind of discomfort lasts all day and doesn't get aggravated by specifics other than just walking. You could have plantar fac. if you feel pain running under your foot when you come up on your toes while lifting. You're going to have to pin point the area of your foot that's symptomatic, (sometimes where you feel pain is not where the injury actually is). Check out if you want to try and self diagnose or go see a podiatrist. Some people at highly reputable running shoe stores have experience with running and related injuries if you want to give that a shot too. Try and get down to what's going on in your feet. Be consicous of your feet when you're lifting and see if you can alleviate or aggravate it as that can help out as well. Good luck.


replied to comment from Andrew White

Thanx 4 your info Andrew, I appreciate it, and thanx for taking the time to reply to my questions.


wrote …

This is exciting stuff, the video answered most of my questions, I am weak at the bottom of the squat and I look forward to using this approach to see if I can better address that issue. Paul


wrote …

I am researching every crossfit tutorial I can before my level 1 cert. This one was really interesting.

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